Great Barrier Reef Animals

"Great Barrier Reef Animals - more than just tropical fish!"

I often speak to people after their trip to the reef and they are amazed at the different types of animals, plants, fish and coral they have actually seen.

Below is a list of some of the classic Great Barrier Reef animals and species you can expect to see on the reef starting with my favourite - turtles and tropical fish......

Great Barrier Reef Animals- Sea Turtles

There are 7 types of sea turtles in the world and you can expect to see 6 of them here on the Great Barrier Reef. They are hard to miss as they can grow to be very large.

Loggerhead Turtles are one of the most common on the reef and the leatherback turtles tend to be the largest.

If you are lucky you may get taken to an island as part of your reef experience where turtles lay their eggs. They can lay up to 100 at one time and once fully grown will even come back to the same beach to lay their own eggs.

Did you know that the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the turtle - warmer temperatures produce females.

Great Barrier Reef Animals - Dugongs

These are amazing creatures with a very distinct face. Most closely related to elephants rather than dolphins and numbers are sadly dwindling.

You can find more about these fascinating creatures by going to my Dugongspage

Great Barrier Reef Fish

The fish on the Reef is what makes the experience so spectacular. There are over 1500 different species that you can expect to find.

Here are a list of some of the more impressive ones:

  • Clown Fish - made extra famous after the film Nemo. Striking colours but sometimes difficult to spot given they spend a lot of time inside their anemone.
  • Angel Fish - beautifully striped yellow, black and white usually
  • Butterfly Fish - An array of colours and patterns and closely related to the Angel Fish. These graceful fish are a delight to spot
  • Groupers - I saw a lovely big blue groper that seemed so tame. It came right up to me as if it wanted me to give him a stroke. They are mighty big fish though with large lips - can be a little frightening to turn round and see one right in front of you! They can grow up to 270m in length!
  • Red Bass - Potentially one of the oldest fishes on the reef that you are likely to see. They can live up to the age of 50
  • Coral Trout - Another large fish that you can expect to see and these guys can change sex and live up to 16 years
  • Starfish - one of my other favourite fish. Sadly though some species of starfish actually attack the coral and are causing immense damage to the reef
  • With over 1500 species you could be lucky and see over 150 different species in just one snorkel or dive - all very exciting!

    Great Barrier Reef Animals - Sharks and Whales

    Most people want to know whether they will see a shark on the reef....!

    They've heard all the scary stories of shark attacks in Australia and expect that there is a high risk of sharks and shark attacks - simply not true. You can check out my page on the biggest predator Great White Shark Attack but let me reassure you - there are no dangerous sharks in the Great Barrier Reef.

    The only shark that you are likely to see is the Reef Shark. They are small, harmless (unless provoked) and tend to keep away from divers and snorkelers.

    Humpback Whales do pass through the area over around June and July but if you are lucky you may see Minke whales which are much smaller. They are again more common in June and July


    Over 350 different types of coral can be seen along the Great Barrier Reef.

    Did you know that coral is made up of tiny living creatures called polyps.

    They grow very slowly at about 1cm per year so you can imagine just how old some of the coral actually is.

    The colours are beautiful but sometimes these colours can only be captured on film due to the lack of white light underwater to actually see these colours so don't be too disappointed if they look duller than what you imagine.

    Great Barrier Reef Plants

    The reef is home to a huge array of different plant life ranging from the tiny to the very large. Plants play an incredibly important role in the protection of the reef and are crucial for the survival of many species.

    Most important are the seagrass meadows that the turtles and dugongs love to graze on. These are the only plants that can actually flower underwater.

    Other important plants include Algae. There are over 600 different species and again they play an invaluable role in the protection of the reef. Some are tiny but play an important role in holding the reef together -almost like a cement that joins the reef together.

    This is very different to say the many species of seaweed that can have a detrimental effect on the reef.

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