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Corals of the Whitsundays

Updated Mon 12 Sep 2022

There are so many different types of corals around the Whitsunday Islands we could actually have an entire website dedicated to coral! This is just an introduction into what coral is, how it is formed and some of the common types you will see around the Whitsunday Islands on your visit.

Being part of the Great Barrier Reef we are blessed with having some of the most spectacular coral gardens in the world. Luncheon Bay (Hook Island) has some of the most amazing specimens of coral you will see in the Whitsunday Islands.

Corals are special living animals. Many people think hard corals are just rocks and soft coral is seaweed but they are alive and are made up of thousands and thousands of tiny polyps.

They grow in different shapes and sizes some barely 3cm in length while overs reaching 8m in length. Some corals will only grow 1cm a year while others will grow around 15cm per year. A very important algae for coral is the zooxanthellae this lives with in the coral.

Zooxanthellae gives coral colour and keeps it healthy. Corals belong to the same family that consist of the jellyfish and sea anemones. They feed by killing their prey with their stinging tentacles.

The Whitsunday Island coral formation is what you call a fringing reef, this means the coral is formed along the coastline. A barrier reef grows parallel to the shoreline but farther out, a deep lagoon usually separates them. They are called a barrier as they form a barrier between the lagoon and the main land; hence why the surf in northern Queensland is not very big as the Great Barrier Reef protects us from big swells. You can split coral into two categories Hard Coral and Soft Corals.

Hard coral is reef building coral; they are made up of hard limestone skeletons, which form the basis of coral reefs (staghorn coral, brain coral, luna coral etc). Soft corals look like colourful plants and do not build reefs but will grow on top of hard coral (elephant ear coral, cauliflower coral, weeping coral and sea whips etc).

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