A few days at Lizard Island

We finally made it to Lizard Island in the late afternoon on 28 September, anchoring at Watson’s Bay on the northwest side of the island. The bay is wide and reasonably well protected in a strong Southeast. Some 20 boats were in there, including several luxury motor vessels complete with multiple large tenders to amuse their paying customers.  

Watson’s Bay – can you spot Anui?

Our first full day there was quiet because of the weather. It was very blustery, over 20 knots and did not let off until late in the afternoon when we ventured ashore for a quick reconnaissance trip.

We ended up doing some chores: cleaning the boat, doing a ton of laundry, making a huge bread loaf. We downloaded the walking tracks map, intending to roam around the island over the next couple of days.

Friday was a lot more active: a walk up to Cook’s lookout for Wade, Murray and Chris. The hike up to the highest point on this island was worth the effort with great views of Watson’s Bay as we climbed up the rocky ridge, of the lagoon on the southern side as we reached the top and the outer reefs in the east. It was a good aerobic exercise up the steep track and rocky slabs! Here are a few shots taken with both the Olympus and the iPhone for the panoramas.

Panorama of Watson’s Bay at the start of the hike to Cook’s Lookout
Panoramic from the summit.
A view towards the lagoon on the southern side
Kapok flower

We ended the day with a meal ashore at the Marlin Bar which was very pleasant with music and a nice change from having to cook for four every day!

Saturday morning, we took the dinghy over to Mermaid Beach on the northern side for a snorkel. Some areas were sparse, with expanses of sediment interspersed with regrowth and the visibility was not wonderful, but what we saw was encouraging.

A few acropora and soft corals with bare patches
Fast growing Acropora slowly covering the sediment
An example of a diseased Acropora: purple=healthy, white=bleached, brown=dead

Overall this little patch of reef on the northern side of the island looked significantly better than most of the Ribbon Reefs. It is in recovery with good cover of the fast growing Acropora in branching and plate form as well as the hardy soft coral species of Sarcophyton, Lobophytum and Sinularia. But it is very much a kind of mono culture for hard corals which limits biodiversity, and Acropora are also the most susceptible to storm and heat damage, so we will see how long they last!

Better cover and colour, but all Acropora species
Denser cover of mostly Acropora species
Edge of the Reef

There were not many large fish, but plenty of little ones.

Iridescent Blue Demoiselle
Triangular Butterflyfish

Next came a quick snorkel at the Clam Garden in Watson’s Bay. It apparently is not what it used to be, having been smashed by cyclones and bleaching, but again, the soft corals were recolonizing the patch and some of the clams had survived. We hesitated about going there under threat of a lone croc, but it had not been seen for weeks, so we were brave.

  • Giant Clam
  • Giant Clam
  • Giant Clam
  • Giant Clam

The Australian Institute of Marine Science research vessel was anchored in the bay when we got back. We can only hope they survey the Ribbon Reefs and shed some light on the outlook for the coral reefs out there.

Australian Institute of Marine Science research vessel

We could easily have stayed longer than 4 days at Lizard Island and could have waited there for the northerlies to arrive, but who knows how long this would take! With dwindling fresh food supplies, a pussycat that needs a vet visit, and a short window of lighter conditions forecast for a few days, we thought it wise to head back south.

So we escaped while we could on Sunday 2 October, headed for Hope Island, 65nm south.

Chris at the wheel – thanks Murray!

We did not rush back to Cairns from there, instead meandering our way between islands and reefs where the conditions were forecast to be much lighter. There is a marked difference in the intensity of the winds the further north you are.

We will probably get back to Lizard Island again next year and use it as a base to explore further afield. There is a lot more to do: a few more walks, the Research Station to see ashore, and several reefs and islands to visit further north.

For now see you somewhere north of Cairns in a few days.

11 thoughts on “A few days at Lizard Island

  1. Our stay on Lizard was only short too..although we were going the other way (and ironically had to wait for the southerlies!). And yes, the view from the top of that sharp hike is fabulous. We managed to find a vet in Cooktown (a sailor from NZ) but that was a few years ago. Love to you all. xxx Trish

    • Hi Trish, yes a bit too short but if we had not taken that window we would still be there with no possibility of escape on the horizon. Bengie seems to be back to her old self but we will get her checked up in Cairns. Hope you two are having fun! 😘

      • Good to hear about the girl. Looking forward to a cat cuddle! Yes, actually having a cruising season now…we made the ‘Whitsundays!’

  2. Magnificent views from the vantage points after your walk!
    And tremendous to see some coral regeneration.
    I thought from the first pic that you were the furthest right anchor but a bit hard to tell with Anui front on. However the panorama gave her position away! 😁
    Nice pics Chris

    • Hi Waz, in our usual way, we stay back… more space, more privacy in the cockpit… we leave the jostling at the front row to the other boats! Lizard island is pretty but the winds are the limiting factor, 20-25 knots most days we were there.

  3. A Lizard ‘snippet’ nevertheless a taste of this very popular destination (but maybe a tad overrated?) The stronger winds & uncertainty of a southern departure are always on our sailing radars. Strong SE winds down here too. Great shots from the hikes! A

    • Hi Amanda – Lizard is scenic but like any other anchorage we would get very towy if we got stuck there for weeks unable to explore the nearby reefs because it is blowing too strong. So it is definitely worth waiting till quite late in the season to go there.

  4. What a lovely Bay! Hey!… That’s you, Chris. Good to see you, showing your new moves at the helm. Good to see you, dear! 🙂

  5. Watch out for that croc guys ….. they are very scary predators! (Has there been a mutiny? Captain Danger at the helm?) Nice to see some underwater magic also.

    • Ah no mutiny at all! Just the norm in fact! Captain Danger is at the wheel every time we start, get out of an anchorage, raise the sails and get under way, then it’s Captain autohelm also known as George! Captain Wadie hardly ever steers!

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