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A guide to underwater wildlife at the Great Barrier Reef

Posted By Leanne On September 5, 2013

Whales are a popular sight at the Great Barrier Reef. A guide to underwater wildlife at the Great Barrier Reef

A family holiday in Queensland would be incomplete without a visit to the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world.

Comprised of more than 2,900 individual reefs and with 900 islands, it's no surprise that the reef is home to some of the planet's most stunning sea creatures, including many species of fish, dolphins, turtles and whales.

If you and your family are looking forward to an upcoming holiday at the reef, it's a good idea to get acquainted with the types of underwater wildlife you're likely to get a glimpse of while you're there!

Here are just a few of the species you may be able to get up close and personal with while you're out cruising the reef.

Dolphins

Highly intelligent and with a playful personality that's all their own, dolphins are a popular sight in any marine environment, especially in the Great Barrier Reef.

Irrawaddy and Indo-pacific humpback dolphins are able to be seen close to the coast of Queensland all year round, feeding on fish in shallower waters such as estuaries or river mouths.

The dolphin that you're most likely to be familiar with is the bottlenose dolphin, which are known for being playful and friendly in their interactions with humans - look out for these if you're taking a dip in the water at the reef.

Whales

Another familiar face you may recognise out at the reef is the majestic humpback whale - one of Australia's most iconic whale species and known for performing stunning breaching and tail-slapping displays in the water.

Every year, humpback whales migrate from the waters of the Antarctic to the more tropical climate of the Great Barrier Reef, where they raise their children - if you're lucky, you may be able to spot a whale family on your holiday!

Dwarf Minke whales can also be found in the waters of the reef - but don't let the name fool you! These whales still average almost eight metres in length and can weigh up to five tonnes.

Dwarf Minkes are also a social species, so you're likely to get a great show if you happen to see some of these on your trip to the reef.


"If you and your family are looking forward to an upcoming holiday at the reef, it's a good idea to get acquainted with the types of underwater wildlife you're likely to get a glimpse of while you're there!


Sea turtles

If your kids have ever seen Pixar's Finding Nemo, they'll already be familiar with one of the Great Barrier Reef's sea creature inhabitants - sea turtles.

The reef is home to six of the world's seven sea turtle species, including the Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Flatback and Olive Ridley sea turtles.

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest out of the species, with the heaviest one ever measured weighing in at a whopping 916 kilograms!

Fish

This one is a bit harder to narrow down as the reef is home to an overwhelmingly large variety of fish species - over 1,500, to be exact.

From the smallest fish to the largest varieties of sharks, there's a dazzling array of species on display here that will add a thrill to your family holiday.

The reef's fish species are grouped into 13 families: Angelfish, Butterfly Fish, Cardinal Fish, Clown Fish, Damselfish, Gobies, Gropers and Cods, Parrotfish, Sharks, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Trout and Wrasse.

Each group is characterised by things like size, colour, shape and behaviour - so see if you can do a bit of fish-spotting and work out which belong to which group!

There are plenty of tour companies that offer great day trips and other alternatives for seeing the reef - if you're staying at one of Mantra's hotels in Cairns like Mantra Trilogy, you'll be well situated to choose from the wide selection of tour operators that launch off from Cairns.


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