While the Great Barrier Reef is well known for diving with sharks, swimming with mink whales and seeing turtles close-up, there are many other spectacular marine creatures that fly under the radar. Marine biologists from Coral Expeditions, Australia’s pioneering cruise operator, have picked their top seven underrated wonders of the reef.
1. Seastar (starfish)
The Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of species of seastars that are just as beautiful as the twinkling stars in the clear sky. There are a magical array of colours and formations that can be seen on snorkelling trips, especially on the coral around clams.
2. Spinecheek Clownfish
These bright fish with orange bodies and white stripes, made famous by Disney’s ‘Finding Nemo’ movie, are a must see on any reef trip. They can be found nestling among anemones, which is poisonous to every other fish. If you see patches of anemone, characterised by their waving white tentacles, dive down for a closer look and try to spot a family of clown fish.
Different species of clam live in the Great Barrier Reef, including the striking Blue Mantle Clam and the exquisite endangered Giant Clam. They are a highlight of snorkelling trips, as algae connect to the clams, creating a kaleidoscope of colours. Coral’s marine team take snorkelers to Escape Reef where many spectacular clams live.
4. Christmas Tree Worms
Found on corals throughout the reef, Christmas Tree Worms are much more beautiful than land worms, as they are multicoloured and look like Christmas pine trees. They are skittish and hard to find so it is best to ask a marine biologist where to find them.
There are thousands of species of Nudibranch that live in the Great Barrier Reef, with a special one being the Banana Nudibranch. This is basically a tiny yet exquisite sea slug with banana-like colourings. What they lack in size they make up for in colour and quirkiness. They can be seen all year, but April is the best time for multiple sightings.
6. Sun Corals
Queensland is also known as the Sunshine State, and this is embodied below the surface with the Sun Corals. This species resides in dark places, but come in a variety of colours and are found in clumps, often looking like sunflowers. They brighten up a deep dive or snorkelling in deeper reefs.
7. Mandarin Fish
The Mandarin Fish is one of the most colourful and beautiful fish in the reef but is small and shy. They only come out in the afternoon in order to mate, so look for them on late afternoon dives and snorkelling expeditions.
Guests can see this unique marine life with Coral Expeditions’ expert marine biologists and dive instructors on board their Great Barrier Reef itineraries.