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Visiting
 The Great
Barrier Reef
of Australia

Can you imagine the spectacle of a coral line extending for thousands of km, that can only be seen whole by an astronaut from space? With 2.200 km of extension, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is formed by many rings like a chain. Many people mistakenly think that the barrier is a continuum. However Itís formed by millions of coral formations with many different shapes and sizes, and most part of the reef are not continuous, with big gaps between them. Another interesting point is the Great Barrier does not run on one unique line. Three well distinct lines exist, one outer line, a middle line, and one inner line, close to the coast.

There are some factors that block the growth of Corals. One of them is the water temperature, the other one is the PH and Salinity. Thatís why no part of the  Barrier Reef could be continuous, being cut by fresh water from rivers and streams towards the sea, avoiding the coral grows in this area (These zones are called Passes). The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is entirely inside the state of Queensland, and changes names in accordance with the session. For example: Capricorn Section, that obviously is in the Capricorn Tropic zone, North Section in front of Cairns and Port Douglas, and Whitsunday Section in front the Whitsundayís islands, and so on. The Barrier also forms many islands, nowadays with beautiful resorts or completely deserted. It is possible to camp in some of them with authorization of the department of Conservation but is necessary to take everything that is needed like water, food and solar protector. Note that many of these sections are considered Marine National Parks, and nothing over there can be collected, just photos and your garbage.

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But most part of the Barrier is composed by reefs with different corals spreading in rings as we explain previously. To get there, there are a great number of boats and comfortable high speed Catamarans leaving daily from different locations. The tours are normally of one day, but you can get tours with as many days your pocket can afford which may include activities such as diving at night. The tours are a little expensive and more expensive the further off the coast you want to go (for example the outer line). If you like diving or coral watching, it will really be worth the money. Your experience can be very different depending which part of the barrier reef that you go. For example, Cairns is most famous departure point, but you have to be careful with the tour you choose, or you can waste money and time. The first time that we were there, we were 4 people and we didnít want to spend too much, therefore we choose the cheapest tour going to Green Island, 20 km from Cairns. The brochures were showing fantastic photos, but when we arrived on the island with other 150 tourists it was a big disappointment. The reef and corals were in very bad shape, broken and bleached.  Later we knew that we had to go well further to see majestical formations. Note that Cairns and Port Douglas are internationally famous, and attract multitudes of tourist for being the point where the Barrier is closest to the coast, and with many flights arriving at these points from Asia. Itís better to choose tours that go to the further reefs even though they are a bit more expensive. Definitively if you want to see something decent, be prepared to pay at least A$ 120 per person for one day tour, and usually includes all snorkelling equipment such as masks and  flippers (oxygen bottles for diving not included), a tour in a glass bottom boat and food on board (but not drinks) .

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Coming from North to South, you can departure to the Barrier Reef from the following cities: Cooktown, Port Douglas, Cairns, Mission Beach, Townsville, Arlie Beach, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg and Town of 1770, this last one is only 5 hours by car from Brisbane. Tours normally start at 8 am returning 5 pm, in alternative days of the week, and in cities such as Cairns and Port Douglas daily. The only reasons they cancelled are stormy seas and/or strong winds. Try to avoid the tour in cloudly days because the colours of the Corals are enhanced with sun, otherwise you will see only the blue of the ocean. But donít worry too much about it because in Queensland you get more than 300 days of sun per year.

  If you wish more technical or Turist information about the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the government website Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have plenty of interesting things.

Honey, the colour of the coral matches with the colour of my flippers. Isn't it beautiful?

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