Exploring the Ribbon Reefs of Australia aboard the Coral Expeditions II


Discover the underwater wonders of the legendary Great Barrier Reef on exciting snorkeling and dive excursions far from the tourist track. Come face to face with the massive groupers at Code Hole and, with luck, swim with the curious minke whales of Ribbon Reef. Take nature walks on Lizard Island, keeping an eye out for Australian monitor lizards, and enjoy the fascinating Aboriginal art on remote Stanley Island.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.


Days 1-2, Jul 10-11, 2018
Depart USA

Board your independent flight to Australia, losing a day as you cross the International Date Line.

Day 3, Jul 12, 2018
Cairns, Australia

Arrive in Cairns and transfer to the Shangri-La Cairns for dinner and overnight.

Day 4, Jul 13, 2018
Cairns / Embark Coral Expeditions II

The Daintree Rainforest is one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, and you will spend a full day seeking out the region’s unique flora and fauna. At Cooya Beach, join members of the Kubirri Warra tribe for a fascinating tour of their private estate. Learn about ancient Aboriginal traditions as you explore beach, mangrove, coastal reef, mudflats, and tidal lagoons.

Or, choose to take a ride along the Kuranda Scenic Railway, passing spectacular tropical forest, majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic gorges. Then visit the Kuranda Koala Gardens for up-close views of these adorable Australian marsupials, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and a variety of reptiles, including freshwater crocodiles.

Embark the Coral Expeditions II in the afternoon and set sail.

Day 5, Jul 14, 2018
Rachel Carson Reef

Named after the famous American conservationist, Rachel Carson, this well-protected platform reef is the perfect site for your first check-out dive, or to practice your snorkel skills.

Day 6, Jul 15, 2018
Ribbon Reef #3 / Ribbon Reef #5

The Ribbon Reefs are long, thin strips of reef that form the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef and lie on the edge of the continental shelf, an average of 30 to 60 miles away from the coast. Covered in colorful corals, these reefs attract a plethora of marine life, both large and small.

Drop in for a sunrise dive at Steve’s Bommie, an isolated pinnacle which offers a wealth of macro life like anemonefish, nudibranchs, and pipefish; schooling trevally, batfish, snappers, and fusiliers; and large pelagics, most notably barracudas and white-tip reef sharks.

After lunch, explore Ribbon Reef #5 on an afternoon dive, snorkel, or glass-bottom boat excursion. Discover a wealth of healthy corals including brain, staghorn, boulder, and mushroom, as well as colorful soft corals. The corals provide shelter for shimmering clouds of chromis and anthias, while shoals of fusiliers, trevally, barracuda, mackerel, sharks, batfish, and parrotfish can be seen cruising near the dropoff areas. Emperor angelfish, blueline demoiselle, hexagon grouper, bird wrasse, yellowmargin triggerfish, and slingjaw wrasse are other species frequently spotted in this area.

Day 7, Jul 16, 2018
Lizard Island

Beautiful Lizard Island was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770, and your morning begins with an optional hike to the highest point of the island, known as Cook’s Look, where the mariner attempted to find a path through the maze of beautiful, but deadly reefs. After breakfast, dive or snorkel among legions of colorful tropical fish and check out the giant clam gardens near the beach. Other activities include walking along the island’s powdery white-sand beaches, or hiking up to Chinaman’s Ridge, searching for goannas (Australian monitor lizards) and a multitude of birds, such as sunbirds, honeyeaters, pheasant coucals, and a variety of terns along the way.

Day 8, Jul 17, 2018
Stanley Island

Take a short walk to view several spectacular rock art sites on Stanley Island. The huge Yintayin, or “Ship,” rock shelter features images of ships painted in red and white ochre on the red sandstone—sailing ships rigged in the distinctive styles of the European lugger, the Macassan (Indonesian) proa, and a dugout canoe with a figure standing upright in it, hands outstretched.

Spend the afternoon snorkeling or diving at a nearby reef.

Days 9-10, Jul 18-19, 2018
Ribbon Reef #10 / Cod Hole

Spend two full days exploring Ribbon Reef #10, which is famous for the large number of dwarf minke whales that migrate past the reef from June to July. With luck, you may have an opportunity to swim with these curious creatures—a simply amazing experience. However, please note, these whales are wild animals and sightings are not guaranteed.

At world-famous Cod Hole, enjoy an unforgettable dive, where you’ll come face-to-face with massive potato cod, which often swim right up to inspect you with child-like curiosity. Other fish that can be found here include coral trout, sweetlips, triggerfish, and trevally.

Days 11-13, Jul 20-22, 2018
Ribbon Reefs

Spend three full days exploring along the remaining Ribbon Reefs, enjoying a number of dive, snorkel, and glass-bottom boat excursions. Conditions permitting, spend a magical afternoon on a sand cay for sunset drinks with the local seabirds. Currents channeled by the reefs have created various sand cays that shift and change with the elements over time; they are typically surrounded by amazing reefs and provide calm, sheltered waters perfect for everyone to explore. Along with a diverse array of marine life, including anemones, giant clams, hard and soft corals, and many types of Great Barrier Reef fish, hundreds of turtles also inhabit these waters. Ashore, nature walks reveal a variety of seabirds, including sooty, black-naped, crested, and lesser-crested terns, and black noddies, among the 40 species that nest in the area.

Day 14, Jul 23, 2018
Cairns / Disembark / Atherton Tablelands

Disembark this morning and journey overland to the Atherton Tablelands, a fertile plateau with several stands of protected rainforest. On nature walks, search for a variety of wildlife among the giant trees, such as musky rat kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, and 12 endemic bird species. Along the pristine shores of Lake Barrine, you may spy eastern water dragons, bearded dragons, and saw-shell turtles. Check in to the Shangri-La Cairns for dinner and overnight. Or, choose to search for nocturnal species on an optional spotlighting excursion, returning to Cairns in the late evening.

Day 15, Jul 24, 2018
Cairns / USA

Board your independent flight to the USA, arriving the same day.



Join this brand-new expedition that reveals the underwater wonders of the legendary Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Come face-to-face with massive potato groupers at Cod Hole, and with luck, you’ll have the opportunity to swim with the curious minke whales that migrate through these waters
Enjoy daily snorkel and dive excursions to explore pristine reefs far from the tourist track
Take nature walks on Lizard Island, keeping an eye out for Australian monitor lizards and a variety of seabirds
View fascinating Aboriginal art on remote Stanley Island


Length: 15 days
Cost From: $11,380  
Arrive: Cairns, Australia
Depart: Cairns, Australia
Lodging: 10 nights aboard an expedition cruise, 2 nights hotel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Snorkeling, Diving, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

11-day cruise, snorkeling, cultural explorations and walking tours
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