Whether inspired by BBC 2’s ‘Great Barrier Reef’ whose first programme of this three part series showed the presenter Monty Halls drifting through this spectacular underwater world or simply yearning to discover the biggest coral reef structure on earth, why not take the plunge yourself and book your own underwater adventure.
Featured in BBC2’s programmes, Heron Island and Lizard Island both offer the ideal introduction to the reef with opportunities to snorkel dive and get up close and personal with flora and fauna on these Great Barrier Reef hideaways.
Lizard Island (www.lizardisland.com.au)
Since the first exploration of the island by Captain Cook, who named the island after its large popular of monitor lizards and climbed to the top of a high rock outcrop, now known as Cook's Look, to survey the reef, Lizard island has captured visitors with its pristine beauty.
Today, one of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef resorts, Lizard Island boasts first class accommodation and unrivalled dive sites suitable for all levels of diving experience and snorkelling with a myriad of fascinating corals, fish, clams and sharks providing an ever changing underwater show. Mixing with green sea turtles and giant clownfish, snorkelers are also rewarded for little effort with 100-year-old giant clam gardens just moments from Lizard’s beaches.
Within a 15 mile radius of Lizard Island’s 24 soft white sandy beaches lie most of the reef and island types characteristic of the entire Great Barrier Reef. This includes fringing, inner shelf (outer barrier or ribbon) and lagoon reefs with several types of coral cays plus continental islands, all of which play host to an extraordinary array of marine habitats.
With the delights of Humpback Whales and magnificent Giant Black Marlin frequenting the waters throughout the year, another not to be missed experience has to be the 60 minute boat ride to the aptly named world famous ‘Cod Hole’ which provides the enchanting experience of diving with huge giant cod.
Tailor Made Travel (0845 - 456 8050, www.tailor-made.co.uk) offers a 6 night Tropical Paradise package to Lizard island from £3956/person based on two sharing, including 3 nights on Lizard Island inclusive of gourmet meals and alcoholic beverages, 3 nights Angsana Resort in Cairns – the gateway to Great Barrier Reef, return international economy flights with Qantas to Cairns, the Daintree Walkabout tour and return flights from Lizard to Cairns. Terms and conditions apply.
Heron Island (www.heronisland.com)
Known the world over for its excellent Great Barrier dive sites and fantastic coral gardens and pinnacles, its no surprise that Jacques Cousteau – the world’s most famous undersea explorer of our time - listed The Heron Bommie as one of his top ten favourite dive sites.
A natural coral cay located directly on the reef, teeming with reef fish, turtles, manta rays, reef sharks and endless varieties of invertebrates, Heron Island not only boasts over 20 different dive sites but is also a precious nesting ground for endangered Green and Loggerhead Turtles as well as the cheeky Black Noddy Terns which featured in the first episode of ‘Great Barrier Reef’. Around 60% of the 1,500 species of fish and around 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef call the waters around Heron Island home.
For underwater adventurers, diving at Heron Island is relatively shallow, with an average depth of around 15 to 35 metres, with snorkellers enjoying shallow reefs that come up to within two or three metres of the surface in places and are easily explored from off the superb sun-kissed beach.
With turtle nesting and hatching taking place from November through to May, guests also have the opportunity of watching these amazing creatures as they come ashore to lay their eggs and give rise to hundreds of baby hatchlings that will then make the ultimate dash of their lives to the sea.
An ideal place for all the family to experience the reef, Heron Island also works closely with the island’s Research Station to ensure that visitors get a real appreciation for the reef’s fascinating flora, fauna and underwater wildlife with daily presentations and a programme of educational reef and island walks.
For keen divers - a great time to visit is the island is during the Heron Island Dive Festival, which will take place from 25 – 29 July 2012.
Tailor Made Travel (0845 - 456 8050, www.tailor-made.co.uk) offers a 4 night package on Heron Island staying in a Turtle Room from £516/person including return boat transfers from Gladstone to Heron Island and all meals based on two sharing. Valid from 1 May to 31 August 2012.