This is the second instalment in a two part series of my recent holiday to Tropical North Queensland. If you want to read about the plants, rainforest and a general overview of the fantastic holiday, have a look here.
This blog is about the other natural wonder of North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef. It is truly fulfills its name as one of the seven wonders of the world and stretches over 3000 km parallel to the Queensland coast. It was also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981 due to its importance as a habitat for many species including the vulnerable species such as the Dugong and Green Sea turtle.
I wanted to share some of the amazing things we got to see on the reef, as well as discussing a bit about the conservation issues surrounding the reef as it is such a hot topic in my community and the media. Just a heads up, I am not endorsed or paid by any of the following companies, I just want to reccomend them because they were awesome and good value!
The first part of the reef we saw was off Cape Tribulation at Mackay reef. We got a really great deal with the accommodation we were staying with (Ocean Safari) and it was only an hour boat ride off Cape Tribulation beach. Mackay reef was beautiful and we got to swim with a few Green Sea Turtles! It had a huge population of giant clams (Tridacna gigas) which came in a bunch of really cool colours. Mackay reef is a series of fringing reefs that are part of the Whitsunday reef group.
We then did a day trip off Cairns to the Outer Great Barrier reef, which, despite a fair amount of coral bleaching, was still fantastic. We were absolutely taken aback by the diversity of all the fishes and the beautiful coral. I am so glad we did this day tour, it was a little more expensive than the others, but was such an incredible day! We went with Reef Magic Cruises and we thought it was awesome! Here’s a few of the cool things we saw:
The last place we saw the reef was off Fitzroy Island, we did a paddle board tour with Whats’SUP Cairns and got another great deal where they took us paddling and snorkeling around the island. It was a windy day so we struggled a bit on the boards and the visibility wasn’t perfect but we still had a great time! Again, we saw loads of turtles, they’d come up for air around us paddling, and there were loads of beautiful coral and marine species on this fringing reef.
But the sad news….
Our reef has already been dramatically affected by bleaching and may be completely gone in the next few decades. There have been two bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 which means the coral on the reef has declined and is not able to recover over the short amount of time between bleaching events.
The two main issues that our reef faces are:
- Runoff from agriculture, industry and residential water that has high sediment and high nutrients
- Increased sea temperatures due to climate change (and yes, the climate has changed and there is loads of evidence for it, here’s a good summary of evidence: https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/observations-atmosphere-and-surface)
So what can we do?
The future of the reef and the larger natural environment can be changed by individuals and society. If our attitude is to protect the environment, the politicians will have to follow and we can make a positive change into the future. I want to end this blog on a positive note. We CAN and we must protect our reef. Here are a few simple steps you can do to help out.
- Conserve water, every little bit counts, the less you use, the less runoff there is into our oceans.
- Support reef friendly businesses- ask the snorkelling tour company, boat company, check your bank company, ask them what they’re doing to protect the natural environment
- Help reduce pollution – do your bit, walk instead of driving, catch the bus, swap from single use plastics to re-usable materials.
- Contact your local and federal authorities- you can write letters, emails or make phone calls. The pressure we put on them counts!