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Great Barrier Reef Facts

The Great Barrier Reef is a magnificent natural wonder of the world. Below are some interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef:

In 1975 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established.

Then in October 1981 the Great Barrier Reef was listed as a World Heritage site.

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is the largest living structures on the Earth. It’s so big that it’s visible from space.

The Great Barrier Reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef encompasses over 900 islands along 2,600 kilometers.


To give some perspective, the Great Barrier Reef is greater than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined. Or, put another way, it is approximately the same size as each of the following countries: Japan, Malaysia, Italy, Germany.

More Great Barrier Reef Facts

How many species live in the Great Barrier Reef?
  • Over 1,600 different species of fish live within the Great Barrier Reef – that’s 10% of the world’s fish species
  • 30+ different species of whale and dolphin have been spotted living throughout the Great Barrier Reef
  • 6 of 7 of the world’s species of turtles call the Great Barrier Reef home
  • There have been over 130 varieties of sharks and rays recorded across the Great Barrier Reef
  • Over 215 species of birds visit or nest within the islands of the Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef Statistics
  • Over 2 million people visit the Great Barrier Reef each year
  • The tourism industry around the Great Barrier Reef averages $5-6 billion AUD each year
The Discovery of the Great Barrier Reef

In 1768 Louis de Bougainville found the reef during an exploratory mission, but for some reason he didn’t claim it for France.

On 11 June 1770, HM Bark Endeavour, captained by explorer James Cook ran around on the Great Barrier Reef, sustaining considerable damage. During this voyage Cook also named the Whitsundays the Cumberland Islands after the Duke of Cumberland.

How was the Great Barrier Reef Named?

Matthew Flinders named the Great Barrier Reef during his circumnavigation of Australia.