29 Jun
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Animal Encounters You Can Have at Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island has long been a favourite holiday destination for both locals and tourists. That’s because this gorgeous island is a great place for people of all ages, with something to see and do for everyone. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a tropical island that is actually super easy to get to!

Fitzroy Island is located in the Coral Sea and is less than an hour from the shores of the mainland. To get here, you just need to jump aboard the Fitzroy Flyer Ferry from the Cairns Marina. The island itself is around 3.39 square kilometres and is almost entirely covered by a National Park – which obviously provides endless avenues of entertainment.

On the island you will find the Fitzroy Island resort, which offers many different types of accommodation; a bar and restaurant; a sports hub; a tropical jungle to explore; and some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever set eyes on.

And while we could spend all day talking about the island, we actually want to shift our focus to some of the amazing creatures you can see when you explore the waters that surround the island. That’s because the Coral Sea is the home of the Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest reef system.

You’re probably somewhat familiar with this amazing natural attraction that can be seen from space, but if not, you can always read some interesting facts we’ve put together about the Reef here and here.

Here on Fitzroy Island, we’re in very close proximity of parts of the Reef, with coral gardens only metres from our shores. So, today, we thought we would tell you about some of the amazing marine creatures that call the Reef home, which you could encounter when you visit the Reef. And we’ll also tell you how you might be able to spot them too!

You could meet these marine creatures at Fitzroy Island

The Reef is home to literally thousands of different animal species, and with the ocean itself being such a vast and largely untouched place, there are so many marine species that we don’t even know about yet.

Today though, we will focus on some of the creatures that we know frolic in the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.


If there is one thing the Reef is known for – other than the coral reefs that is – it’s the fish. There are so many different species – more than 1500 actually – that call the Reef home and it’s actually pretty incredible as to how many different kinds of fish you could encounter in one place.

These fish come in all shapes and sizes and can be categorised into groups or families of fish. These different groups include:

  • Angelfish
  • Butterfly fish
  • Cardinal fish
  • Clown fish/ Anemone fish
  • Damselfish
  • Gobies
  • Groupers and cods
  • Parrotfish
  • Sharks
  • Surgeonfish
  • Triggerfish
  • Trout
  • Wrasse

You may have heard of some of these fish – the clownfish and the blue tang surgeonfish are two of the most well-known species, having been made even more famous in Finding Nemo, with Nemo being a clown fish and Dory a blue tang surgeonfish.

There is no way that you will come to Fitzroy Island and not see a fish of some sort, it’s a given!


Who doesn’t love the idea of a seeing a friendly, playful dolphin in the water? Well, in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, you could do just that as the warm temperatures of the water makes it a popular destination for dolphins, and other marine mammals, like whales.

While on the island, you’re more likely to see a dolphin from a distance while out on a boat. Or you could witness the annual whale migration that takes place between June and October. During this time, whales make their way from the Antarctic waters to the warmer tropical waters of the Coral Sea to birth their young and feed. And from the summit of the island, if the timing is right, you might spot a whale or two.


Made almost entirely of water, one of the oldest living creatures on Earth can be found in the Great Barrier Reef – the jellyfish.

In the Reef there are more than 100 different types of jellyfish. Some of these jellyfish serve as food to other marine creatures while others provide protection to small fish who swim with them, using their tentacles as a form of camouflage and shield.

Jellyfish are interesting creatures as they don’t have many body parts, like brains or hearts, but they do have the ability to see.

If you’ve heard of jellyfish, you probably know that there are some species to steer clear of, including the blue bottles, box jellyfish and the tiny Irukandji jellyfish. If you visit between November to May, this is considered to be marine stinger season, so you’d be best to make sure you wear a stinger suit.

Molluscs and Giant Clams

One of the most diverse animal types that live in the Great Barrier Reef are molluscs. Molluscs are animals that have soft bodies but may also have a hard shell to protect them. Some of the most well-known types of molluscs are oysters, snails, octopuses and clams.

In the Great Barrier reef there are believed to be anywhere between 5000 and 10,000 different kinds of molluscs in the waters.

One of the most intriguing of these is the giant clam. While you might have seen a clam on a cartoon, a giant clam is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Well, it still looks like a clam with its wavy lipped opening, however, giant clams can grow up to being larger than 1 metre in length. They can even weigh up to 200kg.

Interestingly, the mantle of a clam, which is the flesh inside the shell, is different for every single clam, with no two ever having the same pattern.

Five Stunning Locations to See Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef Near Cairns

Sea Turtles

The sea turtle is easily one of the most popular marine creatures of not only the Great Barrier Reef but also of the marine world. The gentle and majestic nature of a sea turtle is intriguing and given their vulnerable and/or endangered status, many people have become aware of the dangers they face and the need to protect them.

There are seven species of sea turtles in the world and six of them happen to frequent the Reef waters. These are the green turtle, the loggerhead turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the flatback turtle, the Pacific ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle.

Fitzroy island also happens to be the home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which will tell you more about shortly!

Manta Rays

Manta rays are known to frequent the waters of the Reef and the island here at Fitzroy. The manta ray is considered to be quite intelligent and has a great long-term memory. They use both sight and smell to get used to their environment and are actually technically a type of fish.

Though they have ray in the name, manta rays are not harmful to humans, like stingrays can be. They are gentle and you can comfortably swim or snorkel near a manta ray.

Manta rays can vary in size, and depending on the species, can have a wingspan of up to 29 feet. They also have the ability to move at great speeds too.



It’s easy to forget, but coral is actually an animal too. Coral is made up of tiny invertebrate animals that are called polyps. To form the coral like structure, the polyp uses limestone (calcium carbonate) that is in the seawater to develop a hard skeleton. This skeleton protects the soft polyp body.

In the Great Barrier Reef, there are many different kinds of coral which are usually categorised as being either soft coral or hard coral. Soft corals have 8 tentacles while hard corals have 6, which is one of the differentiating features between hard and soft corals.

Hard corals tend to serve as the building block of coral reefs, while the soft corals act as a food source for many of the marine creatures.

The Great Barrier Reef is estimated to have around 600 different kinds of coral species, with around 350 types being hard and the remainder being soft kinds, though the exact number is unknown.

The survival of the coral is important for the Reef and many restoration and protection programs are in place to ensure the survival of the Reef. You can learn more about Reef Restoration Program here.

School Holiday Activities for Kids Near Cairns – You Can’t Beat Fitzroy Island Snorkel Straight Off the Beautiful Beaches of Fitzroy Island

How you could see the marine creature of the Reef at Fitzroy Island

When you’re on Fitzroy Island, you’ve got access to a range of activities and experiences where you have the chance to discover any of the creatures we’ve mentioned today, as well as many others.

Here’s some of the ways you might meet these marine animals.

1.      Snorkel

If there is one water activity that you cannot miss when you’re on Fitzroy Island, it’s got to be snorkelling.

Snorkelling is great for people of all ages because if you can swim, you’re going to be able to snorkel with a little practice. Once you get used to the mask, you can spend as long as you like gliding through the waters around the island.

You can hire snorkel gear from the Fitzroy Island Sports Hub and hit the waters yourself, or you can take part in various guided tours. There is a tour option for beginners as well as one that is suited to people with more intermediate snorkelling skills. Either way, you can enjoy one of our tour leaders taking you to places around the island to see what you can find, and you can learn all about the marine world from them too.

Read more about snorkelling tour options here.

2.      Scuba Diving

Another truly special activity on the island is scuba diving. The Fitzroy Island Sports Hub actually PADI accredited and offers a variety of dive options, including programs for kids and learn to dive programs and certified ocean dives.

With options for people of all ages, if you’ve ever wanted to try out scuba diving, Fitzroy Island is the best place to give it a go. Plus being in such an amazing natural environment, you’ve got an incredible ocean just waiting to be explored.

Learn more about scuba diving here.

3.      Turtle Rehabilitation Centre

Did you know you can meet some of the inhabitants of the Great Barrier Reef without stepping foot off the island or getting wet?

Well, at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which is on the island, you can learn all about the sea turtles that live at the Reef as well as learn how the Centre helps to take care of these endangered animals.

The Rehab Centre is an incredible facility that is volunteer run and provides care to sick or injured sea turtles. Sea turtles face a large number of threats, both from humans and other animals, so the centre can be quite busy taking care of them.

At the Centre you can not only learn about sea turtles but you can even meet some of the residents who are in care.

You will need to book this experience though because it is a popular one! Learn more here.

4.      Glass bottomed boats

Another way you can have some animal encounters without getting too wet is on a glass bottomed boat journey.

You an enjoy a leisurely cruise guided tour where you can learn about different fish, marine creatures and corals that live in the waters, and you can of course see them as well. The boat features a glass panel in the middle of the floor so you can keep an eye over the world that you’re gliding over.

Great for people of all ages, including small children, this tour is run twice daily! Find out more.

5.      Stand Up Paddle Boarding

If you want to try another water sport that you might be something a little different, you need to be ok with getting wet.

Stand up paddleboarding is a popular activity at Fitzroy Island as the waters are quite gentle. Once you get used to standing up or kneeling on the board you might actually end up avoiding spending too much time in the water!

You can paddle around the waters and even reach places that are hard to get to by boat or swimming.

People often see a lot of the marine world under the surface from their SUP board.

You can hire all the equipment you need from the FISH, and you can even join a guided stand-up paddle board. Learn more about the tour here.

Come to Fitzroy Island in Tropical North Queensland Today

As you can see, Fitzroy Island is a gateway for you to be able to discover the incredible underwater marine world of the Great Barrier Reef.

Come to the island and see the Reef with us today.

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