What a stroke of luck.
The view from my seat, 5F, Qantas Airways, Brisbane to Cairns, turned out to be a spectacular one.
Ah.. the aerial view of the great barrier reef could be viewed from the right side of the plane, but not the left! And of course, having a window seat helps.
Corals make up the various reefs and cays. These are the basis for the great variety of sea and animal life in the Reef. Coral consists of individual coral polyps – tiny live creatures which join together to form colonies. Each polyp lives inside a shell of aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate which is the hard shell we recognise as coral. The polyps join together to create forests of coloured coral in interesting fan, antler, brain and plate shapes.
The ideal environment for coral is shallow warm water where there is a lot of water movement, plenty of light, where the water is salty and low in nutrients. There are many different types of coral, some are slow growing and live to be hundreds of years old, others are faster growing. The colours of coral are created by algae. Only live coral is coloured. Dead coral is white.. and in a few days time, I am hoping to see loads of colorful corals that I’ve never seen before, on my maiden dive of the Great Barrier Reef!
The form and structure of the individual reefs show great variety. Two main classes may be defined: platform or patch reefs, resulting from radial growth; and wall reefs, resulting from elongated growth, often in areas of strong water currents. There are also many fringing reefs where the reef growth is established on subtidal rock of the mainland coast or continental islands.
The site includes major feeding grounds for the endangered dugong and nesting grounds of world significance for two endangered species of marine turtle, the green and the loggerhead, as well as habitat for four other species of marine turtle; given the severe pressures being placed on these species elsewhere, the Great Barrier Reef may be their last secure stronghold. It is also an important breeding area for humpback and other whale species. During the season, you might even spot a dwarf minke whale or two.
A wide range of fleshy algae occurs, many of which are small and inconspicuous but which are highly productive and are heavily grazed by turtles, fish, molluscs and sea urchins. In addition, algae are an important component of reef building processes. 15 species of seagrass grow throughout the reef area forming over 3,000 km2 of seagrass meadows and providing an important food source for grazing animals, such as dugongs. I can’t imagine what I will see on my dive, but I’m thinking it may be awesome! I just cannot wait..
Thanks Tourism Queensland for the smashing arrangements!