Lonely Planet Writer

David Attenborough returns to the Great Barrier Reef

Armchair travellers, set your recording devices! Sir David Attenborough is returning to the Great Barrier Reef in a three-part series to be screened on BBC1 on 30 December.

Sir David Attenboroughh
Sir David Attenboroughh Image by Foreign and Commonwealth Office / CC BY 2.0

Tourism Australia teemed up with the BBC to fund Attenborough’s latest documentary series, The Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough, which explores the creation of the reef’s ecosystems and the diverse array of sealife it supports.

The reef hosts more than 2 million visitors each year, eager to dive into the waters and see some of the 1500 species of fish, 600 coral species and 30 marine mammals who call the reef home. And though tourism to the reef is booming, not everyone can make the trip. Luckily, fostering a connection between people and the natural world is something Attenborough is passionate about.

Coral, Great Barrier Reef.
Coral, Great Barrier Reef. Image by Brian Gratwicke / CC BY 2.0

Sixty years after his first visit, the 89-year-old naturalist returned to what he has described as ‘one of the most magical places on the planet’. Attenborough’s latest venture was markedly different to his first visit, in which he simply donned scuba gear and jumped into the water. A wealth of technology was at his disposal for this latest series, including a state-of-the-art Triton submersible and a helicopter, allowing unprecedented access to the deepest reaches of the reef.

“It’s one of the great romances, being able to travel to the bottom of the sea, like in Jules Verne, and I was able to do that this time for the programme when I went down in the Triton submersible. It is fantastic, better than travelling to the moon because you can do it for two hours then come back up again,” Attenborough enthused in an interview with The Guardian.

Clownfish, Great Barrier Reef.
Clownfish, Great Barrier Reef. Image by Paul Arps / CC BY 2.0

To complement the series release, producers teamed up with scientists from the University of Queensland, as well as other research institutions, to launch an interactive website, David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef: An Interactive Journey. The site allows visitors to explore the reef virtually, learn more about the creatures who live there, and discover some of the environmental challenges facing the fragile ecosystems it supports.

The programme is scheduled to air on BBC1 on 30 December.