Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

I deeply appreciate the Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder stretching over 2,300 kilometers along Australia’s Queensland coast. It’s not just a stunning ribbon of coral; it’s also the largest coral reef system on Earth, boasting an incredible diversity of marine life. However, alongside its beauty, the Great Barrier Reef faces serious challenges threatening its existence. Climate change, pollution, the Crown-of-thorns starfish, and illegal fishing all take a toll on this delicate ecosystem.

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Climate change, for instance, brings cyclones, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching, all of which harm the reef. Pollution from coastal development and farm runoff smothers coral reefs, making them more susceptible to disease and lowering water quality. While essential in normal numbers for maintaining coral diversity, the Crown-of-thorns starfish can become disastrous in outbreak proportions, often triggered by nutrient runoffs from farms. Illegal fishing and overfishing directly harm the coral and the species that call it home.

Now, you may be wondering whether visiting the Great Barrier Reef is ethical. Will our visits contribute to its decline? Tourism is overwhelmingly positive for the reef. James Kerry, a research fellow at James Cook University, believes that “virtually none” of the Great Barrier Reef’s struggles are caused by tourism. Visitors can witness the underwater ecosystem and learn about its challenges. This firsthand experience can inspire people to take action against climate change.

With that in mind, why not educate yourself about the reef before your visit? In Cairns, a company called Reef Teach runs informative sessions three evenings a week, teaching you how to identify marine life and respect the reef. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to protect it.

Now, let’s talk about how tourists can actively protect the Great Barrier Reef during our visits. Here are some practical ways:

1. Get Involved in a Citizen-Science Project: Participate in citizen-science projects that collect vital information about the reef and its inhabitants. Organizations like Tongaroa Blue Foundation, Reef Check Australia, Project Manta, and Eye on the Reef welcome your research and data collection involvement.

2. Volunteer at a Clean-Up: Take a more hands-on approach by joining clean-up programs like Eco Barge Clean Seas. They remove marine debris from coastlines and oceans, significantly impacting reef health.

3. Choose High-Standard Eco Tour Operators: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issues permits only to eco-friendly and sustainable tour operators. Some, like Quicksilver Cruises, go above and beyond by employing marine biologists and collecting crucial reef data.

4. Stay at an Ecotourism Resort: Several eco-resorts near the reef prioritize reef protection. Lizard Island Resort, Heron Island Resort, and Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort are some examples that work diligently to safeguard marine life and reduce waste.

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5. Wear Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Use reef-safe sunscreen to prevent harm to coral reefs. Avoid products containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, and other harmful chemicals.

6. Look But Never Touch: Coral and marine life are fragile. Even the lightest touch can harm them, so resist the urge to touch or disturb them while swimming, snorkeling, or diving.

7. Protect the Reef from Afar: Limit your use of plastic and make eco-friendly choices in your daily life. Opt for reusable items like water bottles and shopping bags, reduce fish consumption, and choose environmentally-friendly transportation and accommodations whenever possible.


Q1: Can I touch the coral during my snorkeling trip? A1: No, it’s essential to avoid touching the coral. Even gentle contact can harm the fragile organisms that make up the reef.

Q2: What is reef-safe sunscreen, and where can I find it? A2: Reef-safe sunscreen is free from harmful chemicals that can harm coral reefs. You can find it at most outdoor and eco-friendly stores or order it online.

Q3: Are there any restrictions on fishing near the Great Barrier Reef? A3: Yes, fishing restrictions are in place to protect the marine life and ecosystem. Be sure to check local regulations before fishing.

Q4: How can I contribute to reef conservation efforts during my visit? A4: You can participate in beach clean-up activities, donate to local conservation organizations, or choose eco-friendly tours and operators that support reef protection.


Exploring the Great Barrier Reef is a dream come true for many travelers. Still, it comes with a responsibility to protect this natural wonder. By following these eco-friendly travel tips, you can enjoy the reef’s beauty while minimizing your impact on its delicate ecosystem. Let’s work together to ensure that future generations can experience the magic of the Great Barrier Reef. Happy and responsible travels!

About Stephen Owen 15 Articles
Hello, I'm Stephen! I go by the name Stephen, and I'm a young adult who hails from Africa. Although I have a deep love for my city, my heart leans towards nature. I've made contents of hiking and wildlife-spotting integral parts of my travel experiences.

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