Great Barrier Reef (World Heritage)

Great Barrier Reef (World Heritage)

According to, the over 2000 km long Great Barrier Reef is 30 to 250 km off the east coast of Australia and is the largest coral reef on earth with an area of ​​344 400 km². It is made up of around 2900 individual reefs, which form the habitat of over 400 different corals, 1500 fish and many other animal species, some of which are threatened with extinction. The oldest areas of the reef are around 18 to 20 million years old. Most of the visible, colorful parts come from the last ice age. Due to the warming of the sea and the coral bleaching that goes along with it, the barrier reef is severely threatened.

Great Barrier Reef: Facts

Official title: Great barrier reef
Natural monument: a maze of over 2900 coral reefs and islands over a length of 2000 km, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Continent: Australia
Country: Australia, Queensland
Location: between Lady Elliott Island and Cape York off the Australian east coast
Appointment: 1981
Meaning: outstanding example of important phases of evolution in the last 8000 years; very rich biodiversity in one of the world’s largest reef systems
Flora and fauna: Seagrass meadows, habitat of the manatee dugong; on the islands such as Michaelmas Cay breeding grounds for black terns, brown boobies, shearwaters and frigate birds; over 4,000 species of sea snails and mussels, 300 species of corals and 1,500 species of fish; “Maternity ward” of the humpback whale

In the labyrinth of shapes and colors

Under full sail, Captain James Cook cruised hundreds of nautical miles through the maze of the barrier reef from Botany Bay (Sydney) in August 1770. At Cape Tribulation his ship ran into a reef. Only with great effort and thanks to a happy coincidence, Cook and his men were able to save themselves in the open sea: »I saw that we were surrounded on all sides by shallows, nowhere a passage to the open sea, except for the winding between the reefs, highly dangerous canals. (…) Between us and the sinking there was only a narrow passage (…); When we had already given up all hope, a very light wind came up, which we would otherwise have ignored, but which should now be our fate, ”he noted in his logbook.

As with Michaelmas Cay and Dunk Island, the ingenious builders of the colorful underwater world are the “coral polyps” belonging to the cnidarians, which form a community with millions of yellow-brown algae and with their help build protective lime tubes for themselves. Through budding and division, coral banks grow, creating expansive tables, huge antlers and humped beehives.

Year after year, thousands upon thousands dive into their very own world of diverse colors and shapes: Orange and white colored anemonefish prance nimbly between the poisonous tentacles of pale pink sea anemones. Without looking for the numerous divers, a gray reef shark glides elegantly over expansive antler corals. The lagoon ray floats majestically and with rolling movements past spiral-shaped rings of “finest feathers”, which are nothing more than the colony of the Christmas tree worm. A sea snail glows sunflower yellow between the bulging beehive corals. Hundreds of small polyps form the prickly structure of a pink coniferous coral. The blue starfish forms a dark blue spot of color on a flat table coral. Not to be missed is the nibbling of crimson and blue striped parrot fish, which, even if not as voracious as the sixteen-armed starfish species crown of thorns, eat corals for the main course. It is only by chance that the yellow “trumpet snout” of the trumpeter fish brushes against snorkelers swimming by. At the same time, a tomato-red hermit crab crawls into a conch shell to protect its soft abdomen from predators. Anyone who swims through this colorful world with a gentle flip in a state of self-forgetfulness thinks they are at the carnival of the animals. A competition for the title of carnival prince even seems to have broken out when the harlequin fish, adorned with orange and blue stripes, meet the no less magnificent angelfish, which proudly displays its lemon-yellow and blue horizontal stripes.

The world seems peaceful under water. But dangers lurk here and there: the dorsal spines of the gnarled stone fish, which knows how to camouflage itself, the poison of the orange and white marbled textile cone snail, which also knows how to defend itself against all too eager foragers, and the poisonous nettle cells of the penny-sized Irukandji jellyfish, which trigger cardiac and respiratory paralysis when touched. Anyone who soars into the air like a frigate bird glides over the foaming spray on the edges of the Outer Reef. Following the flight of the black tern and black tern, one looks at partially green islands, which were formed in the last 6000 years from fine calcium deposits and are surrounded by a light coral wreath. Coral tongues close to the surface are just as evident as the rugged rocks of continental islands.

A true Garden of Eden seems to have emerged in northeast Australia, but it is endangered by the warming of the sea and the occasional excessive proliferation of orange-colored crowns of thorns. After the crowns of thorns have “eaten a great deal”, the dead calcareous skeletons of the coral polyps that have been eaten are left behind, and the deep blue sea resembles a lifeless underwater desert.

Great Barrier Reef (World Heritage)