Birds gather on a sandbar in the existing Great Barrier Reef National Park. New proposals from the Australian government for a neighboring marine reserve in the Coral Sea would protect numerous small sandy islets and cays that form important nesting sites for seabirds, including red-footed boobies, terns, and frigate birds.
Compared to the Great Barrier Reef, its more famous neighbor, the Coral Sea is home to smaller, more dispersed coral reefs, which nevertheless attract scuba divers from around the world.
(See your Australia pictures.)
Among the submerged spectacles are coral walls thousands of feet tall and swirling schools of open-ocean fish.
Being so far from land—between 30 and 680 miles (60 and 1,100 kilometers) from Queensland state's coast—the Coral Sea is little affected by land-based runoff. For visiting divers, that means underwater visibility in excess of 100 feet (35 meters).