If you are planning to stay in Australia for more than a week, you should certainly head up the coast and see the Great Barrier Reef. Visible from outer space, this 2000+ meter long reef has one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. You can witness this colorful congregation of thousands of year's worth of coral polyps as well as fish and other marine life in many ways, be it through scuba diving, snorkeling, glass-bottomed boat or even just walking on the reef in low tide. Cairns is probably the best place for a neophyte to start out, though other mainland towns on the reef are Townsville and MacKay. You can also visit one of the islands along the reef, such as the WhitSunday Islands, Hamilton Island or Magnetic Islands (we guarantee, you won't be able to stay away!).

The above websites will give you specific information on how to see the reef, but remember one thing about any water activity: Don't go alone! Most dive rental companies insist on seeing that you are PADI or otherwise certified before renting you gear, but there are introductory or resort dives where you need no certification and will be accompanied by a trained guide. These guides will tell you the basic rules of being underwater: namely, don't touch it if you don't recognize it, put everything back where you've found it, and don't wreck the reef. Don't be one of those jerks who thinks a little bit of 2000-year-old coral will bring out the drapes in your living room back home. Much like Gizmo, coral dies when out of water and in direct sunlight, so you will be left with a bit of grubby white non-descript rock and huge pangs of guilt.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW become a scuba diver?