Giant Marine Life & The Great 8!

With the Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2,300 kilometres in length and takes in over 340,000 square kilometres of incredible marine eco-systems, adventurers can see how important it is to plan their reef visit!

Like Africa has their top 10, we have our Great 8! Getting up close and personal with the Great 8 is considered to be the best way to take in the majesty of the Great Barrier Reef.

And guess what, you can see all 8, right here, in the Southern Great Barrier Reef!

In no particular order, introducing, the Great 8 of Great Barrier Reef Australia! (Don’t forget to download and print our Great 8 Checklist for the kids and share your photos with the hastag #southerngreatbarrierreef)

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1. Clownfish – remember that cute Disney movie, Finding Nemo? Well Nemo lives right here on the Great Barrier Reef. This little icon lives in a symbiotic relationship with venomous sea anemones. The clownfish have a special coating which protects “Nemo” from the deadly toxin found in their tentacles.

Where to find clownfish? - Clownfish can be found along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. Keep an eye out for sea anemones when you snorkel or dive and you are sure to spot Nemo!


2. Giant Clams – Growing up to 1.5 meters in length and weighing in at up to 200 kilograms is number two on our list, the giant clam! Apart from its impressive size, from the outside, the giant clam looks a little ordinary. However, look a little closer and you will be surprised by the incredible beauty and colour of the clam’s mantle. No two clams have the same mantle pattern or colour making each one unique. Did you know, the world’s largest bivalve mollusc lives for around a century? And once a clam fastens itself to the reef, that’s where it sits, for the rest of its life!

Where to find giant clam? - Giant clam gardens can be found along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. When snorkelling or diving, keep an eye out for that distinct clam silhouette and be patient and allow the clam to expose its mantle!


3. Manta ray – Can have a wingspan of up to 7 metres, these acrobatic creatures have no problem venturing up close to divers and snorkelers. But don’t be alarmed, mantas have electro-receptors that let them know when they are getting too close!

Where to find manta ray? - Lady Elliot Island is known as the home of the manta ray, and you can also spot these peaceful creatures at Lady Musgrave Island.


4. Maori Wrasse – With big fleshy lips and a prominent bump on its forehead, there is no mistaking the Maori Wrasse! The Maori Wrasse is an inquisitive fish with loads of personality. Don’t be surprised if this fish approaches and follows you! Did you know that the Maori Wrasse can grow more than two metres in length and weigh as much as a human!

Where to find Maori wrasse? - Maori Wrasse can be found along the breadth of the Great Barrier Reef. Keep an eye out for the unmistakable size, lips and bump of the Maori Wrasse and ask a local where they hide on your next reef visit!


5. Potato cod – Also known as the dog of the reef, this fish follows divers around like puppies. The potato cod can grow up to 2.5 metres in length and weigh up to 100 kilograms! They also live in the same area throughout their entire lives! They are some of the most inquisitive fish on the reef and like to keep an eye on what is going on – just like your puppy.

Where to find potato cod? - Like all the Great 8, potato cod can be found all along the reef. However, due to the plankton-rich waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef the cod down this way are a little bigger. Keep an eye out for the distinct markings and large lips of these fish when you next visit the reef.


6. Sharks – Did you know that there are more than 400 shark species in the word and that the Great Barrier Reef is home to around 50 of them? From plankton-feeding whale sharks to the smaller white-tip and black-tip reef sharks you may encounter many species and numbers on your next visit to the reef.

Where to find sharks? - All the way along the coastline.


7. Turtles – The Great Barrier Reef is turtle central for 6 of the world’s 7 marine turtles! Loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles are some of the most commonly sighted species.

Where to find turtles? - Beginning in November visitors can witness these majestic seafarers on a guided tour as they make their way onto the beach to lay, then, months later the babies start their journey from sandy nests into the waters of the Pacific Ocean. All this is accessible from Mon Repos Beach only minutes from Bundaberg. Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Island are also know areas to see these amazing creatures.


8. Whales – Did you know that Australia’s East Coast is known as the Humpback Highway? These amazing creatures make their way up Australia’s Eastern seaboard to the feeding and breeding grounds. From September to November the calm waters off the coast of Hervey Bay are used by mothers to teach life skills to their baby calves before continuing on with their migration.

Where to find whales? - All the way along the Australian Eastern coastline.


Have we wet your appetite for more? Take a look at our Stay, Play and taste pages and start planning your next visit to the Southern Great Barrier Reef!.