Queensland's "Great Eight" safari

Last updated 12:56 17/12/2013

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The best-loved and most popular marine creatures that populate the Great Barrier Reef in Australia have been compiled into a list, the "Great Eight," to help visitors in a hurry.

Queensland Tourism says tourists have not really seen the Great Barrier Reef until they have spotted them all.

The list is modelled on Africa's Big Five game animals comprising the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.

Here is Queensland's list:

Sea turtles: Six of the planet's seven species of sea turtles can be found in the waters around the Great Barrier Reef, making the chances of spotting one while diving quite good.

Sea turtles also come on land at dusk between November and March to lay their eggs on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Clownfish: Also known as anemonefish, these small, orange and white striped fish were made famous by the film Finding Nemo. Clownfish are usually spotted by divers living amongst the stinging tentacles of the sea anemone.

Maori wrasse: Also known as napoleon or humpheaded wrasse, the maori wrasse is the largest of wrasse species. The fish have similar colouring to the Reef itself and love to swim where divers congregate and will even allow themselves to be stroked.

Currently a protected species, the maori wrasse are especially numerous in snorkelling and diving spots around Cairns and Port Douglas.

 Manta rays: The manta ray is the largest species of the rays with the biggest specimens measuring up to 7 metres across. The elegant fish are particularly common around Lady Elliot Island in the south of the Reef, where up to 350 specimens can be found swimming during the Australian winter months.

Giant clams: These huge crustaceans live off algae and are especially prevalent at Orpheus Island research station where the shells of up to 300 giant clams become exposed at low tide.

Potato cod: Named because of their brown markings shaped like potatoes, these fish with big mouths are among the largest of all bony fish and, like the maori wrasse, are relatively unafraid of divers.

Whales: Humpback whales come to Queensland to mate and are a favourite amongst tourists. Whale-watching tours are offered along the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and from Brisbane.

Sharks: Although smaller than the 45-ton humpbacks, sharks are amongst the most impressive of all the marine wildlife that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef.

The most common species of sharks seen off the coast of Queensland are white-tip or black-tip reef sharks and they generally do not pose a danger to divers.

- MCT

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