Where to encounter marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef

Here are a few of the best places to enjoy an encounter with marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef. Where to encounter marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef
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Where to encounter marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef

Here are a few of the best places to enjoy an encounter with marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef.


The Great Barrier Reef is more than 2000 kilometres (1240 miles) in length. As well as being the largest structure on Earth made by living organisms, it is home to a range of creatures; from soldier fish with blue stripes on a yellow background to graceful manta rays, parrotfish, pouting angelfish and turtles.

Snorkelling with Sea Turtles, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Encounter sea turtles on Hamilton Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef 

Six of the world's seven species of marine turtle live in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. One of the best ways to spot the turtles, which have been swimming in the sea for more than 150 million years, is on a Deep Water Turtle Discovery tour on Hamilton Island. Pick up your gear from Hamilton Island Beach Sports before accessing the water off Catseye Beach, which is usually a calm place to snorkel or dive. As well as seeing fish darting around the colourful reef, there should be plenty of turtles around.

Scuba diving at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Spot minke whales off of Lizard Island, Northern Great Barrier Reef 

The warm waters off Lizard Island have some of the finest coral and marine life in the world. During June and July each year, these waters are also home to minke whales. Marine Encounters offers a small-group nature expedition on board the luxury MA Aroona. The early weeks of July are the peak time for spotting minke and in the right conditions, you can swim, dive and snorkel with these inquisitive creatures. Part of the cost of the tour supports the team that has been researching, tagging and protecting the whales for close to two decades.

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

See turtles, groupers and more at Heron Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef 

As well as being a breeding ground for hundreds of green and loggerhead turtles between November and February each year, Heron Island is a hot spot for moray eels and home to a two metre-long grouper that lives under the island's jetty. The coral cay is a great place for diving, snorkelling and whale watching. Here you can see lesser-known sharks like the epaulette shark, which uses its fins to walk around the rock pools, as well as the common black-tip and white-tip reef sharks. Though the island is 88m wide and 300m long, the wildlife is abundant: wade out at low tide to get a detailed look at the Great Barrier Reef. 

Dugongs at Wonder Wall, Northern Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is home to one of the world’s largest dugong populations. Increase your odds of seeing one of the giant aquatic mammals by climbing on board the 20-metre cruising cat Ocean Freedom for a tour to the outer edges of the Upolu Reef, located off the coast of Cairns. The catamaran moors near to the famed Wonder Wall, which as well as being home to dugongs, is a giant aquarium where many of the Great Barrier Reef's species of fish, coral, molluscs and turtles reside.

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