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6 places to see Great Barrier Reef wildlife

6 places to see Great Barrier Reef wildlife

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Orpheus Island

Best for giant clams

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Orpheus Island

Fringing reef and approximately 1,100 of the Great Barrier Reef’s 1,625 species of fish surround Orpheus Island, a 3,212 acre, hilly national park island 42 nautical miles north of Townsville. Its most famous underwater feature is the garden of giant clams on its western side, in sheltered Hazard Bay, near the exclusive Orpheus Island Resort. Here, over a hundred massive bivalve molluscs laze on a sandy seabed, many grouped close enough together for their shells to touch. Aim your dive torch towards their golden brown, yellow and green mantles, which, thanks to a trick of the light, often appear iridescent turquoise or purple. Venture too close, though, and shells will partially close.

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Mission Beach

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Mission Beach cassowary

Mission Beach, 40km from the reef, is habitat of the magnificent cassowary, the world’s second heaviest bird. Look for smaller males minding chicks, lone females, and follow back their seed and fruit-filled scat between dawn and dusk on rainforest tracks – 1.5km Lacey Creek, 1.3km Fan Palm and 3.9km Bicton Hill. But keep your eyes open, particularly following rain, when these shy but fierce creatures will be scouting for fallen seeds and fruit.

Picture courtesy of www.konrad-wothe.de/Shutterstock.com

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Lady Elliot Island

Best for turtle spotting

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Imagine floating in a lagoon just above a carpet of coral and sea cucumbers. A juvenile green sea turtle dances leisurely alongside you, regarding you with his big black eyes. In the protected waters surrounding Lady Elliot Island, a 45 hectare coral cay in the southernmost 344,400km2 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, such turtle encounters aren’t unusual. Snorkel on the island’s eastern side, in front of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, and you’ll also see reef sharks, flowery rockcod and elegant manta rays. The island seduces nature lovers on land, too. From September to March, thousands of breeders – black noddies, crested terns, and others – come to nest and rear their young. Between November and March, endangered green and loggerhead turtles labour up the beach to lay eggs beneath the stars, and, from February to April, precious hatchlings race down the same beach.

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