Diving the Great Barrier Reef Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Top 10 wildlife spots on Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's great natural wonders and one of which Australia is extremely proud. It is the largest reef in the world and consists of nearly 3000 individual reefs and 880 picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. Known as Australia's "Blue Outback," the reef was declared as a marine park in 1975, and is a collective haven for thousands of species of sea life, as well as turtles and birds. Swimming with the fish and admiring the colours of the coral is a must for any holiday to the Great Barrier Reef. Outer reef scuba diving and island day trips are some of the more common pastimes on the reef.

1Lizard Island

Lizard Island is a truly unique destination. This tranquil Queensland Island resort is located right on the spectacular Great Barrier Reef and boasts its own beautiful fringing reefs and 24 powdery white beaches. Renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling, Lizard Island is surrounded by spectacular coral reefs, ribbon and lagoon reefs. What distinguishes Lizard Island from many other reef islands is its close proximity to the best known diving location in the Great Barrier Reef, Cod Hole where divers can come face to face with a massive yet curious Potato Cod. On shore, discover secluded, pristine beaches by foot or motorised dinghy with a gourmet picnic just for two. Other activities on Lizard Island for guests to enjoy include game fishing, bushwalking, sailing, glass bottom boat trips or treatments in the luxurious Azure Spa.

2Mangrove boardwalk

Mangrove Boardwalk is a special place to learn about tropical Australian mangroves and saltmarsh. Being the most accessible of all, just two minutes' drive from the airport, Mangrove swamp is on the way to the beaches. The walk has two distinct parts, a northern walk, which is 700 meters long and includes a viewing tower and observation platform by a saltwater creek and the southern walk, which is 600 meters long has a viewing tower over Cairns city and the inlet’s seagrass beds. These comfortable and easy grade walks, allow visitors to explore Cairns’ mangrove system, with 11 different mangrove species visible alongside the boardwalk. During the Mangrove Boardwalk can be spotted a range of wildlife including small birds, crabs, coneshells, pistol prawns and mudskippers. There are also many informative signs, which explain the life cycle of the Mangrove forest and the community of wildlife that inhabits the area.

3Crystal Cascades

Crystal Cascades is one of the secrets of Tropical North Queensland. From the Red Beret Pub, the swimming hole is about 10km away. It is not serviced by public transport that is why the only way to get there is by taxi or car. Crystal Cascades is a secluded freshwater swimming hole, hidden in a tropical rainforest – a series of small waterfalls flow into large pools surrounded by boulders. Crystal Cascades, because of its location, offers an environment safe from saltwater crocodiles, as well as the stinging jellyfish that frequent the beaches during the northern tropical summer. The jungle around the river is a good spot to see one of Australia's largest lizards: the lace monitor. Also common is the stinging tree; plenty of signs advertise tourists not to wander off the paths because it is easy to blunder into a stinging tree, which is much more painful than walking into a patch of nettles.

4Green Island

Green Island is located 45 minutes across the Coral Sea from Cairns; it is a beautiful 6000 year old coral cay with unique island rainforests, surrounded by beautiful coral reefs, immaculate sandy beaches and spectacular marine life. Situated within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – Green Island is home to over 120 native plant species, colourful bird life and surrounded by coral gardens and abundant marine life to explore. Green and hawksbill turtles may be seen offshore. The climate on Green Island is tropical and the water temperature is constant throughout the year making it a great place to snorkel, dive, swim; a wide range of exciting and fun options are also available on Green Island: amazing underwater walking experiences, boat trips to the best snorkelling sites, helicopter scenic flights and glass bottom boat bours.

5Heron Island

Heron Island si a natural coral cay located about 89 kms off the coast of Queensland; it is one of the best places to see what the Great Barrier Reef is all about. The reefs are very close to the island that is why tourists don’t need any boat trips to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In the crystal clear tropical waters surrounding the island, stunning coral gardens and sea creatures great and small flourish in abundance and colour. They make Heron Island a natural place for divers, swimmers and snorkelers. There are more than 30 spectacular dive sites available, half of which are only 15 minutes from the beach. An amazing number of animal and bird life can be spotted, such as the delightful Green and Loggerhead Turtles. Guests can also choose from a wide range of activities available on Heron Island including guided island and reef walks, semi-submersible cruises and private beach picnics.

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6The wreck of the SS Yongala

The SS Yongala is one of the best dive sites in Australia and in the world and. It is also considered as THE best wreck dive in the world. It is located closest to Townsville in Queensland. The Yongala Shipwreck is a 110m former steel passenger and freight steamer. It sank in 1911 during a tropical cyclone with its 124 passengers. The Shipwreck was found only in 1958 and is now a main tourist attraction in Australia. Even after 100 years in the water the Yongala is still in very good condition and you can still see the masts or even the toilets! The Wreck is now protected and penetration inside the actual shipwreck is forbidden to avoid any corrosion due to the air bubbles. The marine Life around the SS Yongala is just amazing. You can spot giant groupers the size of a small car, eagles rays and Manta Rays gliding by, many sea turtles, sea snakes, huge schools of Barracudas, Giant trevallies hunting around and various species of Sharks including the rare Bull Shark and Tiger Shark.

7Cairns Lagoon

Carins Lagoon is located right in the heart of the Cairns business district is abuzz with tourists and locals relaxing on the grassy knoll or splashing in the shallows. The crystal clear waters of the Cairns swimming Lagoon prove to be incredibly inviting as the temperature warms up and the need for a quick dip to cool off is paramount. The lagoon precinct spans 4 hectares, and is capable of accommodating 1000 swimmers at a time. Lifeguards patrol the lagoon area during the day and there is on-site security at night. Ranging in depth from 32 inches to 5 feet the Cairns Lagoon features underwater seating benches making it easy for all to enjoy. The Cairns Lagoon is fitted with disability access which is located at the southern end of the facility. A day spent at the Cairns Lagoon is the perfect way to soak up some sun, enjoy some safe swimming, meet some other tourists to catch up with your friends and take in the views of the stunning Trinity Inlet and mountains that line the horizon.

8Minke whales watching Cairns

Every year, seven-tonne dwarf minke whales travel up to the reef. The really special thing about this is that they are attracted to people. The whales will hang about if there are snorkellers in the water, and it is not unusual for the whales to come to within a metre or so and look you right in the eye. There are many boats that allow for whale watching from a distance but there are also three Great Barrier Reef boat operators that allow for swimming with the Dwarf Minke Whales. Under strict adherence to a Code of Practice, however all three of these boats' main purpose is for a Great Barrier Reef snorkeling or diving experience however they focus highly on trying to get their passengers into the water to swim with these magnificent creatures when the opportunity arises.

9The Low Isles

The Low Isles is an idyllic, unspoilt coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef; it is located 15 km north-east of Port Douglas and is represented by two separate islands which share the common reef. Woody Island is the larger of the two and is uninhabited except for a large bird population. The smaller of the Low Isles is a coral cay with a lighthouse that has been operating since 1878. In 1928 it was the base for the first scientific study of a coral reef anywhere in the world. There are 150 species of hard corals and 15 species of soft corals. Living amongst the corals is a large variety of fish, molluscs, sea cucumbers and other animals. Tourists can enjoy the spectacular underwater life on a glass bottom boat, snorkel straight off the beach or take an amazing guided walk around the island. The gently sloping beaches leading into the calm lagoon waters are ideal for rest.

10Tropical North Queensland

Tropical North Queensland is where the rainforest meets the reef. The region is renowned for not one but two World Heritage areas - the wet tropics of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching for over 500 kilometres along Tropical North Queensland’s coastline, these rainforests are the oldest continually surviving rainforests on earth. Some plants here have been around for 135 million years. The wet tropics rainforest is a haven for wildlife and offers visitors a range of experiences - from solitude, peace and serenity to the excitement of white water rafting. From huge pythons stretched across the road at night and Boyd's forest dragons clinging to ancient trees to giant jungle cassowaries and enormous saltwater crocodiles, Tropical North Queensland has it all.
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