In 1957, Sir David Attenborough first visited and scuba dived on one of our planet’s most extraordinary creations, the Great Barrier Reef. Shrouded in mystery and mostly inaccessible, he always wanted to go back to further explore the ecosystem he describes as “like no other in the natural world”.

Sixty years on, using brand-new technology and the latest scientific research, David has the opportunity to unlock the secrets of the reef as he embarks on a personal journey that reveals the true extent of its diversity, characters and complexity along the way.

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For this series, David climbs aboard the Alucia, a 56-metre research and exploration vessel equipped with a state-of-the-art Triton submersible, laboratories and a helicopter. It will allow him to take to the seas and the skies to give a perspective on the Great Barrier Reef that has never been seen before and unprecedented access to some of the most remote parts of the Reef and it’s magical residents and visitors.

Meet one of the Great Barrier Reef's most menacing and fascinating inhabitants — the shark.
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Visit an interactive website to see VR footage and explore the Great Barrier Reef in amazing detail.

David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef combines cutting edge scientific research alongside innovative filming techniques. By using the very latest infrared cameras, the hatching of the iconic clownfish is witnessed for the very first time whilst time-lapse macro cameras will expose behaviour of the normally unseen tiny coral animals that built the entire reef and also reveal the most magical reproduction event on the planet, the annual coral spawn. Furthermore, the programme will show how a shrimp with vision like no other animal on the planet views the natural wonder.

The reef is home to some of the world’s most fascinating animals and David captures an array of creatures such as the manta ray, the epaulette shark that walks and the humpback whale that have made the Great Barrier Reef their home. The series also uses the latest satellite tracking data to follow the incredible journeys like those of the dwarf minke whales, green turtles and tiger sharks who travel thousands of kilometres to migrate there.

clownfish on reefClownfish on the reef

However, in the sixty years since David’s first visit, the reef is now seriously under threat. Reflecting on his unique experiences, he explains how the reef has lost almost half its coral since his first visit and will look at what the future holds for it. He is determined to discover how it can be saved. In his quest he consults the reef’s top scientists and visits its island research stations where researchers and their teams are trying to help corals cope with the climates rapid change. David’s journey also takes him to the deepest part of the reef where no one has ventured before, in the hi-tech Triton Submersible, to collect corals that may help scientists to better understand this natural wonder of the world.

David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef is made by Atlantic Productions.

Facts About the Great Barrier Reef
  • Is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem.
  • Covers 344,400 km2 in area.
  • Covers an area one and a half times the size of Britain.
  • Is the largest, most complex, living structure on the planet.
  • Is home to some 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands.
  • Extends south from the northern tip of Queensland in north-eastern Australia to just north of Bundaberg.
  • Is between 60 and 250 kilometres in width.
  • Has an average depth of 35 metres in its inshore waters, while on outer reefs, continental slopes extend down to depths of more than 2000 metres.

And supports

  • 1625 species of fish, including 1400 coral reef species.
  • 630 species of echinoderm (starfish, sea urchins).
  • 14 species of sea snakes.
  • 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds.
  • 6 of the world's 7 species of marine turtle.
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins.
  • 133 species of sharks and rays.