The north Queensland town of Townsville sits within the wonderful Great Barrier Reef, but crucially, the reef is just too far offshore to get to on a day trip from the mainland. So, the city has decided that if we can't get to the Reef, then the Reef must come to us – by building the excellent Reef HQ Aquarium.
Admittedly, this aquarium isn't on the same scale as the ones you'll see in Singapore, Dubai or Sydney, but for a town of this size (less than 200,000 people) it's an excellent attraction. In fact, it's one of the few tourist attractions in Townsville, so if you're staying in town then it's become a Townsville must see.
Reef HQ claims to be the largest living coral reef of any aquarium in the world, and it does a good job of introducing us to the colourful sealife that inhabits the Great Barrier Reef (useful for all the passengers who will be seeing the real thing, tomorrow from Cairns). The large main tank has an underwater viewing tunnel which enables you to get the experience of being circled by a shark, or get up close to colourful fish nibbling away on the live coral.
Most of all, the aquarium is great at educating you on the wonderful variety of nature – fish in all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes, vibrant colours and fascinating life-cycles. We heard how some species all start off as females, then a few of them will turn into men when there's a requirement for males, while others don't even require males at all to reproduce – is this the future for mankind too?
In a town(sville) of few attractions, Reef HQ is a great place to spend a couple of hours – sheltering from the intense heat at this time of year, or from the rainstorm which was blowing towards us in the afternoon.
PS. Tracy had a great time at the Billabong Sanctuary, so here's a couple of her animal shots too.