If you give weight to the names, we’ve actually got it pretty great in Australia. There’s the Great Australian Bight, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Dividing Range and Great Keppel Island. But honestly, nothing comes close to the Great Barrier Reef. Of all of our great things, it is certainly the greatest. It’s colourful, busy, wonderful and weird, like an amusement park under the sea. It’s roughly the same size as Italy and it’s larger than Victoria and Tasmania combined. With over 2000 kilometres of reef, 900 islands and thousands of species of plant and animal life, the mostly submerged metropolis is one that should be experienced first hand.
There are plenty of tried and tested ways to explore the reef, but if you want to go beyond the snorkel or the scuba, here’s five different ways to do it.
#1 Stay on an island in the middle of it
What better place to base your reef explorations than smack bang in the middle of it? There are over 100 islands dotted among the reef, and most of them boast secluded beaches, undisturbed rainforest and clear sapphire water. Our pick of the tropical paradises is Hamilton Island, which really has it all. Think of it as Australia’s Hawaii. The weather is always glorious, the people are friendly, the wine and food are next level and it’s the ideal gateway for checking out the reef – on the island, you can opt to snorkel, dive, fly, sail or any combination of those things.
#2 A submarine (sort of)
Here’s a way to see reef without the unpleasantness of reusing your wet beach towel. A step up from the established glass-bottom boat tour, this semi-submarine is actually a inverted glass pyramid. Passengers are seated below sea level during the 30 minute spin, giving them a divers’ view of the reef without even having to get wet. It’s the ultimate in comfort, air-conditioning and all. You can jump on the semi-sub at Green Island.
#3 A scenic flight
Another way to stay dry is to stay high. A scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef is one of the only ways to even begin to understand the immense scale of the thing. Plus, the only way to see the famous Heart Reef is from above. There’s a bunch of flight tours available, varying in vessel (helicopter, sea plane or hot air balloon) and duration, but whichever option you choose, make sure you can take a camera. Those photos could probably see you through many dark days.
#4 Walk under the sea
Want to get down to the sea floor without having to undertake the extensive training that comes with diving? The Seawalker at Green Island is an underwater tour like no other – you don’t even need to know how to swim. Guests put on a special helmet and a wetsuit, slip into the water and walk on the smooth clear sand of the ocean floor with an instructor for about 20 minutes. You’re completely surrounded by the colourful reef and fish and most amazingly, your hair stays dry and your make up stays put so you don’t have to freshen up before dinner.
#5 Scuba Dooby Doo
The Scuba Doo is a self-drive, ride-on underwater scooter that looks exactly like something out of an ocean-themed level of a video game. It lets you cruise around in eco-friendly comfort alongside the many fish that call the reef home. The Scuba Doo helmets completely cover your face to leave contact lenses, glasses, and hair dry. Instructors train you on operating the scooter, then you can take in the life aquatic at your own leisure. The best part of this unusual excursion? No special skills or expensive scuba lessons are required.
(Lead image: Palm Cove Reef Tours)
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