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Snorkeling with clownfish.

Great Barrier Reef: Cairns - Hinchinbrook Island - Lizard Island - Cairns

Weekend Departure - Example 8 Day Cruise aboard Coral Expeditions II
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For explorers with more time and a great sense of adventure, this 8-day cruise offers the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience! Aboard this Australian small ship, the Coral Expeditions II, discover everything that this memorable region has to offer - the best parts of the reef, spectacular rainforest trails, and beautiful tropical islands including Lizard and Dunk.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Embark in Cairns | Thetford Reef
Day 2 : Hinchinbrook Channel
Day 3 : Dunk Island | Nathan Reef
Day 4 : Fitzroy Island | Cairns
Day 5 : Historic Cooktown | Great Barrier Reef
Day 6 : Lizard Island | Ribbon Reefs
Day 7 : Ribbon Reefs
Day 8 : Disembark in Cairns


  • Take the plunge with a dive instructor in Thetford Reef´s waters
  • Explore Hinchinbrook Island's towering cliffs and mangrove ecosystems
  • View the reef´s coral gardens and marine life in a glass bottom boat
  • Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef's pristine and crystal-clear waters


Coral Expeditions II

Places Visited

  • Australia
  • South Pacific
  • Cairns
  • Cooktown
  • Dunk Island
  • Fitzroy Island
  • Hinchinbrook Channel
  • Lizard Island
  • Nathan Reef
  • Pelorus Island
  • Rachel Carson Reef
  • Ribbon Reef No 3
  • Ribbon Reef No 9
  • Thetford Reef


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Snorkeling with clownfish. A starfish on the Great Barrier Reef Snorkel off of Australia's beautiful coast Uncover the hidden secrets of the Great Barrier Reef Snorkel the clear, tropical waters

Day 1 Embark in Cairns | Thetford Reef

  • Ship
  • 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Board the Coral Expeditions II small ship for a mid-morning departure from Cairns. While departing Cairns and cruising Trinity Bay, settle in and discover “home” for the next four nights. After a delicious lunch arrive at the exclusive Great Barrier Reef mooring at Thetford Reef and Sudbury Cay. Join the Marine Biologist aboard the glass bottom boat for a first encounter with the reef before gathering on the snorkel deck to participate in a fish feed. Discover some of the 1500 species of fish that live on the reef, including spangled emperor, giant trevally, and the hump-headed (Maori) wrasse as they are hand fed by the Marine Biologist.

Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon to snorkel and scuba dive in the shallow waters for up-close views of the hundreds of varieties of colorful corals and tropical fish. The experienced crew provides assistance, advice, and guided snorkeling tours for less experienced swimmers. In the evening, join the crew and traveling companions in the top deck lounge as the sun spectacularly sets over the reef before sitting down to the Captain´s Welcome Seafood Buffet.

Day 2 Hinchinbrook Channel

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Awaken this morning to the spectacular Hinchinbrook Channel, discovering Hinchinbrook Island’s towering cliffs and mangrove ecosystems. Subject to tides, cruise the length of the channel, separating the Australian mainland and the island, one of the most diverse marine environments on the Australian coast. Keep an eye out for myriad marine life including crocodiles, dolphins, turtles and dugongs, all of which feed on the region’s plentiful sea grasses and can often be seen frolicking in these waters.

Enjoy the afternoon to discover Coral Expeditions' very own tropical paradise, Pelorus Island. Gather on the beach for a gourmet Aussie beach BBQ, freshly prepared by the Captain. Explore the surrounding rainforest on a guided nature walk. Pelorus’ fringing reef, in the shallow waters just meters off the beach, offers some fantastic snorkeling opportunities. Admire the colorful corals from a kayak or the glass bottom boat with the Marine Biologist, accompany the dive instructor on an unforgettable scuba dive, or simply relax on the long stretch of golden beach.

Day 3 Dunk Island | Nathan Reef

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Join naturalist guides on a fascinating rainforest walk discovering Dunk Island’s unique flora and fauna. Perhaps see the brightly-colored blue-winged Ulysses butterfly, impossible to miss against the ancient rainforest background. Keen birdwatchers should keep an eye out for many of the up to 100 species of native birds recorded on the island, including the yellow-bellied sunbird, emerald dove and orange-footed scrubfowl.

Following lunch, discover Nathan Reef, which has some of the most colorful coral gardens that can be found anywhere along the entire length of the reef. View many of the 400 different species of coral living in this World Heritage-listed wonderland. Venture in to the warm tropical waters to explore the corals and marine life on a guided snorkeling tour and join the Marine Biologist for a glass bottom boat tour.

For the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, accompany the dive instructor on an unforgettable scuba dive. Discover some of the amazing creatures living on the reef at the on-board display tank. Enjoy the rare opportunity for a close up look at sea cucumbers, brightly-colored starfish and other marine life. Laze away the late afternoon on the sun deck, enjoying the comfortable on-board facilities including the spa pool and sun lounges. Tonight, gather in the dining room for another sumptuous dinner while settling in for a final night cruising the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 4 Fitzroy Island | Cairns

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Travel ashore to explore beautiful Fitzroy Island. Surrounded by a reef system that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Fitzroy Island offers wonderful bush-walking opportunities and idyllic white sandy beaches. Enjoy time to explore, relax on the beach, or perhaps enjoy a swim in the sheltered waters or a snorkel over the island’s fringing reefs.

This afternoon enjoy time to explore Cairns at your own before departing again on the Coral Expeditions II. Enjoy views of Double Island and the pretty seaside village at Palm Cove as the sun sets over the Macalister Range. Enjoy the Captain’s Seafood Buffet.

Day 5 Historic Cooktown | Great Barrier Reef

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Take the morning to discover historical Cooktown, which is steeped in history with buildings dating back to the 1870s. It was here that the famous explorer Captain James Cook took refuge during his voyage of discovery after claiming Australia as a British colony in 1770. Visit Cooktown’s fascinating historical museum, featuring original artifacts from Cook’s ship – Endeavour. See the original anchor and cannon, jettisoned overboard after Endeavour struck a reef and began taking on water. Perhaps visit the Botanic Gardens, and catch a glimpse of some native Australian wildlife including kangaroos and wallabies.

This afternoon snorkel over the reef and visit one of the remote uninhabited islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy glass bottom boat tours or set in for an optional scuba diving in the reef´s tropical waters.

Day 6 Lizard Island | Ribbon Reefs

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Awaken moored beside beautiful Lizard Island. The energetic may join the guides on a walk to “Cook’s Look” on the island’s peak (hiking shoes or boots are recommended). It was from here, the highest lookout on this part of the reef, that Captain Cook was able to navigate a safe passage back through the treacherous waters after repairing the Endeavour near Cooktown over 200 years ago. A photographer’s delight, the views from the lookout over the World Heritage-listed reef and surrounding tropical islands are magnificent.

Lizard Island’s fringing reef, in the shallow waters just meters off the beach, offers some fantastic snorkeling opportunities. Discover giant clams and a profusion of fish. Simply relax on the beach, join the Marine Biologist for a glass bottom boat tour, or for the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, accompany the Dive Instructor on an unforgettable SCUBA dive.

Cruise to Ribbon Reef No. 9, a spectacular and seldom-visited part of the reef where activities include more snorkeling and scuba dive opportunities and glass bottom boat tours with the Marine Biologist.

Day 7 Ribbon Reefs

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Great Barrier Reef is not actually one continuous reef, but a series of thousands of individual coral cays stretching over 1800 miles between the town of Bundaberg and the tip of Australia at Cape York. Visit two of the most spectacular sections of the reef, Ribbon Reef No. 3 and Rachel Carson Reef. Explore the coral gardens and marine life with guided snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours. The Marine Biologist explains the natural history and evolution of the reef and local wildlife, which includes sea turtles, giant clams, rays, and over 200 different species of native birds.

Today is your last opportunity to experience the reef through scuba diving, so allow your dive instructor to guide you on the experience of a lifetime. This evening, enjoy a final memorable night cruising the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 8 Disembark in Cairns

  • 1 Breakfast
Say farewell to the Captain, crew and new-found friends before disembarking at Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal at 8:00am.

Coral Expeditions II

Per person starting at
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Five cabins, located on Deck C. 10.5-14 sqm, bunk beds or twin beds.
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Four staterooms, located on Deck C. 14 sqm, twin or double beds.
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Upper Deck Stateroom
Nine Upper Deck staterooms located on Deck B. 14 sqm, with twin or double beds.
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Deluxe Stateroom
Four Deluxe staterooms located on Deck B. 15 sqm, with twin or double beds.


Solo Travelers:
A 50% single supplement is charged or select the “Single Guest Match” program. Single Guest Match is available for guests who have flexible travel dates and are willing to share a cabin with another guest of the same gender. Passengers are placed on a standby list and notified if a match becomes available. Once confirmed, they are charged at the twin-share rate (no single supplement). Cabin category requests are accepted.

Important Fare Information:
Rates are posted based off of the current exchange rates from Australian Dollars. Please contact us for current exchange rates.

  • Accommodation in selected room grade for the number of nights as listed in each itinerary
  • All meals
  • 24 hour soft drinks, tea, and barista-style coffee
  • Captain’s welcome and farewell drinks
  • Access to islands, marine, and national parks
  • Guided tours on Explorer expedition vessel, Zodiacs, glass-bottom boat, and kayaks
  • Touring as described in each itinerary
  • Services of expedition staff and lecturers including briefings and knowledge-sharing sessions
  • Port taxes and government charges imposed by government authorities (Australian GST at 10%)
  • Pre and post flights, transfers and hotels
  • Entry visas/travel permits
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to phone and internet communications and bar charges (outside of the included drinks package as highlighted), laundry charges and souvenir purchases
  • The Government Environmental Management Charge (EMC) of AUD19.50 per person (payable on board)
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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