How Big is the Great Barrier Reef?

How Big is the Great Barrier Reef?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 09/05/2018

Reading time: 3 mins

One of the seven wonders of the world, the iconic Great Barrier reef is Australia’s most precious attraction. It is the largest living thing on earth, being so enormous it is visible from space.

The Great Barrier Reef is an ancient sight, estimated to be roughly 500,000 years old. Although aboriginal people would have certainly encountered it earlier, European explorers have said to discover it in the late 1700s.

How Big is It?

So how big is it? It spans over 2,300 kilometres along the northeast coast of Queensland, covering roughly 348,000 square kilometres. This is larger than the United Kingdom, Holland, and Switzerland combined. It is largest reef system in the entire world, made up from 2,900 individual reefs and over 900 islands.

What’s in It?

Due to its size, the reef is home to a vast array of life forms. Around ten per cent of the world’s fish can be found here, with over 1500 different types of species. Larger marine life also calls this place home, with around thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. As well as seven types of sea turtles. Even animals who are land-based require this reef to survive. With over 215 species of birds visiting the reef daily or dwelling in the reef islands.

How Can You See It?

As it is such an enormous attraction, there is no way you can visit it all. Not unless you save up a lot of your annual leave, and we mean a lot! Narrowing down what areas are best is always tricky, but not impossible.

Snorkel or Scuba Dive

To really see the underwater wonderland that is the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling or scuba diving is an essential activity. Snorkel afloat on the surface or dive down below to see the colourful coral, fish aplenty, and famous animals such as the dolphins or sea turtles. If you’ve never snorkelled or scuba dived before, have no fear, many of the boat tours offer beginners lessons to those new to reef exploring.

Glass Bottom Boat, Boom Netting, or Beaches

Even non-swimmers can enjoy the remarkable reef, as there are several activities to do that doesn’t involve getting in the water.

Travel on a Glass bottom boat to see the secrets beneath the waves. These tours include a commentary, so you can learn more about the Great Barrier reef, as well as the wildlife you are spotting on your journey.

Boom netting does involve getting wet, but no swimming is required. Simply sit in a large net attached to the end of a boat and let the water whizz past you as the boat carries you along the surface. Here you can spot passing animals and look down to the paradise below.

To see both the reef and the beach in one day, why not travel out the Whitehaven? This stunning beach has pure white sand and clear aquamarine waters. After soaking up the sun venture off to Airlie beach, where you can hop on a seaplane to view the Great Barrier reef from above. You will see amazing sights such as the famous Heart Reef. This beautiful coral reef is in the shape of a heart and is one of the most recognisable and picturesque sights to see.

Related article: Basic scuba diving rules in the Great Barrier Reef.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.