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Australia's top 5 marine encounters

Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014

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It's no surprise that an incredible array of marine life call Australia home.

It has nearly 36,000 kilometres of coastline, 10,000 beaches, and some of the most pleasantly tropical water in the world.

As a result, the country features unique maritime encounters that can't be found anywhere else in the world.

Great Barrier Reef

The world's largest coral reef, which is the only structure made by living things that can be seen from space, covers an astounding 2,300 kilometres - almost 1 and a half times the length of New Zealand.

The warm, clear waters in the tropical far north are teeming with sea-life, making for one of the world's most striking tourist destinations.

You can observe from glass bottom boats, or take the plunge yourself. A kaleidoscopic array of marine animals - clown fish, anemones, butterfly fish, among thousands of others  - all hide beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered.

There are few places on Earth with a magical mix of a tropical atmosphere and the diversity of sea life quite like the Barrier Reef.

Many of the islands in the reef cater exclusively to tourists, which make it a complete, self-contained experience.

Dolphin Watching in Byron Bay

Australia's eastern most town is the gateway to a host of unique sea-life encounters.

The Byron Bay landscape is among Australia's most picturesque - the famous lighthouse, more than 100 years old, looms above the bay, providing the perfect backdrop for a leisurely kayak.

Kayaks are freely available to take visitors on a paddle alongside dolphins, turtles, and even humpback whales, which can often be seen cruising along the bay during their annual migration.

Visitors often take note of the striking sunsets that linger over the sea; the experience makes for one of the most scenic things you can do in Australia.

Monkey Mia

Those pursuing a dolphin encounter usually have to wade into deep waters to find them - but in Shark Bay on Australia's west coast, the dolphins present themselves to you.

Tourists from around the world come to the isolated beach to witness the rare event, where wild dolphins wander right up to the shore to interact with people.

The dolphins - part of a permanent pod of 300 - have been engaging with humans for generations, and show up reliably three times a day to mingle with visitors.  

It's a rare experience, as visitors are practically never disappointed with a no-show - there will alway be a dolphin relaxing on the shore, waiting in the crystal blue waters.

Turtle Season in Bundaberg

Once a year a flurry of turtles storm Mon Repos beach in central Queensland to lay their eggs.

Hundreds of Loggerhead turtles, some journeying from as far away as New Caledonia, arrive on the beach to nest - forming the largest concentration of nesting turtles in Australia.

They crawl onto the beach under the cover of darkness to lay their eggs. Several weeks later, hundreds of baby turtles emerge, wandering down the sand into the ocean.

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Rangers police the area strictly, but allow a certain number of visitors each night an up-close look at the phenomenon, which is a sight difficult to see anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks In Ningaloo Reef

The world's largest fish are a majestic, albeit rare, sight to see - but for visitors to Australia's west coast, the tropical waters of Ningaloo reef house them in huge numbers.

Congregations of the gentle giants flock to the reef, near the town of Exmouth, during the coral blooming between the months of March and June.

Visitors can dive in and have the once in a lifetime experience of seeing the animals up close. Sea planes fly overhead to spot them for tourist boats, and always find them.

Dolphins, hammerheads, and dugongs also occupy the reef, and are often obliging enough to let you swim with them.

- Stuff

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