UNESCO Considering Adding Great Barrier Reef To List Of Endangered Sites

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia
Richard Ling via WikiMedia

This past Sunday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) kicked off its annual conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Over the next ten days, the 1300 delegates in attendance will discuss which new locations from around the globe deserve possible inclusion on its exclusive list of World Heritage Sites. Some of the candidates include Japan’s Mt. Fuji, the Namib Desert in southern Africa and a series of wooden Orthodox churches located in the Carpathian mountains of Poland and the Ukraine.

Attendees at the conference will also consider adding the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Australia, to its list of endangered places. The organization routinely reviews the World Heritage Sites and will sometimes call attention to those that it sees as being under threat. This is done in an effort to raise awareness of the possible issues facing those place in the hopes that something will be done to preserve the site before it suffer irreparable damage. Studies have shown that tropical storms, climate change and increased shipping traffic have all had an impact on the health of the reef, bring its future into question. UNESCO is hoping that their discussion of those threats will send a message to Australians that they need to take action to preserve this amazing place.Having visited the GBR myself a few years back, I can tell you that it lives up to is reputation as a spectacular ocean setting. It is amongst the most beautiful places that I have ever seen and the snorkeling and scuba diving there are second to none. During my time there, it was clear that Australians understood that it is a very special place and that they are taking steps to ensure that it stays protected, healthy and vibrant for future generations to enjoy as well. That was something that was underscored in the recent “Reef Live” event, which took place in celebration of World Oceans Day. During that event, thousands of people from around the globe were able to catch a glimpse of the reef through a live tour that was broadcast over the Internet.

Immediately following “Reef Live,” Qantas Airlines announced discounted airfares to Queensland, making it more affordable than ever to head Down Under. Additionally, About Australia is offering some excellent discounted adventure travel package for those looking to visit Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region. For instance, they are currently offering a seven-day/five-night package that includes airfare from Lost Angles and accommodations at the Pacific International Hotel for just $2145/person. Amongst the included activities are a cruise on the GBR, snorkeling tours, a visit to the nearby rainforest and much more. They even have some great opportunities for scuba divers too. These discounted tours are available for travel in November of this year and February of next. Booking must be made by June 24 to take advantage of these savings.

This is an opportunity to visit one of the most spectacular places on the planet at an unbelievable savings. The Great Barrier Reef is a destination that all travelers should have on their list with the understanding that travel there is handled safely and sustainably so as to protect this fragile, yet incredibly beautiful ecosystem.

Celebrate World Oceans Day With A Live Tour Of The Great Barrier Reef

Celebrate World Oceans Day with Live Reef
Kraig Becker

This coming Saturday, June 8, is World Oceans Day, a global event designed to celebrate the important role that the oceans play in keeping our planet a vibrant place for us to live. Throughout the day there will be hundreds of events taking place across the globe that will help educate us on the importance of keeping our oceans healthy, while raising awareness of the challenges they face in the 21st century. One such event is an ambitious 12-hour live tour of the Great Barrier Reef that will give us a very personal look at one of the most important and beautiful marine ecosystems on Earth.

Stretching for more than 1600 miles along the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a dizzying array of species including sea turtles, dolphins, whales and countless smaller fish. Massive in size, the reef covers more than 133,000 square miles and is large enough to be visible from space. It also attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors on an annual basis, many who come to snorkel or dive the GBR’s breathtakingly clear waters.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time on Friday, June 7, a team of marine biologists will launch a live event that will stream to the Internet via Google Hangouts. They’re calling this event “Reef Live” and throughout the 12 hours that follow, they’ll be broadcasting from their floating “Sea Studio.” While the event is ongoing, divers will share live images from the reef, while taking us on a guided tour of this very special place both above and below the ocean’s surface.
The event won’t be just about streaming pretty pictures from the waters off the Australian coast, however. Anyone who attends the Google Hangout will be able to ask the team questions about what they are seeing on their screens at any given time, while also interacting with a group of expert panelists who will be in attendance as well. This will give us unprecedented access to marine biologists and reef experts who will be able to provide the insight and knowledge that will make this event a unique and special one.

Reef Live is melding technology, the Internet and social media in new ways to deliver a live event that just wouldn’t have been possible a few short years ago. Streaming real-time video across the Internet while millions look on and have the opportunity to directly participate is a fantastic idea. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in a few days time. If you want watch the live broadcast and participate in the event, there is a handy countdown clock available on the Reef Live site that will help you determine when the project has officially started. Find it by clicking here.

Win a trip to dive the Great Barrier Reef

Diving the Great Barrier Reef with PADIPADI, the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, is closing in on a very impressive milestone, and to celebrate they’re giving away a very impressive trip. The organization that has trained more scuba divers than any other, is now approaching their 20 millionth certification, and the lucky person who earns that distinction will win a trip for two to dive Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Last week, PADI launched its “Countdown to 20 Million” campaign, installing a counter on its website to indicate how close they are to the magic number. As of this writing, they are still more than 46,000 certifications away from the winner, but considering there are over 6000 PADI dive centers and resorts world wide, it seems likely that that number will drop quickly. It should also be pointed out that the contest is open to any certification, so whether you’re a beginner who is just getting started, or a long time veteran looking to pick-up some new skills, you’ll be eligible to take home the prize.

And what a prize it is! The person who earns that 20 millionth certification will receive round-trip airfare to Cairns, Australia, four nights stay in a resort located in Queensland and an additional three nights stay aboard a dive boat. Also included will be all equipment rental, including dive computer, a one hour low level reef flight for checking out the area from the air, and the opportunity to dive up to 11 times. If that wasn’t enough, the winner and their guest will also visit the Daintree Rainforest (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), visit an Aboriginal village, and a “Cuddle a Koala” experience.

If you’ve ever wanted to get dive certified, or already have your certification but want to brush up on your skills, now is the time. Find a PADI site near you and go earn that cert. Who knows, you might even win a great trip to the Great Barrier Reef in the process.

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit the GBR and spend a few days on a live aboard ship. I can tell you that it was a spectacular experience, and while I only snorkeled the area, it was none the less one of the most amazing places I have visited. The reef is truly a wonder to behold, the amount of beautiful sea life that you’ll find there is awe inspiring. If you haven’t been there yourself, then you really should add it to your list of “must see” places. You will not be disappointed.

Yasi brings destruction to Australia as social media prepares to help

Yasi social media australiaAs blizzard conditions strand motorists across the Midwest and chaos in Cairo continues as Mubarak backers and opponents clash, Australia is now feeling the effect of Cyclone Yasi, believed to be their biggest-ever storm. What was a waiting game of “Where exactly will it hit?” and “How bad will it be?” has become the harsh reality that unprecedented destruction is at hand.

“The large, destructive core of Cyclone Yasi is starting to cross the coast between Innisfail and Cardwell with a dangerous storm tide and battering waves to the south of the cyclone centre,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement.

ABC news reports that “North Queensland residents will be greeted by scenes of destruction at first light when the full impact of Cyclone Yasi is revealed.”

Just downgraded to a category 4 storm, high winds continue to batter homes, businesses and public areas. Australians are dug in and now being cut off from the outside world as power lines go down and communication is disrupted. Still, those with a signal are getting the word out and the world prepares to help, communicating with friends and loved ones via Twitter and Facebook.Social media platforms are jumping over Yasi too. On Twitter, using the hashtag #Yasi and #TCYasi, user @StudioLaville urges those who can help to register even before the storm passes:

Retweet! Register your ability to help or need for help at Help North Queensland. Free. http://helpnorthqueensland.com #Yasi #TCYasi

Still 180 kph readings in Queensland #yasi

On Facebook, more than 40,000 people have joined the Cyclone Yasi Update page which added:

Police in Mackay and Gladstone have had no major incidents reported to them as a result of the cyclone at this early stage. (please keep in mind there will be a lot of unknowns until first light) (Julie)

Tully devastated – winds very strong before and after the eye passed. Many many roofs off, as Larry did to Innisfail. People seeking refuge in their cars. Councilor Ross Cabello who has witnessed many cyclones, said this was far and away the worst he’s ever seen. He states that there are many, many houses damaged – roofs destroyed. (Chris)

CNN Video

Two Floridians win Tasmania leg of travel contest

Two American girls from Florida are about to find themselves pretty far from home. Dara Simkin and Catherine Fleming won the Tasmania leg of the WorldNomads.com Van-Tastic Adventure. This is the first time an American team has won the Australia contest. On December 19, 2009, they’ll fire up the engine and start to drive through Tasmania for six weeks. On January 30, 2010, they’ll arrive in Melbourne, having completed the fourth of seven legs. The seven-part journey begins in Queensland and consists of 10,000 miles of driving in a van named Geoff.

During their journey, Dara and Catherine will report on their experiences kayaking on the Freycinet Peninsula, mountain biking Mt. Wellington and walking through Cradle Moutain. You can keep track of their progress on YouTube or on the Van-Tastic Adventures website.

But, watching might not be enough for some people … there are still three legs open, so you may want to put your application video together.