Stretching along the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a glorious chain of coral, rainforest and lush islands. TV presenter Monty Halls explains the best bits...
So we've told you about the Great Barrier Reef on land (covering the coast, and the world's oldest rainforest) and on/under the sea... but here are the absolute best bits:
Tropical water is very low in nutrients and oxygen, and in rainforests soils can be leached away by abundant rains. By retaining and recycling these nutrients, and creating a system of nooks and crannies that become ideal breeding grounds and habitations for the attendant wildlife, the reef and rainforest represent oases of life in regions of relative paucity. By holding the soil and preventing water run off into coastal areas, the rainforests also protect the reefs - a relationship that is becoming increasingly perilous due to the process of deforestation.
The grandeur and diversity of the reef belie the fact that this is a delicate and vulnerable ecosystem. Scientists are unanimous that the existence of the entire reef is under threat from factors such as climate change and ocean acidification - global-scale issues that are affecting coral reefs worldwide. As a visitor it is imperative that you adhere to local conservation regulations and do everything you can to minimise your personal impact on the reef. Guidelines and advice on how to do this are available throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; penalties for contravening the rules are - justifiably - severe.
From around November to May - 'stinger season' - nets appear on certain beaches in northern Queensland to protect swimmers from potentially lethal box jellyfish. They don't affect the reef, occurring mainly around creeks and beaches. Do take warnings seriously: stay within the netted areas, and do not paddle nearby, regardless of how tempting the water may appear.
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