There are lots of corals and fish you'll encounter on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Here's a guide to some of the most common sightings, so you'll know what to find and what to expect!

Christmas Tree Worms

Christmas tree worms are named after the colorful, spiral breathing structures they extend into the surrounding water which resemble tiny Christmas trees. The trees are the mouths of the worm and each spiral is composed of feather-like tentacles that collect fine particles to feed on. Any danger, sudden movement or sounds near the worm, they quickly retract the fans into the chamber, and a hard cover (called the operculum) is pulled over the top like a trap door.
The colours of these fans range from orange and yellow through to blue and white. 


Clown Fish are a familar sight on the Great Barrier Reef and universally well known ever since the movie Finding Nemo. They mainly inhabit shallower waters, making them easily spotted by snorkellers. Clownfish live in a "symbiotic" relationship with certain anemones, and are the only fish that are able to live in sea anemones and not get stung by their tentacles. They wear a slimy mucus covering that protects them from the sea anemone. The clownfish and the sea anemone help each other survive in the ocean. The clownfish, while being provided with food, cleans away fish and algae leftovers from the anemone, meanwhile the sea anemone is given better water circulation because the clownfish fan their fins while swimming about. Clownfish develop into males first, and when they mature, they become females. In a group of clownfish, there is a strict hierarchy of dominance. The largest and most aggressive female is found at the top!

Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumbers are the quiet achievers of the ocean when it comes to protecting the Great Barrier Reef. They are the vaccum cleaners of the sea, turning over the sediment, oxygenating it, and making nutrients available to other organisms, including corals. These slow moving creatures breathe through their anus! and they shoot out a sticky goo as a self defence mechanism to entangle any would be predators out there.

Humphead Maori Wrasse

Humphead maori wrasse can be easily identified by their huge size, prominent hump on the forehead and thick rubbery lips. Fondly known as Wally. This very friendly, personable fish is regularly spotted at reef sites inspecting snorkellers and divers with his beady eyes. Unfortunately, the friendly nature and good eating of the Maori Wrasse has led to their depletion in numbers. Napoleon Wrasse are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they can change sex, but only from female to male. The reasons for this change are not fully understood, but it has been noted to occur when males are in short supply, and so a female - often around the age of 8 to 10 years old - will turn into a male to fill the void. 


Come along to Reef Teach before you go out to the reef to help get the most out of your Great Barrier Reef experience. Reef Teach provides an entertaining evening of amazing facts, beautiful images, and the opportunity to handle a wide range of corals and other marine specimens. It will amaze, inspire, and captivate you, and have you laughing about the funny facts and weird and wonderful ways in which the reef works!

In this show they will take you on a tour of the Great Barrier Reef with the use of 100’s of high quality images, videos and hands on reef specimens. Learn about: Common fish, corals and other animals, Fish and corals changing colour in front of your eyes! Fish visiting cleaning stations and being groomed by other fish! The special relationships between “Nemo” and the anemone, corals and algae, “Wally” and remoras! They will also share tips a range of tips from how to avoid being seasick to how to take a good photograph underwater! Reef Teach is passionate about reef conservation and will share information on some of the threats to coral reefs, and how you can help look after marine life for future generations.

Reef Teach is staffed by qualified marine biologists (all have PhD’s or MSc degrees).
Find out more -->

When | Shows are held Thursday to Saturday from 6.30pm – 8.30pm.
Where | 2nd Floor, Mainstreet Arcade, 85 Lake Street, Cairns
FREE | Fish and coral identification sheets, tea, coffee and biscuits!


Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles.The most common marine turtles brought into the Cairns rehabilitation centre from the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Peninsula are the Green turtle and Hawksbill turtle. Many of the turtles are brought into the rehab centre with an illness called ‘floaters syndrome’. Over the years the centre has successfully rehabilitated and released countless turtles. The success rate of rehabilitation has gone from 30% to 85% and is now one of the highest success rates in Australia.

You can visit the turtles and learn more at the new Turtle Rehabilitation Centre located on Fitzroy Island. Educational Tours are held every day at 2pm, tours are limited to 15 people. The centre relies on donations from local businesses and the general public which go directly towards the maintenance and feeding of the sick and injured turtles. Find out more -->


Eye on the Reef is an initiative run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, enabling anyone who visits the Great Barrier Reef to contribute to its long-term protection by collecting valuable information about reef health, marine animals and incidents.

One of the easiest ways to get involved is to download the Eye on the Reef app and share photos of what you have seen out on the Reef. This can be anything from wildlife (including protected species,) to pests like Crown- of- thorns starfish or marine pollution, to special events like coral spawning.Everyone's contribution is welcome. You can also use this app to help identify the wildlife you've seen and share your Eye on the Reef sighting photos on social media. Observations and information gathered will then contribute to science, management and the protection of this natural wonder.

Eye on the Reef has been used to record thousands of sightings of humpback whales, dwarf minke whales, dugongs, dolphins, whale sharks, birds, sea turtles, and many more reef creatures. The more people report their sightings, the more it helps to build knowledge about the diversity, abundance, habitats and range of marine animals. The app can also be used as an educational tool to find out more about your favourite Great Barrier Reef creatures. Selected sightings will also be displayed on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website and Facebook page. Download the free Eye on the Reef app from the Google play app store or the iTunes app store — to send in real-time sightings and simultaneously share those sightings with your Facebook friends.


Coral spawning is one of the most spectacular events to occur on the Great Barrier Reef every year about four to five days after the full moon in October or November and sometimes in December. This mass reproduction involves colonies and species of coral polyps simultaneously releasing tiny egg and sperm bundles from their gut cavity into the water. The phenomenon — which only happens at night — resembles an underwater snowstorm. But rather than being all white, there are also clouds of red, yellow and orange. All the bundles rise slowly to the surface where the process of fertilisation begins. The time of year that corals spawn depends on their location. Inshore reefs usually start spawning one to six nights after the first full moon in October, whereas outer reefs spawn during November or December. 

You can witness the annual coral spawning by joining a special departure dive trip with Deep Sea Divers Den, Tusa or Pro Dive. Please enquire for dates & departures.