It's the oldest living organism on Earth, has more than 1,500 species of fish, and can be seen from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef lives up to its name, and even has robot submarines keeping a close watch. We should all be so lucky to visit it (at least) once; until then, take this virtual tour of the technicolor world down under.
Author: Caitlin Mortonwww.cntraveler.com
Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the oldest living organism on Earth. It stretches more than 1,600 miles, covering an area roughly the size of Italy. More than 1,500 species of tropical fish can be found in the reef, giving the site its trademark technicolor, kinetic appearance.
The reef is also home to 400 different types of coral—an impressive array of colors and shapes.
The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of 900+ scenic and remote islands, boasting white sand and easy access to snorkeling. One such location is Lizard Island (pictured), which adds a touch of luxury to ecotourism with private beaches and lavish resorts.
Lady Elliot Island is a popular spot with scuba divers and snorkelers, thanks to the hundreds of manta rays found gliding through its waters. The entire ecosystem became a World Heritage site in 1981, and no other entry has been able to match its biodiversity.
Pixar-approved clownfish are native to the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, finding shelter in equally colorful sea anemones.
There are only seven species of marine turtles in existence, and six of them can be found in the GBR. Raine Island is the largest breeding site in the world for the endangered green turtle species.
Acropora echinata is an uncommon species of coral with neatly arranged branches in shades of blue and purple.
Mosaic jellyfish are ubiquitous in the Coral Sea, surviving in both warm and cold water. They may not be the most intelligent creatures (no brains to speak of), but they sure are photogenic.
Blackfin barracuda swim in schools and form swirling circles depending on the ocean's currents.
Beaked coralfish (also known as butterflyfish) are easily identified by their long noses, bright yellow hue, and dark "eye" on their dorsal fins.
Sea fans are a particularly photogenic relative of coral, earning their name from their flat, branched polyps.
The Osprey Reef, located in the northern Coral Sea, is a top location for scuba enthusiasts. It's known for its variety of marine life and great visibility. Lucky divers at Osprey Reef might even be able to spot a floating nautilus or two in areas with cooler temperatures.