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Big Mango, Big Art & Big Ideas - How art can help the reef

What does art have to do with reef recovery?

Reef Ecologic had a BIG idea – to engage with visitors and communities through the medium of artwork, reduce our impact on the marine environment and start conversation around what we can do to support the health of the reef. So, what does this look like?

Reducing impact and engaging visitors

Artists imagined and created amazing large-scale pieces, from giant coral polyps to oversized turtles. Through each piece themes of conservation, nature and indigenous heritage are interwoven to tell the story of our Whitsunday community. These pieces will become submerged and intertidal art at locations throughout the Whitsundays, creating new visitor experiences, reducing the footprint and pressure on existing reef as well as providing new substructure for coral growth. Imagine snorkeling over a giant sculptural polyp, 20,000 times actual size, while fish dart in and around the piece and new coral growth colonizes the surface!

Sharing the story

The team at Bowen Tourism & Business thought this was such a good idea, we wanted to be involved! How? We have a unique opportunity to share this story with our 40,000 visitors a year through our famous Big Mango information centre. So while the pieces wait to be installed in their underwater locations, they get to hang out with the original BIG thing itself, the Big Mango!

The artwork

‘Turtle Dream’, a 6m stainless steel sculpture by artist Col Henry, and ‘Maori Wrasse’ by Adriaan Vanderlugt are temporary outdoor exhibitions at Bowen’s Big Mango Visitor Information Centre. They join four smaller pilot pieces by Adriaan that were used by Reef Ecologic during the trial period at Langford Reef. Together with interpretive signage the installation has become a public education opportunity… as well as an amazing location for some pretty cool selfies! 


Six artworks in total have been commisioned for the project; including an intertidal piece that is planned to be installed at Bowen's own Horseshoe Bay. The other sculputres, of mixed medium and design, will be placed at sites including Langford Reef, Manta Ray Bay & Butterfly Bay in the Whitsundays. 

A shared vision

The project involves scientists, artists, traditional owners, tourism organisations, conservation groups, government bodies and the whole Whitsundays community. Together we create an experience to share with visitors as we tell our story of the reef. We invite you to visit, experience and learn with us.

The Whitsundays underwater art installations were made possible through joint Australian and Queensland Government funding.

Reef Ecologic specialises in providing expert advice to design and implement innovative solutions to environmental challenges facing tropical marine ecosystems and the people who love and depend upon them. Find out more about this, and other projects, here.

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