Scuba Diving or Snorkelling? Amazing Animals of the Great Barrier Reef

Scuba Diving or Snorkelling? Amazing Animals of the Great Barrier Reef

By James Dixon | 27th January 2015

You simply cannot visit the Cairns region without experiencing the Great Barrier Reef and its wild inhabitants, by scuba diving or snorkelling its crystalline waters. When people think of wildlife living within the Great Barrier Reef, they usually think of fish and coral, and so they should – there are around 1625 species of fish, 450 species of hard corals and 150 species of soft corals inhabiting this gorgeous natural wonder! There are so many other wonderful aquatic creatures to see, so it’s worth learning about them before you embark on your Barrier Reef scuba diving or snorkelling adventure.

scuba diving

From Micro to Mighty

The size range of The Reef’s aquatic wildlife is absolutely amazing. The living wonderland contains everything from plankton so small that it’s microscopic, to huge whales that weigh more than 100 tonnes! It’s funny to consider that this tiny plankton makes up some of the diet of the mighty humpback whale – among other species.

Small but Sweet

Some of the other small living things that make up this ecosystem include around 950 species of bryzoans (which are tiny creatures that form clusters that can often look like coral), about 720 species of colourful ascidians/tunicates (which are more commonly known as sea squirts) and approximately 30% of the total number of attractive sponge species found within Australia. Besides around 20 species of marine insects and five species of aqua spiders, the Reef also has worms! That’s right – there are around 500 species of worm, in fact.

Feathers, Fur and Fins

As you can imagine, with all of the small creatures that live in the Reef, birds adore this area for their nesting and feasting purposes. There are around 22 seabird species living on cays and islands, as well as hundreds of shorebirds. If you’re lucky, you may spot one of these fine-feathered beauties from beneath the surface, diving for its dinner, on your next scuba diving or snorkelling adventure.

The sea mammals are a favourite of us all, and with more than 30 species of whales (including humpback, dwarf minke and the elusive Bryde’s whales), dolphins (primarily bottlenose), seals and dugongs, you’re bound to see these majestic creatures during your visit. There are also about 133 species of sharks and rays, ranging from the tiny little epaulette shark, all the way up to the impressive behemoth, the whale shark.

Shells and Scales

The Reef is an extremely important area for turtles, as six of the world’s seven species reside here, and all are considered threatened species. It’s truly a magnificent sight to see a large adult turtle slowly bobbing along the top of the water. Just as magnificent, but perhaps a little more frightening are the estuarine crocodiles that can also be found in the coastal waters of the Reef’s cays and islands. You probably would not want to encounter one of the 14 extremely poisonous species of sea snakes while snorkelling or scuba diving either; however, they are generally placid and will probably (hopefully!) attempt to move away from you as fast as possible.

Creepy Crawlies

There are plenty of multi-legged creatures crawling along the bottom of the Reef, including about 1300 species of crustaceans (including crabs, lobsters and prawns), 40 species of sea anemone and approximately 630 species of echinoderms, such as starfish. The Reef is also home to more than 3000 varieties of mollusc, such as sea snails, clams, oysters, nautilus, nudibranchs, chitons, squid, octopus and cuttlefish. Finally, there are around 100 species of jellyfish, ranging from small to large, poisonous to placid.

Besides experiencing the sheer beauty and wonder of this paradisiacal place, the best part about the Great Barrier Reef is that it’s a conservation area, meaning that all of these wonderful creatures are protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Additionally, your scuba diving or snorkelling adventure will actually help contribute to the protection of this absolute must-see haven!