The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Airlie Beach | Whitsunday Islands | Great Barrier Reef | Heart Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the only living organic collective visible from Earth’s orbit. The Great Barrier Reef, off the east coast of Australia, is one of the wonders of the natural world – it is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. It was declared a World Heritage area in 1981 and added to the National Heritage List in 2007.
The Great Barrier Reef is scattered with beautiful islands and idyllic coral cays and covers more than 300,000 square kilometres and ranges from Torres Strait in the north to the unnamed passage between Lady Elliot Island (its southernmost island) and Fraser Island in the south. The Great Barrier Reef system consists of more than 3000 reefs which range in size from 1 hectare to over 10,000 hectares in area.
Corals make up the various reefs and cays. These are the basis for the great variety of sea and animal life in the Reef. Coral consists of individual coral polyps – tiny live creatures which join together to form colonies. Each polyp lives inside a shell of aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate which is the hard shell we recognise as coral. The polyps join together to create forests of coloured coral in interesting fan, antler, brain and plate shapes.
The ideal environment for coral is shallow warm water where there is a lot of water movement, plenty of light, where the water is salty and low in nutrients. There are many different types of coral, some are slow growing and live to be hundreds of years old, others are faster growing. The colours of coral are created by algae.
The nearest reefs of the Great Barrier system lie 34 nautical miles north-east of the Whitsunday mainland. The section of the Great Barrier Reef that Air Whitsunday visit is known as Hardy Lagoon and is home to Heart Reef and Sundancer our private glass bottom boat utlised for our snorkelling tours. Hardy Lagoon is also the most photogrpahed reef systems of the Great Barrier Reef group. If you are planning on joining our Panorama Tour of Reef Adventure Flight we suggest you read the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks guide to Responsible Reef Practices.