The Great Barrier Reef stretches through the waters of Queensland
for over 1250 miles (2000 kilometers), making it the most extensive coral reef system in the world. From Bundaberg
in the south, to beyond Cape York
in the Tropical North Queensland Region, it is the largest structure made completely by living organisms.
The Great Barrier Reef is not a single reef, but features more than 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands. Some of these islands are deserted, while others are small bare sand cays, permanently vegetated cays and continental islands.
This area is host to thousands of species of marine life including 1500 types of fish, 4000 types of mollusks, 350 types of echinoderms and 350 types of corals. The variety offers a very colorful wildlife experience to divers. Average water temperatures on the reef range from around 72ºF (22ºC) in July to around 80ºF (27ºC) in January.
The Reef is also the breeding area for a number of rare and endangered species. Humpback whales swim up from the Antarctic to give birth to their young in these waters. Six of the world's seven species of sea turtle breed on the Reef, and dugong make their home among the sheltered seagrass beds.
The Reef region is one of Australia's major tourist destinations. Tour operators have to observe guidelines relating to the number of tourists and their activities. An Environmental Management Charge is required of tourists who visit the area, which is used to help preserve it.