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Magnetic Island Coral Reef Field Guide

Lizard Island - Cod Hole -Ribbon Reefs

Eco-Educational Dive Trips


Our premier expedition combines diving at three world renowned locations - Lizard Island, the Cod Hole, and the Ribbon Reefs. Guests stay at the Lizard Island Research Station and take part in a detailed program of guided dives, lectures, and underwater research, before joining the Mike Ball Dive vessel Spoilsport for a 3 day live aboard cruise back to Cairns, visiting the Cod hole and several of the Ribbon reefs.

Expedition Packages

10 day trip

  • 1 night Cairns
  • 4 nights Lizard Island Research Station
  • 3 nights on Spoilsport - Cod Hole & Ribbon Reef cruise
  • 2 nights Cairns

12 day trip

  • 1 night Cairns
  • 6 nights Lizard Island Research Station
  • 3 nights on Spoilport - Cod Hole & Ribbon Reef cruise
  • 2 nights Cairns

14 day trip

  • 1 night Cairns
  • 8 nights Lizard Island Research Station
  • 3 nights on Spoilsport - Cod Hole & Ribbon Reef cruise
  • 2 nights Cairns


Prices 2009

Group Size Expedition Length (Days)
10 12 14
4 $4,605 $5,460 $6,271
6 $3,790 $4,450 $5,085
8 $3,380 $3,950 $4,495
10 $3,135 $3,645 $4,135

Expedition Program


Our expedition starts in Cairns, a vibrant tropical city at the junction of the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics World Heritage Areas of North Queensland. You will be met at Cairns airport by our Marine Biology team, and transferred to the Cairns Plaza Hotel for the first night's stay. The hotel is right by the water on the Cairns esplanade, and a quick 5 minute walk from the main downtown shopping, recreation and eating areas.

Sunrise from the Cairns Plaza Hotel

For general visitor Information on Cairns, see the following links:




Lizard Island

The next morning, we transfer back to Cairns airport, and board our charter flight (55mins) to Lizard Island with Skytrans Aviation, arriving around 10am. The low level flight over the Great Barrier Reef offers spectacular views of the reef complex and Lizard Island.

Platform Reefs on the flight to Lizard Island.


Lizard Island complex (South & Palfrey Islands at right).


We are met by the friendly station staff, and have a short 4WD transfer to the Lizard Island Research Station, a facility of the Australian Museum. LIRS is widely regarded as the ultimate coral reef research station, and scientists come from all over the world to research its highly diverse reef communities. Accommodation at the station is in clean, modern quad-share rooms, and we share our house and cooking facilities with the other researchers that may be using the station


After unpacking our gear and food, we attend the welcome lecture and safety briefing from the Station Directors and Field Course staff.

Lizard Island Research Station and station beach

Daily program

While at Lizard Island, our daily program consists of morning and afternoon dives, with a reef ecology lecture and lunch in the middle of the day. Our scientific staff have been conducting long term research on the biology of giant clams and reef fishes at Watson's Bay, and you will be instructed in the data collection techniques and be able to participate directly in the research program at this special dive site.

Giant Clams, common at Watson's Bay.


Guests conducting reef ecology studies

At 11.30 each day, the Field Course staff conduct a 1-hour powerpoint lecture in the Station theatre. Topics covered include:


Lizard Island Snorkelling Sites

Lizard Island is renowned for its high biodiversity, and most of the reefs around the island are fully protected in "no-take" marine park zones. Our scientific guides have been diving Lizard for over 10 years, and will direct you to all the best locations. During our stay, you will see wonderful examples of reef front, reef flat, and lagoonal coral communities, and fish communities with more than 300 species, including the larger predators such as groupers, barracuda, and sharks. Marine turtles are also common in the lagoon, and it is usual to find 5-10 green turtles grazing seagrass on the shallow sand flats right off the station beach.

Dive conditions along the reef front at Lizard Island.


Reef fauna - cleaner shrimp & fox-face rabbitfish


Megafauna - green turtle & blacktip reef shark

A trip to Lizard Island is not complete without a hike to the summit, which is named Cook's Look after the famous sea captain and explorer, who climbed here to scout for an opening through the Great Barrier Reef. Cook passed the island in 1770, and gave it the name Lizard Island in recognition of the large number of monitor lizards or goannas which are found here. The island is also a significant sacred site for the Dingaal aboriginal people, and we discuss the 10,000 year indigenous history of the island while looking at the ceremonial grounds located near the summit.

A goanna (Gould's monitor), and a student group on the summit of Lizard Island.


On the final evening, we conclude the trip to Lizard Island with a tropical beach-side bbq, where guests are able to mingle with the researchers and discuss reef ecology in a relaxed, informal setting.

 Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs

After your Eco-Educational dive program, you will join the Mike Ball Dive Expeditions vessel Spoilsport right at Lizard Island for a 3 night cruise back to Cairns via the Ribbon Reefs. Supersport is a large stable catamaran, and is the most awarded dive vessel operating in Northern Australia. The cruise includes 11 dives (2 night dives) at locations such as the Cod Hole, Challenger Bay, Pixie Pinnacle, and the Fish Markets. These outer reef locations offer crystal clear visibility, vertical drop-offs, and diverse marine life unsurpassed in the whole Indo Pacific region.

The reef slope at the Ribbon Reefs

For more information on the Ribbon Reefs cruise, click the link below.

Cod Hole expedition Main Page