Six Amazing Facts about the Great Barrier Reef | Cairns Tours

Six Amazing Facts about the Great Barrier Reef

By James Dixon | 21st November 2014

As one of the most stunning locations in the world, the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef is bound to have a few interesting facts surrounding it. Learning about this magnificent and ancient reef is definitely a must-do if you visit Cairns, so let us get you started:


Old Man Reef

The Great Barrier Reef has certainly celebrated many birthdays in its lifetime, with an estimate that the Reef has been in existence for around 20 million years! Of course, this ancient phenomenon is not actually an individual living thing, but a cyclic ecosystem, composed of new coral growing upon old coral; however, it still has an impressive number of birthday candles to contend with each year!

Big is Beautiful

Not only is the Great Barrier Reef the largest reef system in the world, but it can also be seen from outer space! With around 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, stretching over 2,600 kilometres, this big, beautiful wonder of nature is greater in size than Victoria and Tasmania combined.

Reef Residents

Amazingly, approximately 10 percent of the world’s total fish population can be found on the Reef, with a whopping 1,500 species calling this colourful coral wonderland home. Besides fish, there are around six species of sea turtle, 17 species of sea snake and 30 species of ocean mammals (dolphins, whales and porpoise). The Reef is also an ideal haven for bird watchers, with around 215 species of feathered visitors who come to breed, roost and nest.


Visitors to the Reef

This world beauty spot is so popular, that it receives around two million visitors each year! These visitors generate approximately AU $5-6 billion dollars per annum and the primary tourist demographic is families with kids.

Best Visiting Times

There’s no real ‘bad’ time to go and see the reef; however, there is a stinger season between November and May each year. This doesn’t mean you can’t experience this underwater beauty – you’ll just need to either wear a stinger suit or stay within the designated stinger enclosures.


Menaces to the Reef!

There is one primary menace to the Great Barrier Reef that has caused more damage in the past fifty years than over the last 20 million – humans! That’s right – the primary threat to this fragile ecosystem is caused by us, primarily through chemical pesticides, herbicides and other pollution. Climate change (which may or may not be caused by humans – the debate is still out on that one) is possibly one of the most pressing issues affecting the Reef today, as rising water temperatures make the coral sick, leading to coral bleaching.

While many people assume tourism is damaging to the Reef, the impact from contemporary tourism actually counteracts much of this damage, through promoting awareness, ecofriendly tours and a large number of tourist operators giving back to the Reef, by donating a share of their profits to the Reef’s protection.