If you’re a scuba diving enthusiast then there are very few experiences that could match a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, off the north eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. This marine paradise is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over 1,500 miles, supporting one of the most diverse and densely populated eco systems on the planet.
Both first time and experienced divers to the reef are sure to be amazed by what they see – an extraordinary assortment of tropical fish that swim amongst the colourful corals. The reef is also home to populations of turtles, sharks, whales and dolphins, sea snakes, and over two hundred species of sea bird. It’s all viewable through some of the cleanest sea water in the world – a blue paradise where the visibility is superb, especially in the northern parts.
The biggest city that lines the shore of the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns – the fourth most visited city in Australia. It is often referred to as the capital of the reef, and is the last bastion of civilization before the jungles of the Cape York sweep over the land. Cairns is a favourite for backpackers and foreign tourists, so there’s certainly an exciting social to enjoy alongside all of the stunning wildlife. Of course, scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing are the most obvious attractions, but there’s also the chance to explore the Daintree Rainforest or take the scenic railway to Kuranda amongst other adventurous activities.
If you travel around 450 miles south along the coast from Cairns then you will come to the town of Airlie Beach, one of many gateways to the famous Whitsunday Islands. This archipelago is the largest offshore island chain on Australia’s coastline, with 74 islands in all. There are resorts on eight of the islands, and all are ideal for exploring the Great Barrier Reef – some even have manmade outdoor aquariums and underwater observatories. It comes as highly recommended to take to the air on a light aeroplane or helicopter, and enjoy stunning views across the islands. An incredible sight of the sprawling archipelago mixed with the varying blues of the sea is likely to take your breath away.
Visits to Australia, especially for backpackers and scuba enthusiasts, just would not be complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. If you head off this winter, then you will be able to experience the warmest weather of the summer months in the southern hemisphere.