PHOTOS: Google Maps Brings Great Barrier Reef to the Surface

Image credit: Google Maps

Now, thanks to Google Maps, experiencing the Great Barrier Reef or any of the world's coral reef creations will not require flying to Australia.

Google Maps has teamed up with the Catlin Seaview Survey to create an underwater tour of the natural phenomenon.

The high-resolution, 360-degree photographs number in the thousands and include shots of the coral reefs near Hawaii and the Philippines.

"Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays," said a post on Google's blog.

The images - which were reportedly taken with an SVII, the first tablet-operated underwater camera - are available using Google Street View technology.

They are part of an effort by survey researchers to study the effects of climate change on the world's coral reefs and raise public awareness of the reefs' beauty and contributions to nature.

The underwater expeditions started this month and will conclude in December.

Image credit: Google Maps