The Great Barrier Reef

Masked Angel Fish

Masked Angel Fish

Off the eastern coast of Australia in the Coral Sea, and stretching across 1,400 miles (2,300 km), the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system.


Composed of 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, it is a living organism made of coral polyps.



Anthia and Bommie fish and reef

Formed by a combination of plate tectonics, volcano flows, and warm tropical waters about 600,000 years ago, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) hosts a marine wilderness of 133,000 square miles (344,400 sq. km.).


It has 1,500 species of fish; 30 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises; 6 species of turtles; 125 species of sharks/stingrays; 5,000 species of mollusks including one of my favorites, the giant clam.  More info here.


Black Noddy, Heron Isl., Aus.

Black Noddy, Heron Isl., Aus. Photo: Athena Alexander

215 species of birds live and/or nest on reef islands, and the list goes on and on.


The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Australian government work tirelessly to preserve this fragile marine system, starting in 1975 with the prohibition of oil drilling.  Thorough and complex management and laws are enforced in the water and adjacent land.


GBR,-boatUnlike many other beachy places in the world, snorkeling and diving at the GBR are experienced offshore, because reefs attached to the mainland are rare.


It is therefore necessary to hire a boat, and boats are highly regulated for protection reasons.  Australians are proud and protective of their reef, and accommodating to tourists as well.


Parrot fish eating coral

Parrot fish eating coral

But all of this slips from your mind the moment you submerge.  It’s no longer a country with a government, or a geological phenomenon.  It is paradise.


Parrot fish munching, crunching on coral, a wrasse the size of a boogie board floating by, thick schools of fish in stunning colors, the biggest variety of coral I’ve ever seen.


Clown fish

Clown fish

Fish are swimming by, the water constantly lapping, anemone swaying–everything is moving.  Except one.


The giant clam resides here, the largest living bivalve mollusk, a rare and threatened species.


Giant clam black&white komodo.jpg

Giant clam. Courtesy Wikipedia

Weighing up to 440 pounds (200 k) with an average lifespan of 100 years, they stay put.  They cultivate their own algae, open up the shell to extend their tissue into the sunlight to photosynthesize.


I swam all around, observing and delighting in the brilliant colors and unusual shapes, but then I would always find myself returning to the giant clam.


That big old clam, so solid and still, seemed to have all the answers.


Photo credit:  Calypso Reef Cruises unless otherwise noted



68 thoughts on “The Great Barrier Reef

  1. Can’t imagine the joy of swimming there and be able to enjoy these colorful, beautiful underwater creatures. What an adventure! Thank you for taking us there, Jet. 🙂

  2. Oceans, sea, coral reefs… a whole new game versus birds! When I was a teenager I dreamed of becoming a scuba diver after reading J. Cousteau’s book that I read dozens of times! I wanted to move to Australia when I wasn’t in High School yet! Later I drifted away from that dream. Your post reminded me of those times. Thank you Jet! 🙂

    • Marine life is definitely a whole different world, HJ, and so very lovely. I’m happy the GBR post was a pleasant reminder for you. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend~~

  3. Wonderful photographs….I have visited there – quite a while ago now, but never ever forgotten….it is a paradise and so utterly beautiful. Thank you, Jet…so good to read your wonderful blog again…Janet:)

    • You’re right Mary, it is one of the wonders. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, according to CNN. I am delighted you enjoyed today’s trip to the GBR, Mary. Thank you for your visit.

    • It’s so crazy to be above water, where it looks like blue water, basically. Then you go under and it’s crazy how much life and color and activity is down there. Thanks so much, Carol~~

  4. Gorgeous underwater photos, Jet. We did a week’s cruise of the Great Barrier Reef and i tried snorkeling for the first time. I was too nervous to really enjoy being underwater though, and clung onto hubby for dear life. Poor guy, he thought I was going to drown us both. 😕 We’d love to go back one day though.

  5. Wow! Such colour! Really enjoyed this post, kept scrolling up and down to look at the pictures. Sounds silly, but it looks unreal. I’m much happier on the water rather than under, but scenes and descriptions like these could tempt me…
    Thanks, Jet, and have a wonderful weekend!

    • I am absolutely delighted you enjoyed the GBR post, pc. It does look unreal, doesn’t sound silly at all. Those were actual fish we saw (and we had more photos of coral and other marine life too), but their colors and patterns are so psychedelic and bold, they don’t look like they’re of this planet. When you go to Hawaii, as you mentioned you would like to do, you and Mrs. PC can try snorkeling there, it’s really fun. Have a great weekend, my friend, thanks so much for your comment.

  6. This sounds like such a wonderful, amazing experience. What a thrill that must have been.You sure seem to get some wild and wonderful experiences! Lucky you! 🙂

    • This is definitely a wild and wonderful place that I have made a priority in my travels. I’m glad you enjoyed the visit, Gunta, thanks so much for stopping by. I always enjoy your comments.

    • It is a living structure and takes some hits, natural and otherwise, but fortunately Australia protects the GBR a lot. Thanks for your comment, Lloyd, I hope you can visit here someday.

    • It is truly my pleasure, David. Thank you for sharing the beautiful and colorful words that emerge from your desk, they brought a smile to my face on this rainy Sunday morning.

  7. Amazing! It sounds like a breath-taking place. It’s a good thing those giant clams stay put, or they could be the subjects of a great horror film!

    • Those clams are so gigantic! Swimming above it, my five and a half foot body could easily have been swallowed! Thanks for making me laugh with the horror film notion, Nan.

  8. Jet when i saw the title of your post I admit my heart sank a bit. When we made plans for our trip to Australia it became clear we couldn’t do it all and as you know we did not get to the GBR. It shall have to wait for another adventure. The photos are astounding. I appreciate the wonderful look below even if it did hurt a bit to see it. 🙂

    • The clam we saw was closed (I used a photo from Wikipedia) and even though it was gigantic, it was easy to miss, they almost blend in with the reef. I was so happy I found it. And happy to share it with you, Christy. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Spectacular photographs! Particularly the clown fish. I hope to scuba one day, at the rate at which these great reefs are dying, I’m afraid I’d have missed my chance. Alarming to think the great rainforests of the ocean are also struggling. And what we don’t see…

    Though no underwater adventures, I really loved Sydney and the Aussies are amazing people! Hoping to take my family back there one day.

    • Australia does a good job of doing what is possible to protect the reef, so I am happy I have had the chance to enjoy it. I’m glad you enjoyed Sydney and the Aussies, Shannon, it certainly is a fun and memorable event. Thanks for your visit.

  10. I have been swimming in deep “Blue” WP waters for months now,strenuous my effort to come up to surface from my uncontrollable and inundated email inbox,the situation grinds my thoughts to standstill and I sink deeper and deeper into silence…
    Your underwater paradise post with the brilliant photos helped me come out of my shell a bit and made my first steps to reconnect with you,dear Jet!I have so much missed your brilliant posts,dear friend.Athena’s Black Noddy couple is so sweet behind the leafage,hope you are both keeping well 🙂 So many thanks for dragging me into the rich underwater life xxX ♥ •¨`*• ❣

    • Welcome back dear Doda! There’s nothing like a refreshing dip in the earth’s rich and colorful ocean to reconnect. I am so pleased you enjoyed the Great Barrier Reef, and honored to have elicited your response. Thank you so much for all your visits today, Doda.

  11. What a beautiful adventure to experience, Jet, so amazing! It must feel like an out-of-body experience in another world, exploring this paradise without gravity. That clam is incredible!

    • Yes, it is a bit mind-altering. While you’re in a boat on top of the water, there’s waves, sometimes sea birds, queasiness, and the fresh air. Then you don your snorkel gear and submerge, and the coral and fish, bright colors, sharks (harmless) and turtles and more. The only thing you hear is parrot fish crunching coral, so peaceful. I’m glad I could share the experience with you, Donna, and appreciate your visits today. 🙂

  12. Missed this (was away). Love the fish. I’ve only fairly recently – last few years – learned how parrotfish are such significant contributors to the formation of sandy beaches…

    • I’m delighted you saw the GBR post, RH, as you are such an experienced reefist, from life on Abaco. Thanks so much for your comment and visit. Have a good week~~

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