The gem of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is both breathtakingly beautiful and ecologically important.
A delight for snorkelers, scuba divers and sunbathers, the world’s largest coral reef includes over 900 islands, 2,900 separate reefs and a plethora of diverse marine life. Covering over 133,000 square miles, the Great Barrier Reef is larger than the Great Wall of China (and, unlike the wall, it is actually visible from space).
Ready to dive deeper? Check out these amazing facts:
- An astonishing 10 percent of the world’s total fish species can be found within the Great Barrier Reef. The reef’s most dangerous fish is the box jellyfish, which has 24 eyes and 60 venomous tentacles, with enough poison to kill humans.
- The Great Barrier reef is the largest living structure on the planet, and each of its 3,000 reefs has its own ecosystem.
- The reef provides a home for over 400 species of hard coral, 300 species of soft coral, 1,600 species of fish, 134 species of sharks and rays, 30 species of whales and dolphins, and six species of turtle, making it one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth.
- It is larger than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined.
- Bleaching, caused by warmer water temperatures, is a major threat to the reef. Bleaching was severe in 2002, when aerial surveys showed that over 50 percent of reefs experienced some coral bleaching.
- In 1911, the "SS Yongala," a 100-meter passenger ship, sank in the lagoon. Today, it is a massive fish sanctuary and widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest diving wrecks.
- The Dugong, a manatee-like marine mammal, is one of Australia’s threatened species. Still, there are more of them (11,000) in the Great Barrier waters than anywhere on earth.