Great Barrier Reef
Off Cairns, Australia
Two pontoons on the outer reef near Cairns.
to the Barrier Reef go on all sorts of
craft with all sorts of deals, but will be pricey, take an hour and
a half to get to serious reef (about 30kms away) and may well involve
a bumpy ride too. In fact travellers prone to seasickness might opt
for tours that head for large, anchored pontoons such as those pictures
above that are relatively stable compared to rocking and rolling boats
- even if you have taken seasick pills.
Station GBR. Barrier
Reef trippers - divers and snorkellers - get suited up on a pontoon
30kms from Cairns during the stinger season.
outer reef near Cairns is supposedly one of the finer diving and snorkelling
areas in Australia but for us didn't get close to the world's best, such as
Red Sea sites or even the Ningaloo Reef on Australia's west coast. Fish species are fine and varied but the coral looks
tired and lacking in colour or variety while visibility is often poor.
Great Barrier Reef; that's all you will see above sea level without
help from an aircraft.
Bad news of the Great Reef, extract from the London Times, October 2012:
More than half of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has disappeared over the last 27 years, alarming new research from the Australian Institute for Marine Science has found.
The most comprehensive study ever carried out on the World Heritage Site found that damage from storms, crown-of-thorns star-fish and bleaching had resulted in total coral cover in the 2000 mile (3000 km) long reef dropping from 28 percent in 1985 to 13.8 percent in 2012.
If damage continues at the current rate, it will halve again by 2022 to just seven percent and the reef could lose the biodiversity for which it was listed as a World Heritage Area, according to researchers who analysed 2258 surveys of 214 individual reefs over the past 27 years for their report.
They found that storms and cyclones caused 48 percent of the loss, while crown-of-thorns starfish, which feed off coral, were responsible for another 42 percent. Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 which were caused by ocean warming accounted for another 10 percent, with "major detrimental impacts" on the central and northern parts of the reef.
Crucially, the study found that had it not been for the starfish, the coral coverage would have grown over the same period.
John Gunn, chief executive of the institute, said that stopping the devastating progress of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) is crucial to the survival of the reef.
"Over the last three decades, the cumulative effect of storms, crown-of-thorns starfish and two major bleaching events have had a quite devastating effect on the reef. It is very alarming, a wake-up call," Mr Gunn told The Times.
Coral reefs are inherently resilient and the Great Barrier Reef would almost certainly have recovered from the storm damage and the bleaching if it had not been overwhelmed by the starfish, he said.
Scientists are also concerned at the impact of global warming and ocean acidification which causes such damage to reefs that they can take years to recover.
Last week, a report by the Australian Climate Commission study found global warming was putting increasing pressure on the Great Barrier Reef and would potentially result in more bleaching.
tour's pisologist tickles a giant Maori Wrasse during fish feeding
time off GBR islands. Click
to see Cairns
is a popular place to get a dive licence, prices are competitive and
final dives will be on the reef. In high-jelly season (Nov-March)
stinger suits will be part of any good tour package.
Diving is better further north in the Ospreys or south on the Yongala
wreck (neither of which are actually the GBR), while Lady Elliot Island,
the Barrier Reef's last gasp way down south offers some good dive
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