The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is an immense marine wildlife reserve just off the northeast coastr of Australia. It incorporates most of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system on Earth. Home to a huge amount of species from tiny fish to enormous whales, this area is the site of some of the world’s best diving sites. Routinely counted among the greatest natural destinations in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most popular destinations in Oceania.
The Great Barrier Reef may be the oldest and largest structure built by living organisms on the planet. It was known to indigenous tribesmen before the arrival of Europeans, and was probably important both to the local economy and food supply. Throughout the 20th century the reef became an increasingly important site both for commercial purposes and for tourism. The area grew so busy that the giant ecosystem became threatened. In 1975 most of the reef system was incorporated into a protected park. While much more protected now, the reef is still an extremely popular site with tourists, divers and scientists.
The marine park is huge, covering an area of 345,000 square km. Almost the entirety of the reef system, including many islands, lies within its boundaries. A huge variety of marine species can be found here, beginning with vast numbers of corals, fish and birds. Reptiles are common, including Saltwater Crocodile, a half dozen varieties of Sea Turtle and over a dozen different species of Sea Snake. Mammal species include Porpoise, Hmpback Dolphin, Humpback Whale and Dwarf Minke Whale.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is located approximately eighty miles off the northeast coast of Australia, approximately 700 miles north of Brisbane. The closest major access point is Townsville. The park is effectively an open site, but the local park authority overseas access and some parts may be restricted. There is no cost of admission, but boat tour costs may be required. Web: www.gbrmpa.gov.au (official website).