No one likes to be THOSE tourists when they travel. You know the kind, unaware and ill informed. Stay on top of best practice when visiting The Great Barrier Reef with these little tidbits.

Great Barrier Reef no-nos

Anna Marsden, managing director of Great Barrier Reef Foundation agrees that tourism is important for the preservation of the reef, but says it’s important to act responsibly. “When snorkelling, for example, it’s important you don’t let your fins touch the reef as you’re swimming,” she says. “Also, never reach out and touch any of the fish, turtles or manta rays.” Choosing a good, accredited operator can make all the difference, she adds. “ECO Certified operators go ‘above and beyond’ for the reef, and their actions and leadership make them a High Standard Tourism operator.” Keep an out for such credentials when planning your trip to the reef.

Smarten up

Before you set sail for the reef on a day or multi-day exploration, brush up on your marine biology so that when you’re out there you can really appreciate what it is you’re looking at. At Reef Teach in Cairns, from $23 for adults and $14 for kids, attend a presentation on the Great Barrier Reef in a dedicated auditorium where you’ll learn how the various fish and corals play a crucial role in the ecology. You’ll also be able to handle different corals and marine specimens, including some dangeorus ones you wouldn’t dare touch if they were alive.

Meet the great eight, The Great Barrier Reef’s underwater answer to the African safari’s Big Five, make sure you tick the following off your checklist:

1. Clownfish: Look for them around the sea anemones surrounding Green Island.

2. Giant clams: Check out Ribbon Reefs near Lizard Island. You really can’t miss them.

3. Manta Rays: Lady Musgrave Island is teeming with them – some up to seven metres wide.

4. Potato Cod: These ‘pups of the sea’ can be found in abundance around Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs.

5. Maori Wrasse: A friendly fish plentiful at Hardy Reef.

6. Sharks: Osprey Reef north-east of Port Douglas is the place to be.

7. Turtles: Six out of seven of the world’s species live here. Check out Mon Repos, Bundaberg.

8. Whales: Aim to see dwarf minke whales in winter around Ribbon Reefs.

Q&A with Dr Colin Limpus

Dr Colin Limpus is in the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science. He has been studying marine turtles at Bundaberg’s Mon Repos since the 1960s and is a leading global expert.

Q: You have a long history with Lady Musgrave Island. Why should visitors to the reef consider visiting?

A: I was going out to Lady Musgrave long before anyone would dream of camping there [note: up to 40 people can camp on the island now] but it’s always been a beautiful place. The reason we have a monitoring program there is because it has a significant population of turtles. Add to that, its proximity to the mainland – there are islands that have just as many turtles between Mackay and Rockhampton but they are three times further out to sea. Q: How important is citizen science when it comes to the work you do with turtles at Mon Repos?

A: Oh, we couldn’t have achieved what we have without the contribution from members of the public who volunteer their time to collect and report information about the marine turtles. These people are often the ones involved with turtle care-related organisations and advocate for improvements to turtle conservation. They play a big role in the decision-making process for these changes.

Q: Do you get approached often by people wanting to volunteer?

A: We get quite a few and if we’ve got room, we’ll try to accommodate them, absolutely. We’ve got a limited number of spaces to take for training and the idea is to train people up to eventually work in their own communities. So from a turtle perspective, we’re particularly interested in training people who live along our coastline such as on the Sunshine Coast or people who live on North Stradbroke Island.

Q: Can visitors to the state and international visitors also get involved?

A: They can apply but we have to focus first and foremost on training those who are willing to step up and get involved in looking after the beaches and turtles here in Queensland in particular. That said, we do take small numbers of visitors both domestic and international but many of our places are taken by coastal community residents and university students.


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