SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 22, March 2017 - Page 48

he Great Barrier Reef is labeled one of CNN’s seven natural wonders of the world. The massive 2,300 km long reef, located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, can be

seen from outer space. It contains over 2900 different reef systems and 900 individual islands, making it largest coral reef in the world. No wonder it’s on many divers bucket list. With global warming creeping in and bleaching the corals, now is a great time to see them while the colors are still vibrant.

Diving the reef The Great Barrier Reef is not only for divers since the reef is shallow; snorkeling is an excellent way to explore the reef even as a non-diver. There are day trips to the reef by boat from Cairns, Townsville, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach, but the best way to see the reef is by liveaboard. Getting to the reef by boat allows you to explore parts of the reef that day trips from the local cities can’t. With so many reefs to choose from going by liveaboard means, you will probably not see another boat your whole trip.

With a liveaboard, you will dive up to four times a day, one early morning, two midday and one night dive. Getting to the outer reef takes 3.5 hours by boat, but once on board your day consists of diving/snorkeling, eating, and sleeping. A liveaboard is truly the best way to dive. When you wake up, you’re already at your dive site, you just put on your gear that’s already set-up and waiting for you and jump out for your dive.

Diving without guides Most of the diving in the Great Barrier Reef is unguided, meaning you pick your buddy, and off you go to explore the reef on your own. The boats have a Divemaster who thoroughly briefs you on each of the dive sites along with teaching you how to use a compass, which is on your gear. You can also hire a private guide to take you, but it’s much more fun to explore the dive sites on your own, and they’re not that hard to navigate. If you feel lost, just look for the other divers and follow them. Diving the site without a guide means you can explore the site at your own speed and leisure and move away from areas if they got too crowded.

Milln and Flynn Reef Milln and Flynn Reef are two popular reefs off the coast of Queensland, leaving from Cairns. There are many dive sites at each with plenty to see including sharks, groupers, schools of bump head parrotfish, rays, turtles, cuttlefish, tons of colorful coral, and even Nemo the clownfish. If you go at the right time of year, you can witness coral spawning. Corals spawn only a couple of times a year and are a beautiful thing to see.

If you dive Mickey Mouse Reef, you will have the chance to meet Brian, the resident turtle. He’s usually out during the night and is a bit of a celebrity in Cairns. He’s around 100 years old, and his picture is on t-shirts in Cairns.

Milln and Flynn reefs have excellent visibility and no current. You can expect to see fish big and small, everywhere. With that said, the coral is definitely the main attraction. There are big boulders of coral that the Australians call “Baummies“ have both soft and hard coral growing on them. There are also gardens of staghorn coral where you can find the groupers hanging around.

The Great Barrier Reef is mostly shallow diving. The majority of the dives you do will be between 14-18 meters deep with visibility 20+ meters. Because of this, the outer reef is perfect for snorkelers too. Snorkelers will see just as much as the divers from the surface looking down or free diving below. Guests will get to witness turtles and all the fish and coral. You don’t need to go deep to see amazing sea life.

When to go The Great Barrier Reef is open all year round, but there are better months to visit. Summer in Australia is December through February and is when the humidity is high and when the rainy season is. Winter is June through August and is considered the best time of year to go. The water temperatures range from 24-32C depending what time of year you go. The water will be at its coldest May through August and at it’s warmest January through April.

Protecting the reef The Great Barrier Reef became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. You can do your part in protecting the reef when you visit by not taking anything from the ocean. This means not touching sand, corals or shells. Also, don’t touch any of the fish or turtles. Humans have bacteria on their hands and when they touch the marine life the bacteria from their hands destroys the protective layer on the marine life. It should also go without saying that trash should not be thrown into the water either.

Take only photos, leave only bubbles, kill only time.

Great Barrier Reef

Exploring Flynn and Milln Reef

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Robyn Hartzell robynaroundtheworld.com

March 2017 - Festure Destination

48 - SEVENSEAS