Now, more than ever, it’s time to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

On the 28th of March, 2017, Cyclone Debbie struck the beautiful coast of Queensland.

The effect was devastating. While 63,000 properties went without power across the state, homes suffered major damage, tourists were stranded, and attempts were made to evacuate residents.

By the time the storm had passed, twelve people had tragically lost their lives in Australia, making Debbie the deadliest cyclone since Tracy in 1974.

It was one of the worst-ever cyclones that the region had suffered. It had destroyed vegetation and eroded beaches, but National Parks Minister Steven Miles said the region would recover.

“The view over the turquoise waters and white silica sands is still spectacular,” Mr Miles said.

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The turquoise waters and white silica sands of Green Island

Now, more than ever, it’s time to visit Queensland and support the locals.

Most of the region’s most popular visitor sites have reopened and Mr Miles is pleased to see tourism operators are already welcoming guests back.

In fact, the state and federal governments have injected a further $2 million into a new tourism marketing campaign to urge visitors, especially Australians, to support Queensland’s Tourism industry.

“There’s no doubt Queensland’s tourism industry has felt the full force of Cyclone Debbie and the widespread flooding that followed,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“We want all Australians to know that taking a holiday in Queensland is one of the best ways to help our state to recover. Queensland’s $23 billion tourism industry is at the heart of our regional communities – driving local economies and supporting more than 220,000 jobs across the state.”

One of the most popular tourist destinations is the Great Barrier Reef and, if you’re planning a visit to this beautiful World Heritage Site, be mindful of your impact.

According to the Australian Government, while tourism greatly benefits the Australian economy, it may also have a negative impact. Tourists must be careful not to damage fragile corals when snorkelling the reef. Although this damage is minimal, snorkelers should be careful not to cause the marine life undue stress.

One way to do this, is to choose to view the Reef with an eco-certified tour company.

The World’s Herald visited the reef by taking a sail boat out to Green Island and Pinnacle Reef, 26 kilometres from Carins, where tourists could snorkel and scuba exclusively in a quiet marine park. Less than 20 visitors took to the water in a leisurely manner, moving slowly and deliberately as not to disturb the marine life. The sights were spectacular and there was something truly awe-inspiring about the opportunity to look upon this ancient reef.

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Eco-certified Ocean Free provide sail-boat tours of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sailing across the ocean does not prepare visitors for the wonder beneath the surface.

One traveller commented that the first time they glanced down through the snorkel and into the water, it made their heart leap. “It was almost alien, like nothing I had ever seen before, and I could have spent the whole day gazing at the incredible sight.”

Over 900 islands dot across the 2,600 kilometre expanse of the Great Barrier Reef. To put it in perspective, the reef is approximately the same size as Italy and one of its many beautiful hot spots is Green Island.

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Green Island

Tourists can chose to stay at the luxury resort on the island, or just visit the sweeping white beaches, soak up the sun, enjoy a cocktail or two, and stroll through the breathtaking tropics.

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Green Island, a tropical paradise

Green Island is home to the world’s largest captive croc, Cassius. He is a whopping 5.48 metres and he can be visited at the Marine Crocodile Park. According to the zoo keepers however, “He is a big wuss and just lays around in his heated pool all day.” The keeper said this while casually strolling around Cassius’ enclosure, explaining that the big croc’s glory days were behind him. At 110 years of age, this old gent doesn’t move unless he absolutely must. As he is well fed and quite comfortable, keepers were quite at ease inside the enclosure.

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Cassius, the world’s largest captive croc

Guests preferred to stay on the outside, naturally.

But if crocs are not for you, then not to worry. The region is home to more than thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. In breading season, six different species of sea turtle also visit, not to mention over 200 species of birds, and 1,500 different types of fish. Many of them will quite happily swim in for a closer look as we humans are as much an oddity to the marine life as we are to them. As a guest in the marine world, snorkelers and scuba divers need only relax and enjoy the hospitality.

So if you’re considering a family holiday, a relaxing escape, or even a honeymoon, the Great Barrier Reef will not disappoint.

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