Great Barrier Reef Facts and Information

The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s natural wonder of the world.  Learn more about the reef and how you can discover it yourself.

The Great Barrier Reef – Australia’s Own Natural Wonder

The is Australia’s own natural wonder of the world and is named so with good reason.

The reef system is the largest in the world and contains one of the highest concentrations of wildlife found anywhere in the world.

Some of the world’s best dive sites are easily accessible from Cairns with just a short trip out to the reef and tours are available to both experienced and novice divers year-round.

Some Great Barrier Reef facts at a glance

  • The reef was created over thousands of years as coral polyps attached to the shallow rocky seafloor. Coral colonies grew and expanded over time to create the immense reef we know today.
  • It stretches 2,600 km along with the tropical far north Queensland coast and covers an area almost 350,000 km2.
  • The reef is so large that it is the only living thing on Earth that can be seen from space.
  • It is actually an entire eco-system of over 2,500 individual reefs and over 900 islands and sandy coral cays.
  • The reef is home to thousands of species of marine life. Fish, coral, crustaceans, birds, sea snakes, sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins can all be found along with the reef system.


Great Barrier Reef Marine Life

The Great Barrier Reef has one of the most diverse and highly concentrated animal populations in the world.  The warm tropical Coral Sea waters and shallow ocean floor creates the perfect conditions for coral colonies to form, creating a magical underwater environment absolutely teeming with an abundance of marine life to shelter and feed.

Some of the marine life to be found at the reef:

  • Over 3,000 types of molluscs
  • Over 1,500 species of fish
  • 1,300 species of crustaceans
  • Over 600 species of starfish and sea urchins
  • 600 different kinds of hard and soft coral
  • 215 species of nesting or visiting birds
  • 130 sharks and rays
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins
  • 14 species of sea snakes
  • 6 species of sea turtles


Great Barrier Reef Weather

Located in the tropics, the reef does not experience the four seasons experienced in most of the world’s temperate climates. Instead, Cairns tropical climate has two seasons; “Wet” and “dry”, identified by the consistently high and low levels of rainfall in each.

The temperature is always warm, ranging between 25 and 31 degrees (Celsius) keeping the water warm enough to swim all year round.  November through May marks the stinger season each year so swimmers are advised to wear stinger suits.


What is Coral?

Of all the facts about the Great Barrier Reef, the one that surprises most people is about coral.  While to the casual observer coral looks like a plant and seems to create a vast underwater garden, they are actually animals!

Each coral structure is actually a colony of thousands of tiny connected polyps that are related to jellyfish and sea anemones.  As the polyps continually divide and connect with each they appear like a slowly growing garden.

During the day, coral harmlessly feeds on the algae that live on them.  If observed at night, however, coral colonies show their true nature.  Each colony is equipped with venomous barbs that will reach out and catch passing zooplankton and other small fish and invertebrates.