Daily Archives: January 19, 2009

Great Barrier Reef

Posted by on January 19, 2009

World Heritage Site #37: Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef: My 37th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Great Barrier Reef:

As the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef is a globally outstanding and significant entity. Practically the entire ecosystem was inscribed as World Heritage in 1981, covering an area of 348,000 square kilometers and extending across a contiguous latitudinal range of 14o (10oS to 24oS). The Great Barrier Reef includes extensive cross-shelf diversity, stretching from the low water mark along the mainland coast up to 250 kilometers offshore. This wide depth range includes vast shallow inshore areas, mid-shelf, and outer reefs, and beyond the continental shelf to oceanic waters over 2,000 meters deep.

Within the Great Barrier Reef, there are some 2,500 individual reefs of varying sizes and shapes, and over 900 islands, ranging from small sandy cays and larger vegetated cays to large rugged continental islands rising, in one instance, over 1,100 meters above sea level. Collectively these landscapes and seascapes provide some of the most spectacular maritime scenery in the world.

The latitudinal and cross-shelf diversity, combined with diversity through the depths of the water column, encompasses a globally unique array of ecological communities, habitats, and species. This diversity of species and habitats and their interconnectivity make the Great Barrier Reef one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on earth. There are over 1,500 species of fish, about 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusk, and some 240 species of birds, plus a great diversity of sponges, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans, and other species. No other World Heritage property contains such biodiversity. This diversity, especially the endemic species, means the GBR is of enormous scientific and intrinsic importance, and it also contains a significant number of threatened species. At the time of inscription, the IUCN evaluation stated “… if only one coral reef site in the world were to be chosen for the World Heritage List, the Great Barrier Reef is the site to be chosen”.

As I noted in my World Heritage Site overview, it is hard to get a real grasp of the size Great Barrier Reef from the surface of the Earth. Unless you are in a jumbo jet flying over the reef at 30,000 feet, you can’t see how big it is, and even in a jet, you can only see a fraction of it.

There are several locations in Queensland where you can access the reef. I went diving in the Whitsunday Islands off Airlie Beach and in Cairns. I also had the chance to do some real underwater photography with my camera.

If you visit Australia with the idea of standing on a hill and taking in the majesty of the Great Barrier Reef….forget it. You can’t see it from shore in most places. You’ll need to take at least an hour long boat ride to get out to the reef.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 10, 2017 @ 12:33 am

Go Oman!

Posted by on January 19, 2009

I picked the right day to come to Oman. The night I arrived Oman beat Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Nations Cup in Soccer. The last two days everyone has been going nuts, wearing Omani flags and scarves, driving around with cars decked out in red, white and green, honking and cheering.

I’m typing this at an internet cafe in Muscat as I wait for the bus to take me to Nizwa. I’m beginning to think that renting a car might have been a smarter option. Gas is really cheap, and all the road signs are in English as well as Arabic. I might do that in Nizwa still. The early bus to Nizwa left at 8am and I showed up at 9:30am not knowing the bus schedule. The next bus leaves at 2:30pm, so I sit and wait.

I wasn’t really planning on visiting Oman, but I’m glad I did.


On some related news from places I’ve been before, officials in Japan have closed the Tsukiji Fish Market to tourists for a month. Having been to the Tsukiji Fish Market, I’m amazed at some of the things people were doing. I was hyper aware of the fact that I was in the middle of an active market where people were earning a living. It is really no different than being on the floor of a stock exchange….except it is fish. You have to get up really early to visit the fish market, and if you are drunk at 5am, you have issues.

On a personal level, must say I was glad to hear no Americans were involved.

You can read more about my experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market.