Returning to the Great Barrier Reef after his first broadcast in 1957, television-legend David Attenborough has revisited the reef with the privilege of 21st century equipment to deliver the best ever images of the amazing Great Barrier Reef this natural wonder off Australia’s Queensland Coast. We take a look at how this new documentary was filmed and how you can experience the Great Barrier Reef for yourself.
The small and the mighty
Technology available to David Attenborough’s camera team will bring to our screens, the elusive, the large and the ridiculously small! We can look forward to images of life-forms only visible through the most powerful generation of macro-lenses as well as other-worldly creatures and trance-inducing colour palettes. In addition to the glorious aquatic cinema experience we can also look forward to a ‘being there’ experience as there is footage filmed for virtual-reality headsets.
How will you explore?
Sited by Attenborough as ‘one of the most important places on the planet’ The Great Barrier Reef is tantalisingly accessible to us all. It already attracts 2 million visitors a year who contribute the lion’s share of its economic input. The value of the natural habitat is what people flock to see and the region continues to be creative in its breadth of access to the underwater spectacle. Scuba diving is not for everyone so like Mr Attenborough we’ve taken a look at the alternatives to donning tanks and wetsuits.
Although not available for general tourism just yet, and certainly not down to the 1,000 feet that David Attenborough managed, glass-domed submersibles provide armchair comfort as you plunge to depths previously reserved for experienced divers. Vision is panoramic through the surrounding transparent bubble giving you cinematic quality under the ocean
Glass bottom boats
From the original glass bottom boats which allow passengers to clearly see the colourful marine world passing below the hull-base to the polymer-sheer kayaks and canoes that offer more independent adventures, this surface-bound method of viewing inhabitants of the reef is uber-popular and suitable for everyone. If you’d rather not get your feet wet at all, opt for one of the commercial glass-bottom vessels that leave from places like Cairns, Mission Beach and Port Douglas amongst others – by day and night. Smaller islands and resorts now often carry see-through single and double passenger paddle crafts leaving you free to meander as you choose.
Up close and snorkel
Learning about nature has never been more fun and snorkelling is simple to pick up by all ages making it a great family activity. So why snorkel? Well, the proximity of coral to the surface is what makes snorkelling just as good if not preferable to scuba-diving. Hovering over healthy live coral peering down at the colourful fishes that call it home is like watching the best HDTV you can get – and more! Spotting your first ‘Nemo’ or feeling a feather-lite touch of a manta-ray brush delicately past is a priceless, magical experience.
You don’t have to swim, get your hair wet, or have any special skills to take the plunge below the surface and engage with fishes swimming within inches of your face. The Scuba Doo has a seat and steering wheel and your head remains in a large helmet that is constantly refilled with fresh air. You have the option of wearing a wet suit if temperatures are low. The experience is operated by Great Adventures and the journey begins with a sailing between Cairns and Green Island during which your guides explain how to operate the Scuba Doo. An undersea world will take you past stunning coral reefs, more than 1,500 tropical fish and exotic sea creatures.
The Seawalker Helmet Diving Experience is another ‘dry’ experience perfect for getting close to a wealth of marine-life. This takes place beneath the Moore Reef at Green Island Dive Centre which is a 45-minute ferry ride from the fleet terminal at Cairns Reef. A little like a space helmet in appearance, the air-pumped, Seawalker helmet is worn along with a wet suit and boots and groups of up to six people are lowered into a fan coral-filled garden teeming with fishes.
This exclusive and intimate way of exploring the reef’s treasures comes in the form of a Bond-style mini-submarine. It launches directly from the beach on Fitzroy Island which is a 45-minute catamaran journey from Cairns. The mini-sub can accommodate two guests plus a pilot who will also double as your tour guide; descending below the waves your marine encounter could not be simpler and there are no special skills required.
The Great Barrier Reef has warm waters all year round, just part of the reason why it attracts first time divers, experienced divers and addicted divers! Beginners will find world-class PADI instructors, gentle reef sites and a rich variety of fish whilst the more experienced diver can venture out to deeper sites on the outer reefs. The Whitsunday Diving Academy, for example, teaches in small groups allowing ample personal attention and initial training in the safety of a swimming pool. You will soon progress safely and confidently to your first dive site where the undersea world will come to live before your eyes.
Shall I go?
To our knowledge no-one has ever been quoted saying ‘I really wish I’d not gone scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef’ - but plenty have it at the top of their bucket list!