Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, Australia
GPS: -16.014906376342, 145.83651331021
Stretching over 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coast of north-east Australia, the Great Barrier Reef has the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world. Its clear and shallow waters rest on a continental shelf, a vast area submerged in the extension of the Australian continent. This gigantic place actually brings together two types of independent and discontinuous reefs holding a total of more than 400 different species of corals: the fringing reef (as close as possible to the coast) and the barrier reef (naturally forming a lagoon off the coast).
The Great Barrier Reef represents the largest protected maritime area on the planet. This stretch of seawater is made up of nearly 3,000 different reefs and just under 1,000 islands, islets and atolls widely dispersed between the city of Bundaberg in the south and the Torres Strait in the north. It was the famous British navigator, James Cook, who was one of the first to explore and map the area in the second half of the 18th century. Aboard the Endeavour sailboat, a former merchant ship made available by the Royal Navy, Cook was the first European to discover this new continent, which came to be known as Terra Australis. A place of choice for birds, the Great Barrier Reef is above all known for its incredible reservoir of marine fauna in which there are many species of whales, turtles, sharks, dolphins or dugongs. The marine heritage of this large underwater area brings together 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, including various tropical and endemic species.
The golden beaches in the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef enjoy exceptional sunshine. Each year they attract more than 2 million visitors, which is not safe for the balance of its fragile ecosystem. Specialists are concerned about the degree of whitening that the Great Barrier Reef is increasingly confronted with. This slow death is explained by a combination of factors (including prolonged exposure to light and the sharp rise in water temperatures) which cause significant destruction of corals. To slow this bleaching phenomenon, the Australian government recently launched a program to restore and adapt reefs to make them more resistant.