If your wanderlust takes you all the way to Cairns to see and experience the Great Barrier Reef in all its vibrant glory – experience it, you must! But, considering it is the world’s largest and most complex coral reef ecosystem and a UNESCO World Heritage area, every local and tourist and tour operator must take extra precaution to treat nature’s precious gift with utmost respect!
Tourism is by far the largest money spinner on the reef, with the Cairns Great Barrier Reef attracting millions of tourists every year. The reef has something for everyone and everybody’s looking for the most rewarding reef experiences and a whole lot more. But, how can we be responsible visitors and enjoy everything the reef has to offer without damaging it in any way?
As a tourist, you would be doing your bit to preserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef by choosing tour operators who are eco-certified, who support marine conservation initiatives as well as encourage sustainable diving and snorkelling practices.
Such tour operators go the extra mile when it comes to maintaining ecologically sustainable reef etiquette and are vital cogs in the wheel that protects this gorgeous underwater landscape that supports their industry.
Besides choosing a reliable tour operator, it would help to educate yourself about the dos and don’ts on the Great Barrier Reef to help preserve this rare ecological beauty for future generations.
Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and diving tours are the most popular ways to enjoy up close experiences with captivating marine life in the midst of magnificent coral gardens. These, of course, are low-impact reef activities. However, there can be damage done by careless and all-too-curious snorkelers and divers who are unable to maintain good control in the water.
It’s very important for a snorkeller or a diver to familiarise themselves with their wetsuits, equipment, cameras and practice buoyancy control over sand patches before approaching a reef. Your dive gear must be properly secured so that it doesn’t get tangled on the reef and you must be properly weighted before you dive near a reef.
You must take care to move slowly and deliberately underwater with no sudden movements or rapid changes in direction. Avoid holding onto or touching the reef, plants or animals. Stay clear of free-swimming animals, avoid feeding them and avoid make loud noises underwater.
All this is simply basic reef etiquette which needs to be followed by all and sundry to minimise disturbance to the reef and its abundance of marine life.
The Great Barrier Reef also has over 900 islands and coral cays that are pristine jewels rich in flora and fauna that have been preserved for centuries with minimal human interference. You definitely have to make a pit stop at one or more of these islands on your Great Barrier Reef day tour, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you treat it with kid gloves, experience its natural beauty and leave nothing but your footprints in the sand behind.
Islands should be accessed at high-tide as much as possible to contain damage to coral reef flats. Visitors must dust off all dirt, seeds and all other contaminants before going ashore to the island. Stay on marked trails without trampling or destroying surrounding vegetation. Do not feed animals, make loud noises or disturb nesting seabirds or sea turtles. Respect the island by leaving behind all natural souvenirs and taking all the rubbish you brought with you back to the mainland to be disposed properly.
These are but baby steps and drops in the ocean when it comes to doing what needs to be done to preserve these fragile natural sanctuaries. But if each local, tourist and tour operator takes individual responsibility for their actions, be rest assured, it will be for the greater good of the Great Barrier Reef!