Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef

Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Jayne Gorman of Girl Tweets World spent four days exploring the Great Barrier Reef, recently ranked the second most amazing sight on the planet in our Ultimate Travel list.

Here Jayne shares some of her favourite Instagram images of the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding Whitsunday Islands, as well as her tips for experiencing the very best this beautiful region has to offer.

‘One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef extends over 2000km from just south of the Tropic of Capricorn to slightly south of Papua New Guinea (I gleaned this fact from my trusty LP Guide!). Covering an area larger than the UK, it’s physically impossible to see it all in just four days. Instead, I focused on discovering the very best experiences you can encounter in this region to better understand the giant reef system.’

See it from above

‘To begin to get a sense of the sheer scale of the reef I took to the skies on a scenic helicopter ride. Hamilton Island Air offer 10-, 20- and 30-minute rides, which take off from a tiny pontoon out on the reef. It’s incredible to see the colours and formations of the coral from above; it looked like a miniature world map below us.'

Make a splash

‘Of course, to really get to know the Great Barrier Reef you need to take to the waters! Many sailing companies offer 1-hour introductory scuba dives, which take you along the reef shelf. Along the way instructors point out interesting coral formations and crevices that the bigger fish like to hide in. You can also get a great view of the marine life by snorkelling, and if you’re lucky, might also get to swim alongside a sea turtle like I did.'

Enjoy a unique view

‘Not many people know that you can spend the night on the Great Barrier Reef sleeping in a swag on the sundeck at Reef World. Accommodating just nine guests each night, you feel like you have the Great Barrier Reef (and its 1500 varieties of fish) all to yourself. Sunrise is a most incredible spectacle; especially seeing the first fiery rays of sun reach across the water. We watched in stunned silence.'

Pack the essentials

A photo posted by Jayne Gorman (@jayneytravels) on

‘Nowhere have I been more pleased to own a waterproof camera than at the Great Barrier Reef. Water around the reef is clear and calm so even the most basic of devices can capture a Nemo sighting! A waterproof casing also protects your equipment from the fine sands found at the Whitsundays.'

Take it all in

‘There are 74 islands and countless stunning beaches in the Whitsundays but the most famous of them is Whitehaven Beach. Famed for its 7km of 98% silica sand, it’s a must-see in the region. There are numerous options for visiting Whitehaven but the best views are from above. If a scenic flight is out of your budget, book a boat trip to the Tongue Lookout on Whitsunday Island, which offers 360° views of the region.'

Keep your eyes peeled

‘When I wasn’t sleeping on the Barrier Reef, I based myself at Hamilton Island, the largest inhabited island in the Whitsundays. Hamilton Island offers a range of accommodation options from self-catered apartments to five-star luxury. The views, however, are priceless.’