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Wonders high and low

By Ou Shuyi | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-10 11:35

Wonders high and low

Daintree rainforest is a World Heritage site and one of the world's oldest rainforests.

Wonders high and low

Visitors take a tour on an amphibious vehicle in Rainforestation Nature Park.

A World Heritage site since 1981, it is acclaimed as one of the Earth's most biologically diverse places, home to 2,000 fish species, 4,000 mollusk species, more than 250 shrimp species and 400 coral species.

Sprawling off the east coast of Queensland for about 2,000 km from north to south, it covers an area of 348,000 sq km - bigger than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined.

The site attracts about 1 million visitors from all over the world every year.

Some say it takes a lifetime to explore the 1,050 islands and cays in this vast expanse. Unfortunately, I have only one day to experience this natural wonder.

The Moore Reef, about 90 minutes' ride from Cairns, is popular among visitors who are short of time.

The great diversity of marine life and visibility make it one of the best diving and snorkeling spots on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, says Eddie Loi, a guide who has worked with Sunlover Reef Cruises for eight years.

It's almost noon when our Sunlover catamaran gets to the destination - a large floating platform anchored on the Moore Reef. The sunlight turns the water into bright turquoise blue around the reef.

Facilities available onboard enable visitors of all ages - and of all swimming capabilities - to enjoy their reef trip, Loi says.

Those who don't want to get wet can relax on the sun deck and enjoy the panoramic view of the sea.

Kids and non-swimmers can still get up-close and personal with the reef by taking the semi-submersible and glass-bottom boat tours.

But for me, there's no better way than taking a dip into the crystal clear water.

The coral is alive and surprisingly colorful - brilliant yellow, pastel pink, mint green and intense blue. Schools of multihued fish dart in and out of lettuce coral, putting on a spectacular show underwater.

But the star residents of the reef are the giant clams - large enough to cradle a 6-year-old - and "Wally", a giant Maori Wrasse that's almost affectionately swimming up to my mask.

The two-hour snorkeling feels like it was over in seconds. My encounter with the Great Barrier Reef is too short. But that just gives me a perfect reason to visit again.

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