The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the world. It’s reached the news quite a lot of over the last couple of years because of a few big bleaching events (where coral turns white and almost dies). There is so much to say about this amazing underwater world that I’ve decided to do a whole series on it! Today we’re going to explore what makes the reef so special. In the following articles, you are going to find out how to visit the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns and from Port Douglas yourself.
If there is only one thing I want you to remember from this post, it is that the Great Barrier Reef is not dead. Not dead at all! In fact, last week humpback whales were sighted together with Migaloo whales, Manta rays, reef sharks, and the curious Minke whales even made several appearances during the season. Not to mention the everyday colorful reef fish going about their days. So dead? Not really.
What’s Up With The Great Barrier Reef?
But what about all those news articles? Is it in trouble? That is definitely is. As our climate warms, the ocean temperatures rise and coral bleaches. This means the end of the coral and so the end of the Great Barrier Reef. But, what is bleaching? And why do these temperatures affect the reef?
How and why is the reef bleaching?
Explaining how coral bleaching works and all the factors involved is a very complicated issue. As I am not a scientist so I can only tell you what I know. I really want to do my best to share as much as I can, but will try to keep it short.
You can compare the rising temperatures in the water to feeling ill. Having a fever means that your body temperature is a couple of degrees off. Just a few degrees and you feel horrible, right? If this keeps going, the doctor soon begins to worry and you might end up in hospital.
Well, the same goes for the Great Barrier Reef (and all other coral reefs in the world). When the water is a few degrees higher the coral starts feeling sick. Take this quote to say it more scientisty: “If the sea temperature becomes too warm, the algae develops heat-stress, and stops producing carbohydrates. However, it begins to produce toxic waste products which poison the coral until it rejects the zooxanthellae – expelling it into the open water. When this happens, the coral turns white, and this is known as ”coral bleaching““. This means that the food for the coral (algae) gets pushed out because of the warmer temperatures resulting in the coral starving to death.
Image by NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
However, even though big portions of the Great Barrier Reef have been reported as bleached, that doesn’t mean that the section is lost forever. The good news is that bleached coral is not dead coral. The bleaching event is just a big red flag to show that it’s almost dead. Several reefs across the globe have recovered from bleaching, but that is where we have to come in.
Why is the Great Barrier Reef such a big deal?
Being the biggest organ in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is quite literally a big deal. So big you can even see it from space! It follows Australians coast line from Bundaberg in Southern Queensland all to the top and beyond.
But why are so many people trying to protect it? Coral reefs have many important benefits for us humans. First of all, the people living in those beautiful beach town are particularly grateful for reefs. Why? Because reefs are the first frontier for many heavy storms coming from the open sea. They protect these beach towns from the biggest impact.
Second, the rainforest and coral reefs work together to provide shelter and food for animals living in the reef and in the mangroves (the part of the rainforest that meets the reef). Without these reefs, the rainforest will suffer and without a rainforest, there is no oxygen. On top of that, a large amount of the CO2 is absorbed into the reef. Pretty cool, right?!
Third, it is home to the most amazing animals that we cherish so much. With 69.000 people that are employed by the reef and a contribution of millions to the Australian economy, it’s strange not more is done to save it. There are so so many other reasons why the Great Barrier Reef is an awesome and valuable part of our world. If you want to read more about it, check out this article!
What can you do?
The biggest source (but not the only source) of this infamous bleaching is global warming. Believing that global warming is real, is the first step to recovery. However, as this is an immense problem, little old you cannot fight it by yourself. Good news? You’re not the only one.
From little things, big things grow and this goes for climate change as much as it goes for anything else in life. There are so many small choices you can make that make a difference. For example, choosing the right company to travel with or small changes in your daily life. Reducing your waste, eating less meat and switching the lights off will add up. The internet is full of articles that talk about this! Or comment below and let me know if you would like to know more about the subject!
Looking out over the most Northern part of the Great Barrier Reef in Cape York
Should you still visit the Great Barrier Reef?
Hearing people say that they shouldn’t see the Great Barrier Reef because it is dead anyway, is so sad to hear. The reef is still very much alive and deserves your time. A lot of operators in the area will take you out for an amazing day and I promise you, this is a day you won’t forget.
It’s important to remember that the Great Barrier Reef is not only nature’s problem. The livelihood of many people depends on it as well.
But what about contributing to the problem by being on yet another boat on the reef? Do your research! Only go with companies that have minimum impact on the reef. Companies that teach their guest about taking care of the reef and that contribute to helping the Great Barrier Reef.
I got the good fortune of visiting the reef several times and always saw something that made that day extra special. Whether it was only a super curious fish, way bigger schools of fish than I was expecting or the biggest turtle I have ever seen, it’s a magical place!
I recently was the happiest girl alive, as I got to visit the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns with Coral Sea Dreaming and once from Port Douglas with Deep Sea Divers Den. Reviews on these boats, tips for which boat will the best one for you and much more is coming up on the blog!
Sunrise on Coral Sea Dreaming
Disclaimer: I was lucky enough to be invited along for the dive tours to the Great Barrier Reef by Coral Sea Dreaming and Deep Sea Divers Den. All opinions on these boats are my own and I will always by honest with you guys.