A series of man-made tourist attractions announced for the Great Barrier Reef has some tour operators concerned the reef is becoming too much like a theme park, as attempts to bring more tourists to the natural wonder ramp up.
When Whitsundays dive instructor Tony Fontes first swam on the reef in the late 70s, his view of intricate coral mazes was interrupted only by other divers.
Forty years later, statues up to 6 metres long have been submerged in the underwater landscape off the Whitsundays and bookings will soon open for the first underwater accommodation on the reef.
Mr Fontes said the attractions were demonstrating the reef’s departure from pristine to humanised.
“In the past, it was simply the beauty of the reef, the diverse corals and amount of fish life, and things like sharks and manta rays and whales … is why you visit the reef,” he said.
“The tourism industry, desperate to maintain tourist numbers, is looking beyond the natural beauty of the reef because it’s not quite what it was.”
“The reef has a lot of natural values and that’s why it’s internationally recognised, but some of those natural values today are showing the effects of a range of pressures.” (BGRMP director Jon Day)