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the great barrier reef
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Great Barrier ReefUpdated: 05-Feb-2014
The Great Barrier Reef is absolutely enormous in size!...
It is so large that it's the only living structure you can see from the moon with the naked eye. In area, it is bigger than Ireland and Great Britain put together. However, it's not just one reef, but made up of thousands of different reefs. Some of which are on their own, humungous in size being many kilometers long.
Each reef is separated by a vast vivid blue sea. The vivid blue colour of its water comes from the fact that there are minimal particles floating around in it. These seas are relatively lifeless, but the reef itself is an oasis of life in an otherwise marine desert.
The Great Barrier Reef has the highest diversity of life then any other reef system in the entire world. With its 1500 different species of fish, 350 different kinds of coral, 6000 species of crustaceans, 5000 species of molluscs, reptiles and marine mammals, the reefs are a kaleidoscope of animal life, colour and shape.
The colours are mind blowing, and why so many of them? Generally the red and yellow colours are used as warning colours - just like we use them in stop signs and warning signs. Take the firelion, a fish that glows bright red and white like a fire, saying, "if you touch me I'll poison you!" Little brightly coloured slugs called nudibranchs (in Latin this translates as 'naked gilled'), contrast their red and yellow colours with black and white to let fish know they are nasty and bitter tasting. Flatworms do the same, and when they swim like magic carpets the sight is just titillating (in English this translates as oooohoohooh!!!). The cleaner shrimps eat mucus, parasites and dead flesh off of fish bodies and mark their cleaning stations like we do barber shops, with red and white stripes.
Coral colours are equally unbelievable in their variation, but the makeup of the coral animal is even more incredible. It is an animal, mineral and vegetable all in one.
Reef experiences are also seasonal. October, November and December are the sexy months when the animals are preparing for and getting involved in reproductive activity. January to May is kindergarten or recruitment time, when the babies born elsewhere invade the reef and large mid-oceanic fish charge in to prey on these juvenile delicacies.
June to September is our Whaling season. Most people think that the whales come up to Cairns to breed, but they do that 2000 kilometers south of here, near Brisbane. Strangely enough the main reason the whales come up to Cairns is to get a manicure. Barnacles and other fouling organisms that are growing on their bodies die and fall off in the warm waters of Tropical North Queensland. These whales then do a U-turn and head all the way back down to Antarctica where they spend the next nine months building up their energy for next year's holiday to Cairns.
The benefits of visiting the reefs from Cairns, besides the variety of boats available at very reasonable prices, are the proximity of the outer reefs to shore. The fact that there are so many coral islands, continental islands, drop offs and drift dive sites to name a few. The dive shops are highly professional and have outstanding safety records, as does the dive industry as a whole.
The Reef Teach Team
'Reef Teach' is an entertaining and informative presentation about the Great Barrier Reef, presented nightly by a Marine Biologist.
Time: 6:30-8:30pm Tuesday to Saturday night.
Adult: $15 Child: $8.00
2nd Floor, Mainstreet Arcade, between Lake & Grafton Street, Cairns.