Go Green on the Great Barrier Reef

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Help protect Australia’s greatest natural wonder with these eco-experiences.   

Clownfish were made famous in the film Finding Nemo

The Great Barrier Reef is not called ‘great’ for nothing. Stretching for more than 2,300km, it’s the size of 70 million football fields and bigger than two thirds of the countries on the planet. What’s more, it’s the only living structure that you can see from outer space. But there’s no hiding the fact that this Aussie icon has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, including back-to-back bleaching events that took place three years ago as a result of rising ocean temperatures (a scenario that’s affecting reef systems around the world). So, how does the reef look today? And, is it still worth taking the family?

Chief scientist for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority  – and the ultimate caretaker of the reef  – Dr David Wachenfeld believes that while the reef is under immense pressure, it is still incredibly valuable and a great place to visit. “The reef is still an amazing, beautiful vibrant eco system,” he says. “It’s part of Australia’s identity, part of the spirituality of first nation’s people. It’s a global environmental icon and a World Heritage site. Just ask any eight-year-old – it is also the inspiration for Finding Nemo.”

A boy snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef

Dr Wachenfeld says the best way to get the most out of a trip to the reef is to travel with expert guides with eco operations. “Just like tourists anywhere, if you were to turn up with no guide and no guidebook you could have an average time,” he says. “You need local knowledge. You need a local guide to take you to the best places. You would not go to the Serengeti, jump in a hire car, drive aimlessly and expect to see all areas filled with animals. Nor should you do that on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Here are five green ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef that will make family friends green with envy.

1. QUICKSILVER CRUISES

CAIRNS AND PORT DOUGLAS
Quicksilver Cruises has been championing the reef protection and sustainability cause since day one, offering outer reef cruises, snorkelling, diving, semi-sub and ocean floor walking tours, plus an underwater observatory (all accredited by Ecotourism Australia). Quicksilver Cruises is so dedicated to keeping the reef beautiful it has its own reef biosearch environmental division, employing the largest team of marine biologists outside of government. Its logbooks of environmental data stretch back 30 years!

SpongeBob SquarePants with the crew of Quicksilver VIII

Quicksilver Cruises has been championing the reef protection and sustainability cause since day one, offering outer reef cruises, snorkelling, diving, semi-sub and ocean floor walking tours, plus an underwater observatory (all accredited by Ecotourism Australia). Quicksilver Cruises is so dedicated to keeping the reef beautiful it has its own reef biosearch environmental division, employing the largest team of marine biologists outside of government. Its logbooks of environmental data stretch back 30 years!
quicksilver-cruises.com

2. LADY ELLIOT ISLAND ECO RESORT

An aerial view of Lady Elliot Island.

SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort has been on #teamGBR for more than 15 years. The carbon-neutral resort was the first on the Great Barrier Reef to build a large hybrid power station to reduce reliance on diesel generators, and the team was instrumental in pushing for both a ‘Green Zone’ and ‘No Anchor Zone’, which has helped increase marine biodiversity. With a tide-dependant lagoon in front of the resort, which is ideal for novice snorkellers at high tide and reef walks at low tide, it’s one of the greatest spots for families to explore the wonders of the GBR, and to watch seabirds and turtles nest and hatch.
ladyelliot.com.au

3. HERON ISLAND

Heron Island Research Station. Image Tourism and Events Queensland

SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF
Aside from sitting right on the outer Great Barrier Reef (fun fact: it is not an island but a cay, and there are no herons, the birds are egrets!) and snorkelling with creatures that come straight from the imagination of Dr Zeus, Heron Island is also home to a super fun research station. For $10 per adult and $3 per child, visitors can datamine the brains of real scientists over a 90-minute station tour. For the kids, there’s also a touch tank where you can get up close with Barbara the hermit crab, a variety of corals, and a funky pincushion starfish that shapes itself according to the pressure of your hand.
 heronisland.com

4. REEF HQ GREAT BARRIER REEF AQUARIUM

TOWNSVILLE
Aside from the kudos that goes with being the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world, this research hub is also home to the Australian Government’s national education centre for all things Great Barrier Reef and the site of a special turtle hospital. It’s also the perfect prepper for underwater reef adventures.
reefhq.com.au

5. DAYDREAM ISLAND

WHITSUNDAYS
Too scared to snorkel in the open water? Daydream has brought The Living Reef back to the newly reopened resort with a raft of activities to see, touch and learn about the reef, all under the watchful eye of marine biologists, in an enclosed lagoon. The Living Reef also holds the record for the most ticklish of all experiences: stingray splash – a chance to go ankle-deep in the lagoon and giggle as baby rays dash between your feet hoping for a bite to eat!
daydreamisland.com

MORE INFO: blog.queensland.com


JUNIOR CITIZENS OF THE REEF

SpongeBob SquarePants Junior Citizens of the Reef

Not ready to go to the reef? No worries. Entertainment giant Nickelodeon Australia has launched a new ocean conservation program for kids – Junior Citizens of the Reef – starring SpongeBob SquarePants. Co-ordinated in partnership with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, the program talks directly to kids, teaching them about the wonders of, and threats to, the reef as well as the simple, everyday actions they can do to help protect it.
nick.com.au/reefsquad