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The Great Barrier Reef is a Natural Wonder of the World

The Great Barrier Reef is an international and tourism icon

Hundreds of thousands of people a year are drawn to the clear blue waters, colourful coral gardens and abundance of spectacular marine life. It’s the largest living structure on the planet and can even be seen from outer space.

Luckily, you do not need to go that far to see it! The reef is best admired up close. The Reef’s coral gardens rise from the ocean floor to sit just beneath the surface.  This makes exploring the reef easy and enjoyable for snorkelers and scuba divers alike.

Great Barrier Reef Port Douglas

At ABC Scuba Diving Port Douglas we are passionate about the reef.  Jay and Astrid Wink, the founders of this unique outfit, were drawn here from afar, just like you. They were so impressed with the Reef’s beauty that they relocated to live here in Port Douglas, right on the doorstep of one of Earth’s great wonders.

ABC Dive and Snorkel are committed to ensuring that you have the very best Great Barrier Reef experience with the lowest impact on the environment possible due to the lowest amount of fellow divers and snorkelers.

We deliberately avoid setting a firm daily schedule, ensuring the wildlife acts naturally and doesn’t begin shying from busy spots so the surprise, “big ticket” sightings are frequent and amazing. We care for our dive locations and by frequently changing them we make sure their ecosystem remains diverse and intact. Being able to explore the reefs at our leisure is a rare luxury, afforded by our particular permits and the size of our vessel. The ability to roam the magnificent reef systems off Port Douglas is a true pleasure for us, only enhanced by the opportunity to share, often unknown sites, daily with just a handful of people from around the world. ABC Scuba diving Port Douglas is a truly low impact operation. Our very own dive boat ‘Independence 1” is a new efficient luxury dive & snorkel vessel, ensuring our footprint on the Reef is tiny.

Jay’s other great passion is the lens. His professional grade photographic skill is employed to awesome effect with the reef as background, foreground feature and frame. We have options available to capture your own day among the reef – your own personal photographer for an incredible photo shoot or a variety of hire cameras for your own use.

Promise to you:

Being a small local business we are deeply committed to the protection of the reef.

Our highly valued and local crew can deliver an amazing array of facts and wonderful stories from decades of living and working on the Great Barrier Reef.

Enthusiastic marine interpretation and interactive presentations are available to anyone curious to learn more about this amazing environment.

We will help you engage with the wonders of the reef so you get more out of your time here and we’ll show you how to protect it during your visit.

Professional dedicated scuba diving and snorkel crew.

Have you ever imagined diving amongst the ramparts of the continental shelf? – A true outer reef experience! Explore shear, pristine walls of coral, and abundant marine life!

In line with our own philosophy ‘take only photographs from the reef and leave only bubbles’

Why is The Great Barrier Reef Special?

This amazing environment is large and diverse.  Covering 344,400km2 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is bigger than the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined, it’s approximately half the size of Texas (USA) and roughly the same area as Japan, Germany and Italy.

This complex structure is comprised of over 3,000 individual coral reefs, including Agincourt and Opal Reefs off Port Douglas, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays.  It’s home to 600 types of hard and soft corals, 1,652 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, 6 of the world’s 7 marine sea turtle species and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins.

The Reef itself is now understood to be a key part  of a much bigger set of ecological systems, the sum of which give us the Wet Tropics, including the Daintree Rainforest and more.

New critters are being identified all the time!  At ABC Scuba Diving Port Douglas we are delighted to take our guests to new reef sites, selecting the best on the day to maximise your experience.  Our open dive deck policy means our guests can swim, snorkel and dive where they like, on a typical day we may approach a new or unknown area and our guests are simply asked “are you ready to be blown away”?

“Great experience

We had a fantastic day! the guys were super knowledgeable and told great stories on the way out to the reef. The dive spots were beautiful and full of fish. All the food served on the boat was delicious! all in all we had a great day and couldn’t fault the ABC crew!
TripAdvisor January 2018

How has Coral Bleaching Affected The Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef is 344,000km2, which means that whilst there are many threats to the reef, there are still many beautiful locations to explore. The media have been very misleading in the last few years with claims such as 93% of the reef is dead and this is simply just untrue and has led to changes in expectations from our customers.

To begin with, it is important to understand, what exactly is coral bleaching? Coral is made up of three things. Firstly, there is the animal part, which is called a polyp – essentially an upside jellyfish, forming colonies that we look at as the coral structures.  These polyps have skeletons made of Calcium Carbonate, or limestone. The polyps feed by filter-feeding nutrients from the water, however, tropical water is very nutrient-poor and so they can only produce about 10% of their energy needs in this way.  The other 90% of their energy, comes from a symbiotic algae called Zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium), which, like all plants in the world, makes energy from the sun and it shares that energy with the coral polyp.  It is found living inside the tissues of the polyps and is also responsible for the beautiful colours of the corals.

Coral bleaching can be caused by a number of factors; changes in UV rays, visibility, salinity, pH or temperature – which has been the major cause over the last few years. When the temperature of the water gets too warm, the algae becomes over productive, resulting in an increase in toxic waste products. These molecules actively damage the coral polyps and so leaves them in a bit of a dilemma. Maintain the algae, even though it is causing harm, or expel it, even though it gives them 90% of their energy.  The lesser of two evils is to expel the algae and so they do this by either exocytosis, or digestion. Since the algae contains the colourful pigments, the colour also disappears from the coral, leaving them a ghostly white.  What you are then looking at, is the coral polyp and its limestone skeleton, without the symbiotic algae in its tissues. At this stage, the coral is still very much alive, still producing 10% of its own energy. It’s starving, but still alive – something that the media have not been good at reporting. Bleached coral does not mean dead coral and some species, can in fact survive in this condition for over two months, in good conditions (although most species will only last a few weeks). In this time, if conditions return to normal, the coral polyps can acquire more algae and continue living, however, if conditions do not return to normal quick enough, then they develop rapid tissue necrosis, their tissue disintegrates and they eventually die.

So when the media reported that 93% of the reef is dead, they got this figure from a report done during the 2016 bleaching event, in which a plane was flown over the top third of The Great Barrier Reef. They surveyed 911 reefs from the sky (out of 2,900 reefs found on The Great Barrier Reef) and reported that 93% of the reefs surveyed showed some signs of bleaching. The media interpreted this as 93% of the entire Great Barrier Reef is dead, which was a big misunderstanding of the data.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), have reported that 50% of The Great Barrier Reef has died between 1985 and 2012. 48% of this mortality was due to extreme weather events, such as cyclones and storm damage, 42% of mortality was due The Crown of Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci) and only 10% of mortality was due to coral bleaching, although bleaching has since become a bigger issue.

Coral bleaching is not a new phenomenon and has been occurring for thousands of years, but what is new, is the scale and frequency of bleaching events. Coral used to get decades, if not centuries to recover from bleaching events, but, since we started recording it, we have suffered global bleaching events in 1981/82, 1997/98, 2001/2002, 2005/06, 2008-11, 2016 and 2017, with the 2016 event being the worst on record. So bleaching itself is not really the issue, rather the lack of recovery time following the bleaching events and, as the world heats up, it is expected that bleaching will become even more frequent, until it eventually becomes a seasonal expectation.

In summary, The Great Barrier Reef has suffered over the last two years, but it is a massive area and mortality has not been uniform. There are still many areas that are absolutely stunning. Part of the beauty of ABC Scuba Diving, is that we have a small vessel and a roaming permit. This means that we have access to a number of different reefs and many different dive sites. We choose our sites based on the weather, the needs of our customers and the fact that they are still healthy and beautiful! You need only look at our Photos, Facebook and Instagram pages to see that the reef is still an incredible place, well worth the visit.

How We Protect the Great Barrier Reef at ABC Dive and Snorkel in Port Douglas

We are deeply respectful of The Great Barrier Reef. Apart from the incalculable intrinsic value, we are very directly reliant on a healthy Reef for our existence as a company. It’s an amazing place and we want to preserve it for future generations.  We understand the reef is a fragile ecosystem, subject to numerous threats. We are committed to protecting the reef and the environment in general and we are thrilled to be in a position to conduct an extremely low impact Reef operation by:

  • Carrying a maximum of 12 passengers to the outer reef.
  • Protecting the reef by promoting a strict “Take only photos, leave only bubbles” policy.
  • Educating our customers about reef ecology with informative marine talks and teaching reef conservation courses (Project Aware)
  • Using a very fuel efficient and economical boat with modern diesel engines.
  • Opting for live boat diving wherever possible over physical attachment options like anchoring.
  • If anchoring is unavoidable then hand guided placement is used for tight spots.
  • Using “green” and recyclable materials where appropriate
  • We explore new sites regularly, which help avoid sites becoming “over-dived”.

Our freedom from an obligation to use permanent moorings means we can head for the merely incredible, and if we find something absolutely spectacular on the way, we jump in and have a look. If it blows us away we stay and play.
Our agility opens up a myriad of opportunities for fantastic, old school, totally exploratory days, getting to parts of the reef that are seen by no one else. Adventures that are nothing short of world class.

Diving in pristine un-visited environments is a rare thrill and not the standard experience of visitors to the Reef. ABC is visiting the Reef the way it should be done.

  • Our vessel ‘Independence 1’ is a versatile boat with a shallow-draft
  • Remote and pristine sites
  • Genuine exploratory diving
  • Expert crew of experienced locals with 75+ years of combined experience living and working on the Reef
  • True low impact tourist operation

 

 

 

 


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