The Great Barrier Reef is probably Australia's greatest tourist drawcard. Almost every international tourist that comes to Australia will visit the Great Barrier Reef at some time during their stay. The reef is the largest system of coral reefs in the world and is also the largest living colony of organisms in the world. Some sections of the reef have been threatened by damage from agricultural runoff in regions where large river systems carry excessive nutrients out to sea during the wet seasons. Periodical damage also occurs from natural events such as cyclones. Generally speaking, the closer the section of reef is to the Queensland coast, the greater the damage that will occur to the individual reef. Other factors that have impinged on reef quality over the past few decades include invasion by large colonies of Crown of Thorns starfish, which feed on the coral polyps. The Dept of fisheries has also allowed the commercial exploitation of Bêche-de-mer throughout the reef area and this has degraded large regions of the reef. The Bêche-de-mer is like the earthworm of the sea and it vacuums the reef, continually cleaning the sand and sediments. Divers can instantly pick an area of reef that has had the Bêche-de-mer removed from it.
The Great Barrier Reef stretches from the Torres Strait area in Australia’s far north, right down the Queensland coast as far as Lady Elliot Island in the south. Tours and diving expeditions are available from different places along its length. The most popular places to visit the reef are from Lady Elliot and Heron Island in the Capricorn section of the reef, The Whitsundays region in Central Queensland or from Cairns or Port Douglas in the states north. Cairns had the largest tourist industry based around visiting and diving on the reef and it is known worldwide as a fantastic holiday destination. The diving industry in the Cairns region caters for the day tripper wanting to make a quick visit and snorkel over the coral right through to the experienced and avid diving fan who wants to take an extended expedition to some remote sections of the reef where degradation is at an absolute minimum.
The Great Barrier Reef is an important resource for many Australians. The fishing industries here are important and large regions are now protected from commercial fishing by a zoning system. This ensures that fish stocks will not be depleted over time. The Island Resorts scattered throughout the Great Barrier Reef cater for tens of thousands of tourists looking for a fantastic island holiday with sensational surroundings. There is a huge range to choose from and almost all cater for a different level of the market. The Whitsunday Islands are the most popular with places like Hamilton Island and Hayman Island maintaining extremely high standards. Hamilton Island now has a world standard golf course to add to its popularity. Several coral cays located right on the reef also have great resorts on them. Lizard Island in the far north, is also a very popular Great barrier Reef holiday destination.
If you are planning an Australian holiday in the near future do not miss the Great Barrier Reef.
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