The Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 02/27/2020

Reading time: 3 mins

When visiting Africa on safari, you’ll often hear people talking about the Big Five. They want to see rhinoceros, leopard, lion, elephant and Cape buffalo. But what are the big five of the Great Barrier Reef?

Well, there isn’t five, there is eight! We like to call them the Great Eight, eight species you should try and spot during your time on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn all about these special eight species, and where you’re most likely to find them below!

  • Turtles


    If there is a poster animal for the Great Barrier Reef it’s the turtle. Six of the seven species of turtles in the world are found here. These beautiful creatures can be found around the reef throughout the year. If you’re visiting the area between January and April, you may be lucky enough to watch hatchlings making their way down beaches to the ocean.

  • Clownfish

    Clown Fish

    This bright orange fish shot to fame thanks to the film Finding Nemo in 2003. Ever since people have been searching for Nemo on their Great Barrier Reef trips. They can be seen darting through and around anemones in sheltered reefs. They’re quite easy to spot thanks to their distinctive orange colouring and black and white stripes.

  • Manta Ray

    Manta Ray

    Larger than any other species of ray, manta rays can have wingspans up to 7 metres! They are majestic and harmless and move gracefully through the water. Manta ray are solitary animals and you can see them as they travel large distances to find food.

  • Maori Wrasse

    Maori Wrasse

    There’s perhaps no fish more distinctive than the Maori wrasse. Bright blue and yellow, they are easily identifiable thanks to their large lips and protruding bump on their forehead. Despite their freakish looks, they are incredibly curious and have been known to follow swimmers in their area. If you do find a friend following you, be sure not to touch and let the fish swim at its leisure.

  • Potato Cod

    Potato Cod

    This native species is the largest bony fish in the Great Barrier Reef and can grow up to 2metre long! They have distinct brown marks along their bodies that look like, well you guessed it, potatoes. Just like the Maori wrasse, these large fish are incredibly friendly, and known to chase around divers like puppies!

  • Sharks


    There are more than 50 species of sharks found around the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the most commonly seen shark species are the white and black-tipped reef sharks. They are a harmless shark species and you’re likely to see them perusing the reef in deeper waters.

  • Giant Clam

    Giant Clam

    Giant Clams thrive in the Great Barrier Reefs warm waters. With a lifespan of around 100 years, these clams fasten themselves to the reef and never leave! Wait for them to open up and see their beautiful, vibrant colours. They’re impressively large, with some growing up to 1.2m long.

  • Whales

    Humpback Whale

    You didn’t expect that one, did you? Believe it or not, humpback whales travel to the Great Barrier Reef each year with their young calves. Their migration sees them splashing about around the reef from June to September each year.

Can you spot the Great Eight? Book your Great Barrier Reef tour today and try your luck at seeing the incredibly diverse marine life of the Great Barrier Reef.

Related article: The Sea Creatures and Coral Cays at Hastings 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.