You don’t even need to get wet to appreciate the beauty and variety of this wondrous natural attraction. For a non-swimmer or for those who just like to stay dry, there are pontoons or floating platforms in the ocean with underwater viewing areas, glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles. Land-based underwater observatories offer a very solid place to put your feet and the amazing opportunity to look up into the fascinating underwater world.
Many day-cruise operators travel to permanent moorings in the form of a platform or pontoon. These can be quite elaborate with tables and chairs, shade and fresh water showers, just like visiting a floating island on the reef. They allow easy access into the water for diving, snorkelling, swimming and other reef activities. You can even sleep overnight on one in the Whitsundays!
There are underwater observatories on Green Island in Tropical North Queensland and on Hook Island in the Whitsundays. These let you watch and learn about marine life in the wild while staying dry!. Some of the pontoons out at the reef also have purpose built observatories so you can follow the snorkellers and divers along with the fish.
If you want to see eye to eye with some of the marine life without getting wet, try a semi-submersible or a glass bottom boat tour. The semi-submersible sits deeper in the water with glass side panels while the glass bottom boat skims across the surface; great for shallow coral areas.
Whether you are short of time or have a preference for terra firma, you don't have to leave land to enjoy the natural wonders of Queensland's underwater world.
Fancy feeding a shark, swimming with dolphins or even shaking hands with a seal? Aquariums and marine theme parks in Townsville and on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast offer the chance to interact with marine life in an environment that is safe for us and for our salty friends. They also conduct vital research on marine creatures and offer visitor education programs and rare opportunities to interact with marine animals.
The world's largest coral reef aquarium in Townsville is an aquatic zoo providing an experience that's as close as you can get to the real thing. Exposed to the same diurnal and seasonal climatic changes as the Great Barrier Reef, this built habitat is home to more than 130 species of corals, 120 kinds of tropical fish, sea stars, urchins, cucumbers, snails, worms, sponges and more.
Many island resorts run interpretive marine education programs and also offer visits to research stations where guests learn about the reef first-hand from marine biologists.
Interpretive signage on display in coastal regions provides a great snapshot of the marine life than can be found locally as well as giving useful pointers on what visitors should do so that these plants and animals remain undisturbed for others to enjoy.