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Day 3: Lizard Island and Ribbon Reef No.9!

A few of us woke up very early in the morning for the Lizard Island hike! Since the weather remained dry overnight, we did not have to worry about slipping on the granite rock. Captain Cook used Lizard Island as a gazing point to see where to direct the ship, so they could leave the barrier islands. The hill top of the island was very tall and the hike required medium effort. There were plenty of cicadas all over the island! They buzzed loudly even before sunrise! There were a variety of different orchid and passionflowers that you could take pictures of along the way. There were even rainbow bronze scale insects that were on the eucalyptus plants.
After two hours of walking, we reached the top of Lizard Island! We could see the resort, Coral Expeditions II Ship, and the research station. There was a book to sign and a few areas to pose for pictures at the very top. Some of the flowers and grasses looked very unusual and there were cicadas everywhere! It reminded me of the seventeen year cicadas we have at home in Illinois! On our way down to meet up with the rest of the group, we saw many spikey caterpillars that were munching on many shrubs. Sunbirds, honeyeaters, terns, Oceanic robins, and pheasant coucals were all over the island.
When we met up with everyone, people were either kayaking, tanning, or snorkeling. I wanted to do something different, so I went to explore the mangroves nearby. The mangroves had many fish swimming upstream. The mouth of the mangroves had a few sharks that were waiting for any unsuspecting to fish to pass them. I heard many of the flying foxes in the mangroves squeaking and flapping their wings. The mudflats contained a lot of fiddler crabs. They were very fun to watch and very quick runners. I also found out why they called this place Lizard Island! There were yellow spotted monitor lizards here. They were large and harmless. They looked like a small komodo dragon! If you got too close to them, they inflate and make a large hissing sound. I found that out, because one was sunning itself in the walkway and I had to get back to the ship and around the lizard. Towards the end of our stay on the island, we took a glass bottom boat tour and saw many coral trout, giant clams, a green turtle, and many half and half puller chromis. I really liked the slingjaw wrasse. I hope I get to see more of that fish in the future. The slingjaw wrasse’s mouth extends, making the fish look like a vacuum cleaner at the car wash.

Ribbon Reef #9
After the many adventures on Lizard Island, it was time to move onto our next leg of the journey!! Ribbon Reef #9 was the next part of our journey! The water was crystal clear and you could look down the side of the reef for thirty feet. The water was very calm and warm! It was perfect for snorkeling!! Every coral and fish was overwhelmingly colorful! I swam through many areas and noticed huge brain coral, blue staghorn coral, and boulder coral everywhere! There were a lot of soft corals as well. The dominant coral that I did see was the elephant ear coral! There were a few comb jellies that floated by, but I did not get a sting from them. Before we dove in, we had the option of purchasing a stinger suit for jellyfish stings. I bought one for $30.00 Australian dollars and I found that out to be a good investment. It was stinger season on the reef and the jellyfish suit prevented and jellyfish stings. It was rare to encounter stinging jellyfish on the reef, but I bought it as a precaution. I did get stung a few times around that mouth by small hydra jellies. It felt like a static shock that lasted about ten seconds. No worries, it did not hurt and it left no mark.
There were a variety of fish that could be viewed here. The blue streaked cleaner wrasse were plentiful and always cleaning other fish of parasites. There were orange finned anemone fish that were hiding in the sea anemones there. I loved looking at the giant clams and feathers stars that were all over the reef. You could see larger fish like grouper, large wrasse, and parrotfish by the dropoff areas. Above the mushroom, table, and staghorn coral, there were hundreds of chromis and anthias fish dodging in and out of the coral. I saw many rare fish here that I did not see on any other reef. Some of my favorite fish on the stop were the Emperor angelfish, blue line demoiselle, peacock grouper, hexagon grouper, bird wrasse, yellow margin triggerfish, and the slingjaw wrasse.

After snorkeling, we headed to the next reef. We were all relaxing and chilling on the upper deck. There were plenty of great views to see along the way. There were a few baitballs (group of small fish) that I could see in the distance. I could see all of the ocean/ pelagic bird species diving and swimming up with mouthfuls of fish. We had a nice dinner with the captain and we got to visit with him. He had many interesting fishing stories to tell us. He also talked about how he became captain of the ship, which was interesting to hear! The dessert was the best! It was chocolate mousse with a frozen honey jellyfish on the top! I was very exhausted at the end of the day, but I was very excited for the next adventure!

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