2018 is the third international Year of the Reef. Celebrate it in style when you visit these top coral reef systems in Australasia.
Coral reefs are one of the most fascinating biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. They contain thousands of species of marine life, while thousands of others depend on them for their existence (including humans). Coral is created by polyps – colonies of sea anemone-type creatures, only a few millimetres in length – which secrete calcium carbonate, forming the protective structures of the beautiful coral gardens we see today.
In locations with exceptional reefs, we highly recommend snorkelling activities on your holidays and even going so far as to take your PADI Dive Certificate. In the right conditions snorkelling and diving is like entering a vivid animated movie; everything above the waves can suddenly appear dull by comparison.
Immersing yourself in this aquatic wonderland also offers one of life’s great stress-busters, an enthralling, peaceful journey where you are wholly focused on the tropical exotica that surrounds you. So if you’re heading to Australasia for your holidays, get into the water and explore the magical world of coral reefs.
Where to see coral reefs in Australasia
Ningaloo Reef, at 162 miles long, offers one of the greatest fringing reef experiences in the world. These fertile waters are home to the ocean giants; supreme orcas, the majestic whale shark and the impressive humpback whale. A fringing reef is a coral reef that is situated just off-shore, making it convenient for first time divers and snorkellers. Located on the Coral Coast, a region of spectacular beauty containing miles of white sand beaches and stretching from Perth in the south to Exmouth, Ningaloo is an inspired setting for the perfect Western Australia road trip. Stay at Sal Salis Luxury Safari Camp nestled among the dunes in the Cape Range National Park for stunning ocean views.
The Coral Gardens of Bora Bora in the incredibly romantic islands of the South Pacific are a scuba diver’s dream holiday destination. Featuring 18 kilometres of breath-taking fringing reef, here, we recommend all underwater enthusiasts head to Matira Point to access the turquoise waters that the locals call ‘the Aquarium’. It’s a privileged opportunity to view kaleidoscopic tropical fish including trigger fish, butterfly fish, puffer fish, and the aptly-named sergeant major fish and zebra unicorn fish. Known as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, stay in overwater villa luxury at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa to experience a magical taste of blue lagoon perfection.
The world’s largest barrier reef is also the best known reef system. This World Heritage Site contains 900 separate reefs and stretches over a distance of 1,400 miles, from Torres Strait in the north to Fraser Island in the South. If you’d like to try your hand at scuba diving to see whether it’s an adventure that suits you, Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef tours has achieved the highest eco-certification attainable in Australia and conducts introductory dives and longer PADI certified courses. This is a life-changing opportunity to witness life below the waves. You’ll discover over 30 species of whale, plus clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, dugongs, dolphins and porpoises, sea snakes and leatherback turtles. Stay at Lady Elliot Island, an eco-resort featuring a Reef Education Centre where you can learn all about the conservation and sustainable management of the Great Barrier Reef.
Did you know…?
Reef systems are at constant risk from human activity, including overfishing and pollution. However, the greatest threat to their survival is constant climate change and this has occurred for millions of years. An example can be found in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Here, the extinct Oodnaminta Reef was discovered by scientists and team members from the University of Melbourne. Dating 650 million years from a time in the Earth’s history when Australia was part of a supercontinent called Rodinia and the Flinders Ranges were still covered by ocean.
Coral reef fast facts
- A coral reef isn’t one thing – it’s a community of symbiotic ecosystems
- Reefs are home to 25% of all the planet’s marine life
- Reefs form protective barriers for fish to spawn and lay eggs and are therefore essential to the fishing industry
- Navies often sink decommissioned ships in order to create bridging reefs to help existing reefs to grow
- Reefs are biological water purifiers; they make seawater cleaner and clearer
- Polyps are sexually active during the cycle of the full moon
- There are three types of reef, fringing (house) reef, barrier reefs and atolls
- Reefs need sunlight and they seldom grow below 13 metres and thrive in warm, shallow, clear and agitated water.
Coral reefs are amazing natural marine structures containing a wealth of life that simply has to be seen to be believed. Don’t take our word for it: take your first steps to underwater paradise with an adventure in Australasia and fulfil an ambition of a lifetime.