ISLANDS OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF & AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
UNDOUBTEDLY Australia’s most remarkable natural gift, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. It stretches 2,300 km and is the only living thing on earth visible from space.
Because of its natural beauty, the Great Barrier Reef has become one of the most sought after tourist destinations on the planet. With many adventure based experiences like snorkelling, scuba diving, aircraft or helicopter tours, bare boats (self-sail), glass-bottomed boat viewing, semi-submersibles and educational trips, cruise ship tours, whale watching and swimming with dolphins, there’s nothing about this easily accessible paradise that can possibly turn you off.
In fact the Great Barrier Reef was recently voted as CNN’s the top holiday destination for 2016-2017, beating places like Bora Bora, Paris and Rome to be the number one holiday destination.
The Barrier Reef has been the spot for quite a few documentaries over the years, with the latest being Sir David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Interactive series. It really is amazing.
The link to David Attenborough’s interactive website is here!
We’ve put together a list of 7 things to do on the 7 best Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
SNORKEL OR DIVE IN A TURTLE BREEDING GROUND AT HAGGERSTONE ISLAND
Haggerstone Island is located on the Great Barrier Reef, about 600 kilometres north of Cairns alongside the rugged Cape York Peninsula. It is an exclusive, unique and special private island. Although it only caters for a small number of guests willing to explore and experience the surrounding wilderness, the island is teeming with fish and is surrounded by some of the most magnificent coral gardens in the world. Haggerstone Island also harbors a dense and varied bird population.
The marine life on Haggerstone will leave you breathless. Exploring shipwrecks, beach combing for WW2 artefacts, snorkelling and fishing are complemented by a superb yet simple mouth-watering cuisine featuring all fresh natural foods. The incredible remoteness of Haggerstone and the simplicity of island life ensure this is one of Australia’s most unforgettable experiences.
Two clear water lagoons just off Haggerstone’s beach put beautiful coral gardens right on your doorstep. The utter remoteness of the location ensures that the marine life is prolific. Adjacent to Haggerstone on the Outer Barrier Reef is one of the largest Green Turtle rookeries in the world, and turtles are abundant in the waters off Haggerstone.
Haggerstone Island has it all, miles of pristine white beaches, the perfect tropical climate, adventurous exploration, remoteness and isolation.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN A FAUNA PLAYGROUND AT HERON ISLAND
Heron Island, located 72 km northeast of Gladstone and 539 km north of Brisbane, is an evergreen coral cay surrounded by 24 hectares of coral reef at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. It is named after the herons which are part of the rich bird life that inhabits the island.
Heron Island is world famous for its fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling. From the one island you can experience more than 20 of Australia’s best dive spots, half of which are only 15 minutes from the beach.
An amazing array of animal life can be discovered throughout the year, such as the delightful Green and Loggerhead Turtles. Heron is renowned for its abundance of birdlife with dense Pisonia forests which are home to thousands of Noddy Terns and Shearwater Mutton Birds.
TRAIL RUNNING ON BRAMPTON ISLAND
Brampton Island is a large 770 hectare island surrounded by sparkling azure waters, twelve golden sandy beaches with seven idyllic beaches being easily accessible via walking trails, coral gardens and an array of walking and jogging tracks. Located at the southern entrance of the world-renowned Whitsunday Island Passage, Brampton Island is 32 kilometres northeast of Mackay and 50 kilometres south of Hamilton Island.
The island itself is characterised by great variation of vegetation with sections of tropical rainforest, dramatic stands of hoop pine, and lush coastal mangroves. The beaches are isolated and delightful.
Just off shore is a diverse range of fringing reefs where you can discover an amazing array of marine life and soft and hard corals. Brampton Island is all about fun, romance, reward, adventure and pure escapism.
On the island, there is 18km of running trails to keep you busy, when you aren’t attempting some of the island’s other activities that include water skiing, snorkelling, sailboarding, guided jet-ski tours, catamaran sailing, chip and putt golf, tennis, archery and fishing.
REEF TOUR IN A SUBMARINE FROM FITZROY ISLAND
Great Barrier Reef submarine reef tours are truly a unique experience. The submarine allows you to truly submerge yourself into the underwater world of the beautiful coral and exotic marine creatures of one of the reef.
The only company which currently operates Great Barrier Reef submarine tours is based on Fitzroy Island, which takes 45 minutes to reach by ferry from Cairns. The island is a national park filled with mountains, rainforests, and a coastline encircling the Great Barrier Reef.
Only two people at a time can experience the Great Barrier Reef submarine reef tours departing from Fitzroy Island’s main beach, allowing for a truly intimate experience, oh, and Stinger suits and masks are provided, so you don’t have to worry too much about how you will survive the journey.
As a submarine passenger, you receive in-depth instructions and safety briefings before a safety diver guides you into the submarine. The safety diver accompanies the submarine during the entire excursion, while the submarine pilot doubles as a tour guide providing vivid descriptions of the surrounding sea life and corals, and the submarine never ventures very far from the shore during this 20-minute journey.
As the submarine contains no hatches, passengers can enjoy a true Great Barrier Reef diving experience without needing scuba diving equipment.
SEAWALK THE REEF ON GREEN ISLAND
If you’re not a qualified scuba diver or a confident snorkeller but would still love to explore the legendary Great Barrier Reef without taking lessons, the Seawalker Helmet Diving experience is probably for you.
This absolutely unique diving experience takes place beneath the Moore Reef at the Green Island Dive Centre, which takes about 45 minutes to reach by ferry from the fleet terminal at Cairns Reef.
The specially designed Seawalker Platform Helmet allows you to walk along the sand of the Great Barrier Reef without swimming or diving. This unique helmet, unlike conventional scuba diving gear, allows you to breathe underwater in the same way as they would above the surface. The helmet also keeps hair and faces dry. Although the Seawalker Platform Helmet is safe and easy to use, guides will always be alongside participants to help out when needed. Smaller participants will have collars placed on their shoulders to help the helmet fit more comfortably.
HELICOPTER + CATAMARAN TOUR HAMILTON ISLAND
Remarkable from the air and from beneath the water, the Great Barrier Reef is a truly unforgettable destination. And you can experience it from all angles, with a fly and cruise trip via Helicopter, on the colourful Hardy Reef. This magnificent helicopter flight over Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet, Heart Reef and the Great Barrier Reef takes you to the famous attraction known as Reefworld.
At Reefworld, you can explore the reef at your own pace. Snorkel or dive the reef – or make use of Reefworld’s range of facilities, inclluding a large 50 seat underwater viewing chamber, and a Groper viewing hole. You can also take a semi-submersible tour if you would prefer to experience the reef from below, without getting wet. After your time at Reefworld, you will return to Hamilton Island on board a fully-equipped catamaran, with lounge seating and a large, shaded deck.
7 DAY SEA KAYAK TOUR HINCHINBROOK ISLAND
Paddling the Coast of Hinchinbrook Island and camping on the white sandy beaches is a true taste of paradise. The uninhabited islands offer stunning views and deserted beaches. On a 7 day trip the breathtaking beauty of this island wilderness will be revealed, the lush temperate rainforest gives way to towering granite peaks, there are countless sheltered sandy bays. 3 -4 hours paddling each day allows plenty of time, to explore Zoe Bay, swim in crystal clear fresh water pools, relax and enjoy this pristine environment. Evenings are spent camping under the stars, enjoying some local tales from experienced guides and a glass or two of wine over a sumptuous dinner.
Hinchinbrook Island is part of the UNESCO, World Heritage Listing for its unique flora and fauna. The waters of the Coral Sea which surround Hinchinbrook Island are world renowned for its abundant marine life offering us a chance to view sea turtles, dolphins and dugong. The islands offer excellent conditions to view many sea birds including, osprey, sea eagles and Oystercatchers.
From the islands northern tip you then paddle across to Goold Island, where on a low tide you can explore the remnants of the aboriginal fish traps on the beach. The final days of this amazing sea-kayaking adventure are spent exploring further north to the Idyllic Family Islands where you snorkel over fringing reef before ending the trip on South Mission Beach.
REEF THREATS & PROTECTION.
There are plans to expand several ports along the coastline of the Great Barrier Reef. Port expansion leads to dredging of the seafloor, an increase in ship traffic crossing the Reef, and a range of other impacts on the delicate coastal and marine environment of the World Heritage Area.
Chemical pollution from farm fertiliser run-off has destroyed more of the Reef’s coral and seagrass than any other threat. Up to 1,000 reefs have been affected. Excess chemical fertiliser runs off farms, into the creeks and rivers, which then enter the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Fertilisers can cause harmful algal blooms that feed the larvae of coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. These starfish are now in plague proportions due to farm chemicals polluting the Reef’s waters.
In the last three decades we have lost half the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover – with coral – eating crown-of-thorns starfish responsible for over 40% of this loss. The current outbreak, which has been building for five years, will further damage the Reef’s coral.
Global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels, is the greatest threat to the Reef. Warming waters can lead to coral bleaching – a process that causes corals to turn white and die when the sea temperatures remain too hot for too long. Global warming also means more intense storms, cyclones, and floods that damage coral, seagrass and marine life. Carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean, causing the water to become more acidic. Ocean acidification slowly eats away at the very structure of the shells and coral, the bones of our beautiful Reef.
Our next government has just three years left to demonstrate to UNESCO and the world that Australia, as the planet’s custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, is prepared to make the difficult choices to keep the Reef out of danger. If not, the Reef, the Reef economy, and our global icon, could be lost for future generations of Australians.
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s own paradise. It is our most valuable asset. But it’s future lies in the hands of our Government, and their choices for how it is protected and regenerated now, will leave a mark for generations to come, let’s hope it’s a good one.
If you would like to know more about how you can help save the reef, visit fightforthereef.org.au
For information on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, and places to stay, visit http://www.greatbarrierreef.org