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Great Barrier Reef

The current coral growth is thought to have started around 20,000 years ago, though scientists believe there has been at least a small amount of coral growth here for millions of years. Stretching for 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometres) the Great Barrier Reef encompasses 900 islands and 2,900 different reefs.

Great Barrier Reef

Being located just a short distance off the Queensland coast means that the Great Barrier Reef is very accessible for visitors, though whilst this is good, human impact is having detrimental effects on it. Much of the reef now comes under the designation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park which has the authority to limit access, and the reef is also protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not surprisingly diving is extremely popular here, as the reef gives divers the chance to see the coral formations up close and personal, as well as the many different varieties of fish and marine life. Visitors who want to spend several days in the Great Barrier Reef often stay on a 'live aboard' boat which gives them a great opportunity to see a wider area and also benefit from the knowledge and experience of the crew. If you don't have several days though, daily diving trips can also be organised.

Visitors who prefer to stay dry whilst experiencing the Great Barrier Reef can join one of the reef boat cruise companies. A popular way to see the reef is from a glass-bottomed boat and there are a number of operators running tours and live aboards from various destinations; Cairns, Port Douglas and Townsville for example, or from the Whitsunday Islands.

A third option is to see it from the air. Helicopter flights give visitors the opportunity to get an idea of the huge expanse that is the Great Barrier Reef. Seeing it from the air also has the benefit of having very little impact on the reef itself.

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