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Port Douglas Tourism Booking and Information

General Facts on the Great Barrier Reef Port Douglas and Information & Commonly Asked Questions


Top Ten Factfile

 

ARE WE GOING TO SEE ANY SHARKS on The Great Barrier Reef ?

If you see a shark while visiting the reef, consider yourself very lucky as  sharks are not frequently encountered by visitors. Of those which are seen  the most commonly encountered are the white tip reef and black tip reef sharks. Easily identified by the white markings on the tips of the dorsal fins, they are often found resting upon the sea floor. 

Like most sharks white tip's are extremely timid and won't stay long around divers. Most sharks found on the reef are fish eaters and therefore pose no threat  to visitors.  Do not harass or block off a shark's exit as they may attack out of fear.

 

WHAT ABOUT STINGERS ? 

The box jellyfish is found in the coastal waters of North Queensland during summer months (October to March). Visitors wishing to swim during this period should only do so in protective swimming enclosures or wear protective clothing. The box jellyfish is a coastal species and is not found out on the reef, but they can sometimes be found around islands close to the mainland. Other stingers that are sometimes encountered on the reef include the irukandji and blue bottle

Stings from both box jellyfish and irukandji can cause serious injuries.  Vinegar can used on both box jellyfish and irukandji stings followed by immediate medical attention, but not on blue bottle stings. For blue bottles use cold water and ice.

 

WHAT FISH IS THAT ? 

With over 1500 species of fish on the great barrier reef the answer to this question is not an easy one.  The use of identification books and underwater cards can be useful in identifying commonly encountered species.  Body and mouth shape are often  the best key features in identifying the type of fish.  The reef fish section  of the marine biology manual will outline the features of the mostcommonly  encoungered families of fish.  Aim to learn the name of just one fish every time you visit the reef, and you will quickly know the most commonly encountered  species.

 

WHY ISN'T CORAL VERY COLOURFUL ? 

Most visitors to the great barrier reef comment that the coral isn't very colourful as they are used to seeing brightly coloured images in books and on television.  Natural white light is made up of all the colours of the rainbow; underwater, these colours are filtered at different depths with red and yellow disappearing  first.  This gives the reef a predominantly blue/green appearance. 

Photographs and video are taken using lights to show the true colours of the Great Barrier Reef. So the colours are there, it's just that you need white light to see them. This is  why night diving on the reef is so spectacular.

 

WHAT ARE CORALS ? 

Coral are made up of a thin layer of living animals called polyps, which secrete a chalky, limestone skeleton as they grow. Coral colonies grow as the polyps divide and multiply in a process known as budding.  In addition to catching planktonic prey with their tentacles corals also derive nourishment from simple single celled algae called zooxanthellae (pronounced  zoo-zan-thelly). living within their tissues. 

Like all plants, zooxanthellae  photosynthesize, producing nutrients from the suns energy which are used by the  polyp for its own nutrition.  Corals with zooxanthellae are able to lay down  limestone skeletons up to three times fster than those corals without.

 

WHAT TYPE OF CORAL IS THAT ? 

Trying to identify particular species of coral is very difficult.  What makes  it so difficult is that one type of coral may appear as a branching form in  calm water and look like a plate coral in another area. 

In many cases it is the environmental conditions, such as wave action, light levels and the amount of  sediment in the water, that influence coral colony shape.  The easiest way to identify corals is by their appearance  * boulder * branching * plate * table * vase * bushy * solitary

 

WHAT ABOUT CORAL SPAWNING ? 

Every year over one third of the reef's 350 species of coral reproduce sexually during a mass spawning event.  The majority of inner reefs spawn around November with the outer reefs spawning later in December.  Spawning always takes place  at night, and follows any time up to six days after the full moon.  Eggs and  sperm are released into the water where they eventually combine to form a free swimming planktonic larval stage.

 

WHY IS THE REEF SO FAR OFFSHORE ? 

Most of the Great Barrier Reef is located off the mainland of Queensland.   Corals need clear water which are low in nutrients.  They cannot not tolerate  freshwater or nutrients carried in the water run-off from the mainland.   That is why the most diverse and abundant corals grow offshore where the  environmental conditions are more suitable.

 

WHAT IS THE WATER CLARITY GOING TO BE LIKE ? 

The clarity of water on the reef is determined by a combination of the amount  of sediment and the amount of phytoplankton in the water.  Sediment becomes suspended due to increased water motion caused by tide changes, high winds and storms. Phytoplankton are the microscopic plants that drift around in the water.  They are more numerous in areas where the nutrient levels of the water are higher  particularly around coastal reefs which receive nutrient rich runoff from the  land.

 

ARE WE GOING TO SEE ANY WHALES ? 

Whales are normally encountered during the winter months when they migrate up  to the reef from Antarctic waters to mate and give birth.  One of the most  spectacular visitors during this period is the Humpback.  They are seen in the shallow coastal waters of the Great Barrier Reef ranging from Harvey Bay to  Port Douglas.  Whale watching is conducted by a number of tourist operators  through these areas. 

The Minke is another species of whale seen during winter, particularly around  the Ribbon Reef area. The smallest whales, the dolphins can be seen all year round in most parts of  the reef. 

 

WHAT ABOUT CROWN-OF-THORNS STARFISH? 

The cause of Crown of Thorn Starfish outbreaks is still the focus of a lot of  research and debate.  Increased nutrients from the mainland and effects due to  El Nino are all being investigated as is the possibility that it is a naturally occurring event.  Crown of Thorns starfish may actually serve to maintain coral diversity on the reef by feeding on the fast growing species, that if left  unchecked, could dominate the reef. 

 

WHERE CAN WE GO FISHING ON THE REEF ? 

Fishing is not allowed in green national park zones or pink preservation and  orange scientific zones. In other zones fishing is allowed subject to Queensland fisheries restrictions.  Legal sizes, closed seasons and catch quotas also apply to a variety of fish and shellfish.  The following animals are totally protected: whales, porpoises, dolphins, dugong and turtles, clam, trumpet and helmet shells, female crabs all grouper and cod over 1.2 metres.  

 

WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER? 

In general the average passenger is not so much concerned with the weather as  they are with how it will influence their day at the reef.  Therefore an answer should be given in reference to their concerns eg.sea sickness, water carity,  and the colour of the reef.  

 

WHATS THAT SLICK? 

When good growth conditions exist, blooms of a simple floating algae called Trichodesmium are often confused with oil and coral spawn slicks.  Blooms can  be easily identified by their rusty brown colour as they occur in wind rows  along the surface of the water.  Slicks of coral spawn generally do not last  more than two days after coral spawning.  Any oil spill should be immeditely reportd to the local maritime authority. 

 

for more information please see:

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/key_issues/tourism/tourism_on_gbr

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