further out to sea. Nevertheless, you will experience some nice coral. I rank
Keppel and Green Island as good value for money.
Water clarity is important. The sea is muddy inshore and crystal clear further
out. This is glaringly apparent if you fly along the coast and take a look
downwards. The transition from murky to acceptable varies with the weather.
In my experience, you are fairly safe if you go at least 20 nautical miles
Suppose you are a snorkeler and want to get into nice clear water. In your
place, I would ask two things of the tourist boats competing for my money.
Firstly, I would want to know how far out to sea they were going to take me.
Some of the reefs off Cairns and Airlie Beach are too close inshore for clear
water, by my reckoning. Secondly, I would want to know about safety
provisions. There have been horrific ta les of poor swimmers left to their own
devices. A good operator will provide buoyancy jackets and/or put out
lines to prevent swimmers from being swept away by the currents.
One way to see the reef is by helicopter. This way you get a superb
overview. A number of companies offer site-seeing trips, from Cairns and
As a diver, my most memorable experiences have been on reefs at the far
outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef at the continental drop-off. To reach
them you need to go on an exte nded tour of several days. Looking at a map
of Australia, it is easy to underestimate distance . The outer edge of the Reef
is about 150 km (90 miles) offshore in many places . An extended tour,
calling at reefs on the way, would cover at least three times that distance.
I've made repeat trips to memorable places only to be disappointed . The
Reef is a living thing. It's like a garden. Some parts are spectacular one
year and dull the next. By the same token, parts that have been degraded,
by storms, starfish infestations or some other cause, can come good again.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is responsible for the protection
of the Reef, which has World Heritage status . The Authority's headquarters
are in Townsville where it operates an impressive visitors centre featuring a
large aquarium and other displays.
4 Tropical Rainforest