Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
Heart Reef is the only naturally shaped heart reef in the world and is visible by air only
The Great Barrier Reef is synonymous with the Whitsundays. The 2,000km-long reef system is the only one of its kind that can be viewed from outer space and it’s the biggest living structure in the world. It is almost universally featured on ‘must-see-before-you-die’ lists.
In the heart of the Great Barrier Reef on Queensland’s east coast lies the Whitsunday region. It is the nearest point to the Reef off the Queensland coast, and one of the best places from which you can explore everything the reef has to offer.
Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkelling and diving tours
Scuba diving enthusiasts will absolutely love the amazing sites where over 1,600 fish and 1,000 coral species, sea snakes, sea urchins, dolphins, whales, sharks, manta rays, marine turtles, Maouri wrasse and clown fish can all be observed in their natural environment. From shallow coral reefs teeming in marine life for beginners, to deep water escapades for certified scuba divers, the Great Barrier Reef is a place for wondrous discoveries.
This is an icon of the Great Barrier Reef within the Whitsundays and is a must see for any visitor to the region. One of the best ways to see the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and the nearby islands, is via an aerial tour and there are some great options available from Whitsunday Airport. Heart Reef was discovered as late as 1975 by an Air Whitsunday pilot, when he was flying over the Great Barrier Reef. Heart Reef is the only naturally shaped heart reef in the world and is visible by air only, as at the water’s surface, it looks like any other.
Heart Reef is fast becoming famous for visitors to the reef who are looking for a uniquely and romantic way to propose to their loved ones, and a proposal doesn’t get much more romantic than when flying over what has been affectionately named the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Winter vacationers to the Great Barrier Reef get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch huge humpback whales every year from late September through to October. They migrate to the warmer waters of the Whitsundays and the mothers give birth to their young, while the bull whales play together. It is a very exciting time, with many photo opportunities.
You can also enjoy picturesque views of the reef and lush rainforests with tandem jumps, by engaging the services of a skydiving operator.
The best time to explore the Great Barrier Reef
The winter months (May-October) and late autumn are ideal times to visit the Great Barrier Reef islands. During this time, the temperatures are dry, pleasant and the waters are at their safest.
Getting to the Great Barrier Reef
The Whitsunday Coast is the best starting point, while Hamilton Island is also an excellent option. You can get to the Whitsunday coast/Proserpine or Hamilton Island Airports from Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Once you land at the Whitsunday coast, you can take a chartered cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, which will take you about 2 hours (the same cruise from Hamilton Island will take you close to 1.5 hours). A direct helicopter or seaplane flight can get you there in half an hour.
Flights servicing the Whitsundays
Quantas (www.qantas.com.au), Virgin (www.virginaustralia.com) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com.au).
What to keep in mind
Smaller flights may sometimes impose a weight limit of 33 pounds on passenger baggage, so it may be a smart idea to pack light. As you’ll be soaking up the sun for most part of your trip, light and casual clothing will suffice. Scuba diving and snorkelling equipment and wet suits and stinger suits are all available for hire, so you don’t have to carry them along. However, don’t forget to pack your sandshoes, sunscreen and sunglasses!