Stretching 2,300 kilometres along the north-east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on earth and so significant in size that it is visible from space. Consisting of more than 3,000 individual reef systems, coral cays and small islands, it is home to over 1,500 types of fish, 133 varieties of shark and ray, and 600 types of soft and hard corals. It is no surprise that this great natural wonder is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
There are many ways to explore the reef itself. Our Australia tours include a day dedicated to visiting it, with time allowed for you to enjoy the reef as much or as little as you want to.
You’ll travel by fast catamaran from the mainland to spend time anchored at a reef site, where you can choose to snorkel in the clear waters to see its colourful residents; join in a scuba diving session (extra costs may apply) to get deeper into the waters and closer to the corals; travel aboard a glass-bottom boat to view the reef whilst staying completely dry; or simply spend time relaxing on the ship’s sundeck. Your time is yours to spend as you wish, before returning to the mainland later in the day.
What you’ll see
In terms of the species you might spot, each visit to the Great Barrier Reef will be different to the next. As a living organism, the fish and other inhabitants move around from coral to coral in order to feed. You may see larger species swim in and around you, before gliding off to another section.
Some of the most recognised inhabitants or visitors to the reef include starfish, sea cucumbers, giant clams, sea snakes, and green and hawksbill sea turtles. Fish are plentiful and range in size from the tiny to quite large – they may include angelfish, triggerfish, gobies, clown fish, surgeonfish, parrot fish, humphead wrasse, and even black-tipped reef sharks.
This astounding spectacle of nature offers an insight into an underwater world that has existed as it is today for thousands of years. A visit here is an experience that enhances our understanding of the oceans, but also simply adds to our admiration of nature, making it a must-see on many wishlists.
Experience Michaelmas Cay
On our ‘Grand Antipodean Odyssey’ and ‘Grand Tour of Australia’ holidays, a special excursion is included to Michaelmas Cay to experience the Great Barrier Reef in style.
You will travel aboard a luxury catamaran to a small pristine sand cay, an island that is itself a national park and a protected sanctuary for many migratory seabirds. As part of the day on Michaelmas Cay, you will take a fascinating trip on a semi-submersible vessel, allowing you to view some of the corals, fish and turtles without getting your toes wet.
Snorkelling is of course possible for those who would like to venture further into the island’s exquisite fringing reef, and often when seas are choppy at other reefs, the waters here are calm and sheltered, with beautiful coral to explore.