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This Virtual Tour of the Great Barrier Reef With David Attenborough Is the Escape We Need

By Maggie Fuller

Apr 8, 2020

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Maybe you can’t dive the Great Barrier Reef right now, but you can explore it on an interactive tour with David Attenborough. 

Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Maybe you can’t dive the Great Barrier Reef right now, but you can explore it on an interactive tour with David Attenborough. 

Explore one of the greatest wonders of the natural world on an engaging and in-depth interactive journey with a living legend.

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The recent popularity of virtual tours of national parks and museums is proof that you just can’t keep travelers from being curious about the world, even when they are stuck at home in the middle of a pandemic. 

One virtual experience making the rounds these days is something that even the most ardent ocean lover wouldn’t dream possible: a tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with the legendary natural historian and narrator Sir David Attenborough.

The Great Barrier Reef is 1,429 miles long and home to 1,500 species of fish, 600 coral species, and 30 different whale and dolphin species. On David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef: An Interactive Journey, which launched in 2015, visitors “board” the Alucia research expedition vessel to see, hear, and learn about the natural wonder in a five-chapter, multimedia saga.

Attenborough, who first visited the Great Barrier Reef more than 60 years ago, gives an introduction and voices different videos throughout the journey. 

From a main map view, which functions as a command center, you can track the distance and time you’ve been “sailing” through the chapters and see where you are on the reef. 

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the reef: its inhabitants, threats, and resilience, as well as research efforts aimed at saving the reef and ways to get involved. Scrolling through each chapter, you’ll find vibrant photographs, written blurbs, timelapses, videos, 360-degree VR views, and other interactive elements. 

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Watch a simulation of the color signals that mantis shrimp see, which are invisible to the human eye. Click around in a virtual ocean floor to hear the sounds clownfish use to move through their habitat. And see what it’s like to dive with minke whales.

The experience stresses the importance of conservation. You’ll also get a 360-degree virtual reality view of a 2014 coral bleaching event, control nitrate runoffs from land-based farms to see their effect on the reef, and watch the square kilometers tick up on the real-time tracker showing how much of the reef has been destroyed since the site launched in 2015 and since you visited the page moments before. 

There are hours of content in the interactive journey, but once you’ve explored it all, you might find yourself wanting to continue listening to Attenborough’s calm, relaxing voice. The Great Barrier Reef virtual tour was actually created as part of a four-episode Great Barrier Reef series, which was produced by the BBC and first aired in 2015. It is available on streaming platforms, including Amazon and Hulu with a subscription to Smithsonian Channel Plus. And, of course, there’s always Our Planet, an Attenborough classic, available on Netflix.

>>Next: Puffins, Koalas, and Pandas: Wildlife Webcams to Watch During Quarantine

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