Famous fish of the Great Barrier Reef – meet Wally the Maori Wrasse

admin on February 6th, 2024

Wally the Maori Wrasse and his mob get around, not content to hang out in the warm waters of Tropical North Queensland, Wally’s hump headed cousins have been spotted in the Whitsundays too where he is called George.

Just like a young Labrador puppy that’s full of beans, loveable Wally the Maori Wrasse is a real character. Not one to shy away from the spotlight, apparently he’s been taking photo bombing tips from Green Island’s Gavin the Parrot Fish. Wally has become a bit of social media icon, popping up on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook in a starring role on the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s no wonder, given his film star good looks complete with Maori warrior-like facial markings combined with a beguiling charm. Wally is just made for fishy stardom!

Wally has carved out a lucrative social media career that has blossomed since he convinced the boss to put him on the Reef Magic Cruises payroll. With no use for pesky dollars that the rest of us labour for, Wally’s favoured currency is sardines. Reef Magic’s Marine Biologists conduct fish feeding demonstrations, distributing measured amounts of sardines from their Marine World pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef offshore from Cairns.

Invariably, Wally jostles for front position, getting himself front and centre for first dibs on the proffered bounty. When he’s had his fill of sardines he’s rather fond of sidling up close to snorkellers for a fishy canoodle.

‘No-one is spared Wally’s affection, he has such kissable big blue lips too! He's like our pet dog Jenny, loves people, loves the attention and is a real photo hog!’ according to one Reef Magic insider.

‘If you travel to Marine World, we can almost guarantee you will see him while snorkelling in the sheltered lagoon area. Wally is approximately 140cm long and weighs around 60-70kg! Don’t be intimidated by his size though, he's one VERY friendly fish!

Come and see for yourself with your family and book a tour to the Great Barrier Reef to meet Wally.

Unlike the sulky duck pouts of other wannabe starlets, Wally is a friendly superstar who’ll happily pucker up amongst divers and snorkellers.

‘You can tell when Wally has made himself known to the first snorkellers of the day from the excited screams as this large-eyed, bump headed, slimy, smooth yet completely friendly fish the size of a teenager comes in for a cuddle,’ says Jeff Cameron-Smith from Reef Magic.

‘Wally thrives on the attention and the experience provided to guests is the one thing they will remember on top of anything else from their day at Marine World.’   

Where does the name Maori Wrasse come from?

Maori Wrasse are so named for their striking facial markings which resemble those seen on traditional Maori warriors in New Zealand. They are easily identified by their large size, the sort of thickset blue lips that a B list celebrity would be proud of, along with two black lines that trail elegantly behind their eyes.

If you’re still confused, the prominent hump that appears on the forehead of larger adults is a dead giveaway. The colour of the hump head wrasse varies between a dull blue-green to more vibrant shades of green and purplish-blue.

The bump on Wally’s head contains an air and oil combination which acts in part as a flotation device, rather like an inbuilt ‘floatie’ that parents strap to children’s backs when they’re learning to swim.

This counteracts the weight of his pronounced jaw, allowing Wally to maintain optimum buoyancy without faceplanting the seabed. That would not be cool. Particularly with all the paparazzi-like attention he attracts.

Being the uber cool social media star that he is, it’s unlikely that you’ll see Wally gracing the cover of Who Weekly sans makeup, fins akimbo, bump devilishly dishevelled. No, that’s not Wally’s style at all.

He has a reputation to maintain! He’s also got one eye on a retirement plan with compounding interest in sardines.

Fascinating Facts About Wally

As a Humphead Maori Wrasse, Wally can live up to 25 years as a male and grow up to an impressive 2.3m and weigh up to 190kg, now thats a lot of sardines. 

Another amazing fact about Wally or all other Maori Wrasse is that they may have been a smaller female before they changed their sex to become male. Yes they truly can. This occurs when there are not enough males in one area and one of the females will become male.  

The female Maori Wrasse normally grows to around 1m and can live up to 32 years of age, yet they have a very slow breeding rates as they do not mature until they are around 4 to 6 years old. Thankfully Humphead Maori Wrasse are now a protected species on the Great Barrier Reef as they are a highly endangered species.    

Whats does Wally eat besides sardines? Maori Wrasse have a varied diet of small fish, crustaceans and marine invertebrates.- They have very strong jaws that they use to crush shells, and they have even adopted the method of banging shells on rocks to crack the shells.

As the young Maori Wrasse matures the colours on its body provide vibrant colour changes and patterns that Mother Nature has so beautifully created. they really are a picture perfect fish with bucket loads of personality.   

Come see Wally!

See Wally at Moore Reef off the coast of Cairns Tropical North Queensland. Book a day trip to the amazing Marine World activity pontoon at Moore Reef, Sunlover Cruises, or Great Adventures where Wally hangs out, and you'll be snorkelling with this friendly fishy in no time!  

There are also many more reef trips departing from Cairns daily view and book them all here.

And if you wish to see the Great Barrier Reef from the seat of a helicopter take a look at our Helicopter ride and Great Barrier Reef combo deals or our great value Family Friendly deals where your second child travels for Free (T&C's apply).



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