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Corals Of The Whitsundays

Updated Wed 17 Apr 2024

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 to the basics of coral, how it is formed, and some of the common types you will see around the Whitsunday Islands on your visit. Anyone interested in marine life should definitely consider learning a thing or two about coral, as it is a fascinating organism!

coral reefs in the whitsunday islands

Corals Of The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef

Being part of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands are home to a vast array of coral reefs. These are some of the most spectacular coral gardens in the world, as they are part of the world's largest coral reef system. The Great Barrier Reef is also the world's largest living organism, and it's worth visiting the Whitsundays so you can admire this spectacular reef with your own eyes!

Check out these day tours to the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays!

What Is Coral?

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. Corals grow in different shapes and sizes. Some are barely 3cm in length while others reach 8m in length. Some corals will only grow 1cm a year while others will grow around 15cm per year. It depends on each individual piece, and corals are incredibly unique. A very important algae for coral is the zooxanthellae which live within the coral. Zooxanthellae gives coral its vibrant colours and keeps it healthy. 

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). You can see all of these when you visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia!

What Types Of Coral Reefs Are In The Whitsundays?

In the Whitsundays, you can find many different types of corals on the Outer Reef and in the Inner Fringing ReefsThe Outer Reef consists of large coral gardens that grow up from the ocean floor. These tend to be more hard corals and you can see lots of large marine life out here. 

Branching off of the Whitsunday Islands, you'll find the Inner Fringing Reefs. These tend to have more soft corals, and the coral networks are smaller as they grow off the edge of the islands. But because these corals are closer to shore, they are easier to reach while visiting the Whitsundays. Both the Inner Fringing Reefs and Outer Reefs in the Whitsundays are stunning!

snorkellers in the whitsunday islands reefs

How To See Coral In The Whitsundays

If you want to closely observe kaleidoscopic coral in the Whitsundays, you can do so on a boat tour or private charterThere are lots of amazing snorkelling and diving locations all around the Whitsundays, but you'll need a boat, a knowledgeable guide, and the right gear. By booking a guided tour or a private charter, you can ensure you're heading to the right spots and observing the coral responsibly. You can also admire coral without getting wet, such as in an aquarium or on a glass-bottom boat tour!

travellers smiling on a beach with snorkel gear

Snorkelling Boat Tours In The Whitsundays

You can book day trips and overnight trips in the Whitsundays that include snorkelling. These tours will take you to some excellent island or Outer Reef locations and provide you with a snorkel, mask, fins, and stinger suit so you can explore the underwater world comfortably. Sometimes you'll even have a guide to snorkel with you and point out the coolest corals!

viper moored near the coral reefs of the great barrier reef

Scuba Diving Boat Tours In The Whitsundays

For a more in-depth exploration of the Great Barrier Reef, consider scuba diving! Whether you're a certified diver or you're a complete beginner, you can scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef while visiting the Whitsundays. This allows you to explore longer and deeper so you can admire a vast array of corals underwater. Scuba diving is offered on some overnight sailing tours as well as on Outer Reef day trips

scuba divers on a boat in the whitsundays

Private Charters In The Whitsundays

For snorkelling or scuba diving without any crowds, you can also book a private charter in the Whitsundays. From overnight charters, to superyacht charters, to diving-specific charters, this experience means hiring your own boat and venturing out to the Whitsunday Islands with an experienced skipper. You can curate your own adventure and ask to be taken to the best snorkelling spots!

salty private charter sailing in the whitsunday islands

How To See Coral Without Getting Wet

If you really want to observe the corals of the Whitsundays but you don't want to snorkel or dive, there are other ways to see coral! You can visit an aquarium, such as the Living Reef on Daydream Island. This incredible collection of corals and marine life allows you to view the reef from land. Or you can book a glass bottom boat tour or semi-submarine, which takes you over the reef and lets you look below the surface through transparent windows. These are great options for those who aren't confident swimmers!

girls admiring coral on a glass bottom boat tour

How To Responsibly View Coral In The Whitsundays

No matter how you choose to view the corals of the Whitsundays, the most important thing to remember: don't touch the coral! Human interaction, in the form of climate change and irresponsible tourism, is contributing to the bleaching and degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. We can still enjoy the natural wonders of our oceans if we do so responsibly. That means admiring with our eyes only!

While snorkelling or diving, it's super important to keep your distance from all marine life and never touch anything. Also be careful not to drop any of your belongings off a boat because they may sink and damage the coral underneath. Do your part to leave the Whitsundays as pristine as they were when you arrived!

coral reefs underwater in the whitsundays

Read more about the Great Barrier Reef, or check out our most popular reef tours to see these amazing corals for yourself!

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