The Great 8
The Great 8 are the Great Barrier Reef’s living icons. The creatures we all want to see! Ranging from reptile to mammals, from little to large, the Great 8 wish list reflects the outstanding diversity of the reef. Have you always wanted to swim with a Maori Wrasse, or see the magnificent Humpback Whales in their natural environment? Below is everything you need to know about one of the Great 8 and how to increase your chances of seeing them!
The Maori Wrasse is the largest of the wrasse family, and with over 600 different species of wrasse worldwide that’s quite the status! Sometimes known as the Napoleon Wrasse or the Hump Headed Wrasse, the scientific name for this friendly fish is Cheilinus undulates. It is fair to say all these names are all a bit of a mouthful! So on many reefs across the GBR due to their inquisitive nature, the dominant males get a more personal name.
George is the resident Maori Wrasse found in Manta Ray Bay, which if the weather permits, is a frequent stop on our Northern Exposure tour. George is easily identifiable as the large dominant male in the bay. Green and blue in colour, with a large bump on his head it is pretty hard to miss this friendly fella! The intricate pattern on his face representing Maori war paint (hence the name) uniquely identifies each individual. Growing up to six feet in size, the males are one of the largest fish you are likely to encounter on the reef.
The females are generally about half the size and are grey, red or brown in colour. Interestingly, these fish are protogynous hermaphrodites meaning they start life as a female but can change into a male later in life. The males are generally very solitary creatures, with, in most cases, just the one male per territory. Larger females can go through the change and challenge for the spot when the male becomes old, weak or dies.
These fish are also classed as a key indicator species by marine park managers across the world. Heavily sort after by the fishing industry some parts of the world have caused a population decline through unsustainable fishing practices. Although protected in Queensland since 1998 the relatively slow reproduction rate of the Maori Wrasse, unfortunately, means this species is considered endangered.
Ocean Rafting conducts regular reef health surveys with Manta Ray Bay being our nominated site for the Eye on the Reef Tourism Weekly Survey. Since we joined the program in 2007 and there have been consistent sightings of both male and female Maori Wrasse. Manta Ray Bay remains a popular bay with Ocean Rafting and visitors due to its abundance of marine life, underwater artwork and coral restoration projects.