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How to find Nemo in 3D on the Great Barrier Reef

Nine years ago, few people knew about P. Shermans dental practice on 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney, and even fewer knew how to speak whale.

This month, Nemo and his friends are back in theatres in 3D so we decided to create a creature guide to the all-star reef cast and where to find them.

Nemo – Clownfish

Being a small fish in a big ane-ne-ne-mone is daunting enough – and when your family goes missing the reef can suddenly become a dark, scary place. While little Nemo had to ride the EAC all the way down to Sydney to re-unite with his family, real clownfish have come up with a solution that doesn’t involve leaving the comfort of home.

If the female in the colony dies, the dominant male becomes the female and a smaller male takes over the role of master and commander of the sea anemone. It’s funny because it’s true.

Where to go

Dory - Pacific Regal Blue Tang

Dory – Pacific Blue Tang

How many fish can swim fast, speak whale and be a good mate despite suffering from a severe case of goldfish memory? Of course, the ability to speak whale has never been proven, but the Pacific Blue Tang does have other cool abilities, like changing the intensity of its hue from light blue to dark purple. Given their propensity for forgetful and whimsical behaviour, you would be glad to know that Dory is commonly seen darting around the reef with large schools of likeminded individuals. Just keep swimming…

Where to go

Crush - Green turtle

Crush – Green Turtle

There’s nothing like getting your shell waxed at a cleaning station after a long ride on the EAC. These dudes generally live to the respectable age of 80 and are in no hurry to move unless there’s nearby coral to crunch on. The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven turtle species with thousands of them rocking up at Mon Repos in November every year for their annual hatching session.

Where to go

Anchor - Hammerhead shark

Anchor – Hammerhead Shark

Cutting fish from your diet is not easy when your two best mates are a Mako and a Great White. But this is a nice shark and no mindless eating machine.

Like most sharks, the stingray munching hammerhead is in fact an elusive species severely threatened by over-fishing and a rising demand for shark fin. Osprey Reef on the Great Barrier Reef offers one of the last places in the world to realise every diver’s wet dream:  schooling hammerheads in the hundreds.

Where to go

Mr Ray - Manta RayMr Ray – Manta Ray

Measuring up to nine metres between its wings and weighing up to 1,500 kilograms, manta rays glide through the ocean with less effort than a jet fighter on cruise control. Given their size and sheer beauty, manta ray encounters usually involve a lot of awe, underwater dancing and screaming through your regulator.

The best place to get close to mantas in Queensland is outside Lady Elliot Island on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, famous for its resident population of more than 40 individuals.

Where to go

Jacques - Cleaner shrimpJacques – Cleaner shrimp

No daily reef routine would be complete without a visit to the cleaning station. It’s a place to relax, kick back and get your parasites plucked by a band of obsessive compulsive cleaner shrimps. Like underwater dentists on call, these handy little crustaceans happily give attention to anyone who stops to open its mouth (including humans).

So next time you come across a cleaning station, deflate your BCD, take your regulator out and let Jacques climb into your mouth for some aquatic TLC. Très bien!

Where to go

  • Cleaning stations on the Great Barrier Reef.

Minke WhaleWhales – Humpbacks and Minke whales

The largest member of the Nemo cast is the helpful Blue Whale who kindly takes Marlin and Dory under his gills to ensure their safe passage to Sydney. With an estimated population of 5,000-12,000 blue whales left worldwide, sightings by divers are extremely rare.

The good news is that two of its smaller cousins, the minke and the humpback whale make an appearance along the Queensland coast in large numbers during the cooler winter months from June to September.

Where to go

  • Ribbon Reefs (Minke whale dive expeditions)
  • Hervey Bay (Humpback whale watching)

Anglerfish - FrogfishAnglerfish (Frogfish)

This ambush predator comes in a range of shapes, ranging from the pre-jurassic looking deep water villain in Nemo, to the shallow reef variety commonly known to divers as frogfish. An expert ambush predator, this hard-to-spot fish gulper uses its antenna to lure unassuming prey into suction range and swallow it whole.

The frogfish can be hard to spot as it’s excellent at blending in with its environment, but once sighted it provides an excellent opportunity for photographers and other critter spotters.

Where to go

And now, something to get you bubbling




  • Tim

    Dear TQ, you might be surprised to know that whales have their babies in the Whitsundays, they also have one of the largest green sea turtle population in the world. Surprisingly the reef does not start and stop at the southern end, a lot does happen between the Whitsundays to Cairns and it is not just mining.

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