Gliding just below the surface a fantastic array of colourful reef fish inhabit the shallow flats of these reef patches. As the reef drops off into the depths majestic sea fans decorate the edges teeming with tiny reef fish taking shelter from the wide-open blue that lays before them.
Above the water Fitzroy is home to lush tropical rainforest that covers its tall peaks, stretching up to 269m (882ft). Throughout the dense forest a stunning array of iconic Australian wildlife can be found. Sulphur-crested cockatoos and orange-footed scrub-fowls can be seen scratching through the leaf litter in search of food. In the skies above, migratory birds such as the Pied Imperial Pigeon or fierce predatory Ospreys are often seen gliding over the treetops. Reptiles make up the land-based predators. Skinks and large monitors are regularly seen basking in the tropical sun and the eagle eyed may even spot one of the tree snakes or pythons hidden amongst the dense jungle.
As soon as the water starts, so does the surrounding fringing reef. With some of the most accessible snorkeling sites on the Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island is home to a wonderful array of tropical fish and coral. Fitzroy being a continental island with a fringing reef system, means it has large areas of live coral cover or coral thickets in very shallow water. Iconic reef fish such as Nemo and the beaked butterfly fish are very common and easy to spot. The real beauty of Fitzroy in some locations like Shark Fin Bay, is that these extensive stands of live coral in very shallow water almost touch the Island rainforest. Green Sea Turtles are regularly spotted searching for algae to graze on throughout the reef, and even from the shore can be spotted at the surface taking a few deep breaths before diving back down.
Fitzroy Island is also a wonderful place to start the search for the Great Barrier Reef’s megafauna, or larger marine creatures. Giant Manta Rays have been seen right up against the edges of the rocky reef as they feed on the plankton bought in by oceanic currents. From July-September whale watching tours depart from the island in search of the majestic Humpback Whales as they arrive in tropical waters for their annual calving migration.
An island of firsts, Green island has a rich history and strong cultural connection. Before European discovery, Green Island was used by local indigenous tribes for hunting and gathering as well as ceremonies (such as initiation to manhood for young boys). The island later became the first island tourist destination on The Great Barrier Reef in the late 1800’s and continued to make strides in the tourism industry including first glass bottom boat and the world'w first underwater observatory (1953).
Below the surface the wonders of Green Island continue, on the inshore patch reef that plays host to the cay. Patches of coral reef can be found directly off the shore scattered throughout expansive seagrass beds. Interesting Green Island is one of the few areas on the Great Barrier Reef where you have extensive seagrass beds next to coral. This intertwining of the two major habitats of Green Island provides excellent refuge for small and juvenile fish species as well as prime feeding grounds sea turtles and even dugongs that lazily graze on the underwater meadows. Whilst drifting over these areas a wonderful array of reef fish can be seen, as well as colourful clams, urchins and other marine life inhabiting the coral areas.
The northern tip of Moore Reef has several passages or reef passes that connect the protected coral lagoon of Marine World to the outer ocean environment. The water currents play a pivotal role in the transport of food and nutrients, resulting in highways of fish life. Ranging from tiny reef dwelling fish to large pelagic predators and reef sharks and a huge variety of life can be seen using these passages to travel in and out of the reef lagoon.
On the other side of these passages lies the majestic outer wall that forms the protective barrier for the lagoon. A stunning site to see as a literal wall of reef drops from the surface to over 20m deep. Despite being more exposed to the open seas, this is the growing edge of the reef, often dominated by fast growing corals such as plate corals. Extensive plate coral cover creates a rich underwater world and a perfect habitat for larger fish to hide.
On the outer side of the Marine World, next to a reef pass, stunning fish aggregations can be found. Unique hydrodynamics of the area result in an array of fish that need to be seen to be believed. Most excitingly as seasons change various species of snappers, emperors, sweetlips, trevallies, surgeon fishes, sharks and more can be seen gathering at these aggregation areas for feeding and reproduction.
Just off the edge of the reef sits a series of Coral Bommies (isolated reef patches) known as the pinnacles. Sitting in 25-30m deep water these isolated safe havens provide a fantastic array of fish life with large aggregations of fish such as snappers, trevallies, emperors, barracuda and more often found in large numbers adjacent to the reef. Quite often larger predators such as Queensland groupers and sharks are seen within the fish aggregations at “Oasis”.
Up at the surface sea turtles are regularly seen as they breach for a gulp of air. They can also be seen grazing on algae underwater. When approached cautiously will often tolerate people viewing them from a short distance for very long times, giving an unforgettable experience.