The Great Barrier Reef’s Great Eight is the underwater equivalent to Africa’s Big Five. The Big difference however is that the Great Eight can all be viewed within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to get so close to one of these wonderful creatures that you’ll eyeball each other. Unlike Africa’s Big Five, the Great Eight are unlikely to eat you! (though to be fair, sharks have been known to exhibit such anti-social behavior in colder waters on the odd occasion).
Even if you prefer to stay dry and remain above the ocean rather than in it, there are still plenty of opportunities to view the wildlife on the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet.
Here’s a rundown of the Great Eight that you might meet.
This is your chance for celebrity spotting! Nemo (otherwise known as clownfish) needs no introduction. A celebrity resident of the Great Barrier Reef, Nemo is almost as famous as the reef’s other famous celebrity, Sir David Attenborough. Find Nemo in sheltered reefs or shallow lagoons hiding behind the stinging tentacles of anemones.
The big boss of the Great Barrier Reef food chain, spot these graceful long range cruisers in the warm waters off the Whitsunday Islands, Osprey Reef, Prudhoe Island, Heron Island as well in the waters of far north Queensland.
The largest of all rays, mantas are like the gigantic birds of the marine world, equipped with a wing span up to a ginormous 7 metres. Mantas are graceful, harmless creatures well known for their acrobatics both in and out of the water.
Loveable big-boned Maori wrasse are like the labrador of the sea. They love to play and will happily follow you around like a faithful friend. They’re your new BFF! (Best Friends Forever in case you hadn’t heard…). Look for your new BFF everywhere on the Great Barrier Reef but hot spots for meeting them include reef pontoons on the outer reef that many of the charter boat operators visit.
These big-daddy gill bearers like to get up close and personal. Don’t be afraid of their wide mouths which are constantly opening and closing, they really just want to have a fishy chat! A prime spot for these guys to hang out is the aptly named Cod Hole (we wonder how it got that name??) near Lizard Island.
The only one of the Great Eight that isn’t mobile, giant clams fasten themselves to the reef and remain there for the rest of their life. They don’t look much from the exterior but wait until they open their jaws and bare their heart and soul. Giant clams are just one big colourful softy! Their kaleidoscopic colours glisten like jewels when the sunlight catches them. Find these behemoths, which grow up to 1.2m, everywhere on the Great Barrier Reef.
Who doesn’t love a turtle! With six of the world’s seven turtle species having a Great Barrier Reef address you’ll likely spot turtles whenever you’re exploring the Reef. Instinct drives turtles together each year to mate in the shallows. They nest on beaches all along the Great Barrier Reef, especially Fitzroy and Green Islands in north Queensland and Bundaberg, Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands in the southern Great Barrier Reef.
The Big Kahuna of the Great Eight, the Great Barrier Reef is a marine playground for humpback whales and their calves. Their annual migration north from the Southern Ocean sees them tail slapping like a boss on the Great Barrier Reef from June until September. Their smaller and more bashful cousins, dwarfe minke whales, are often spotted in the warm waters of north Queensland around June or July.
Keep an eye out for the Great Eight when you take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. No matter which creatures you spot, you can be sure it will be a very special experience.