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9 Dangerous Marine Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef and How to Stay Safe in the Whitsundays

Updated on January 7, 2019

One of the Seven Wonders of the World

The Great Barrier Reef is well known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World but did you know it is also home to at least nine of marine life's most dangerous creatures? Lurking just below the surface of the pristine waters of the Whitsundays are some of the most deadly critters of any ocean in the world. Yes, we have deadly crocodiles, sharks, stingrays and even jellyfish that can result in fatal encounters - but rarely do.

Even so, there is much on offer in the north eastern waters of Australia for anyone with a penchant for the sea and the delights below. We have the most enchanting sights under the blue waters of the Whitsundays and the Coral Sea - the reef in all its glory and tropical fish showing off their rainbow colours, but if you are playing in the water you need to be aware of the frightening reality of the dangerous marine creatures that make any living being a potential menu item. Yet this is a veritable playground for those who want to explore above and below the surface of what can be the perfect tropical paradise for the fisherman, snorkeler and diver. It only takes a little research to prepare, keep safe and enjoy one of the greatest wonders of the world.

Enter These Waters At Your Own Risk

Don't go in the water. There is a reason for these signs - take heed and stay safe!
Don't go in the water. There is a reason for these signs - take heed and stay safe!

9 Dangerous and Deadly Marine Creatures

Before I send you all packing to the inner reaches of central Australia, you know, all desert and little water for sharks or crocodiles, I want to share a little known fact. There is more chance of you being injured in a road accident than anything you may experience in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. For most of the year, and I mean most of the year, the weather sets the scene as a tropical paradise and the colloquial term, beautiful one day, perfect the next is the only phrase you need to know.

But we need to be candid here. The hazards and risks of the reef and waters of the Whitsundays are real but the dangers are avoidable. To be forewarned is to be prepared and the locals will surely give you the heads up - if you dare to ask.

Stingray of the Great Barrier Reef

Stingray in captivity Great Barrier Reef
Stingray in captivity Great Barrier Reef | Source

Need Somewhere to Stay in the Whitsundays?

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.

Deadly Creatures of the Whitsundays

The 9 most deadly creatures of the Great Barrier Reef from largest to smallest and not particularly most dangerous are:

1. Crocodiles

Statistics vary from one website to the next. There seems to be little recorded information on the actual deaths recorded from crocodile attacks in the Great Barrier Reef. Deaths, from crocodile attacks occur predominantly in the Northern Territory or the Far North Queensland coast line - not so much in the Whitsunday region.

2. Sharks

Shark attacks throughout Australian waters occur at the rate of about 10 per year but not all of these are fatal, especially in the northern waters. Fatal shark attacks are associated with the great white pointer of the southern oceans not the shovel head sharks of the Great Barrier Reef.

3. Stingrays

Sadly the most recent victim of a stingray attack was the infamous and legendary Steve Irwin. In spite of his risk-taking activities with the Queensland crocodile, it was a chance meeting with a stingray that saw his demise off the coast of far north Queensland.

4. Stone Fish

The Stone Fish is a master of deception. It disguises itself as a grey rock lying dormant as a grey and mottle colour on the reef's floor, not dissimilar to any of the naturally formed rocks of the region. One step on the poisonous barbs can be fatal if help is not within easy reach.

5. Toad Fish

There are so many varieties of toad fish is difficult to know where to start, smooth, banded or black spotted these fish can cause great discomfort. In the Great Barrier Reef stab wounds from their spines are filled with venom but not usually fatal.

6. Cone Shells

The cone shell is like a projector shooting out poisonous darts to anything that causes a threat. Stepping on one of these shells can result in serious injury.

7. Irukandji

The Irukandji jellyfish is seriously dangerous. The creatures move in from the deeper waters between the months of October and May and create a constant threat to the coastline of the northern Queensland waters. During the period of 1883-2005 there were 70 recorded deaths resulting from Irukandji jellyfish stings in north east Queensland.

8. Box Jellyfish

The box jellyfish is more common than the Irukandji and spreads itself through more of the southern waters of Queensland. Most beaches offer the warning signs to prepare potential swimmers from entering the water during the 'jellyfish' season, October to May. Instant relief can be gained by dousing the stung area with vinegar but the sting has the potential to be fatal and should not be underestimated. There have been 60 recorded deaths in Australia over the past 100 years.

9. Mosquitoes

The smallest of all creatures, the mosquito, may be thought to be harmless. But unlike the exotic countries surrounding Australia where malaria is a major factor of death caused by mosquitoes, Australia has cause for alarm with incidents of Dengue Fever in the north of the Queensland state.

The Waters of the Whitsundays

But Wait there's More in the Deadly Creatures' Series

Over the course of the next few articles in this series, each deadly creature mentioned will be examined in more detail with tips and pointers to keeping you safe in the Whitsundays while you explore the inner beauty of a tropical paradise above and below the beautiful blue seas and the coral formations that are the 'Great Barrier Reef'.

The Dangerous Marine Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef Series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.

© 2012 Karen Wilton


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    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      KT how exciting coming to Australia and having an opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef. While Australian waters do have some dangers, there are many areas that are completely safe. Talk to the locals forn the best and safest places to swim or snorkel. Enjoy!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have the opprotunity to go to Australia next summer, but my family is afraid of the risks and dangers there. Should I consider not swimming during my stay? It would be a shame to miss seeing the great barrier reef but safety comes first.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Eiddwen, glad you enjoyed a peek at some of the dangerous creatures we have in the area.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Another gem which I am bookmarking and voting up.

      Take care my friend.


    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Hey channelwhitsunday great feedback from someone who knows what I'm talking about. The dangerous creatures under the surface of the blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef are rarely seen but are definitely out there!

    • channelwhitsunday profile image


      6 years ago

      Great fun informative article Karanda. They are out there, but you never see them. All these creatures... and so infrequently seen!

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks AliciaC great to know you have the dream of coming to our beautiful country - who knows what the future holds? We might just see you here yet! The Whitsundays are a definite to put on your list of things to do and see.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the interesting hub, Karanda. I'd love to visit Australia but I doubt that I ever will, so I'm happy to read articles about it. I'm looking forward to your future hubs about the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Vern I hope you do get "down under" one day. It really is beautiful in the Whitsundays. The only stings I get is from mosquitoes so I should be able to give some firsthand information there. Always good to see you drop by and remind me of the wonders of our world.

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 

      6 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Hi Karanda! Monday Monday, here, and I guess it is probably, at least close to Tuesday Tuesday there. So did you get through January 30 without a sting or a bite or an attack?

      I hope some day to travel to "down under." I hear it is beautiful there. Pristine as you described it. If I do get there, I am not one for snorkeling or scuba diving, so I will enjoy the waters from the top! It will be interesting to see, if after I read your series, I feel any safer in those "waters" even though I will probably never get below the surface let alone see them. But who knows? Right? I do enjoy reading about it, vacarious way to adventure. Thanks for the interesting and informative hub.

      Whenever I see pictures or movies of all the creatures living beneath the surface, it is AMAZING. It always confirms my belief in the Big Guy or Big Gal or Big Spirit in the sky!

      Take care,


    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      I agree 100% Phoebe Pike - all of these are avoidable. Hopefully I can shed some light over the coming weeks and dispel the dangers of coming to the Whitsundays! It's beautiful here and well worth a visit.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      6 years ago

      Interesting list... almost all of these are avoidable if the proper precautions are taken. Except for the little blood sucker. That little guy will find you almost anywhere.


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