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This section provides an overview of how student group trips operate at the Lizard Island Research Station. More detailed information for organisers of group visits is provided elsewhere (Planning your Trip).

The Lizard Island Research Station provides all the necessary facilities for a successful, safe and exciting field trip.

Lizard Island is a granite continental island with an extensive fringing reef, numerous patch reefs and magnificent beaches. It is an excellent location for safe snorkelling and boating activities. The diversity of marine life is enormous with hundreds of species of corals and over a thousand species of fishes. Very low tides occur during winter and these allow opportunities for reef-walking.

The island is relatively large (seven square kilometres in size) and has a variety of non-reef habitats. Of particular interest are the mangrove communities, dry sclerophyll woodlands, and sand dune successions. By walking up to the peak of the island at Cook's Look (360 metres elevation), students can encounter a variety of landforms from exposed steep granite slopes with swamps at the base, through woodlands to the summit with its stunted heath vegetation.

The presence of reptiles and birds on the island has been recorded since Captain Cook's visit in 1770. The large goanna for which Cook named the island is one of 12 species of lizard on Lizard Island. There are also five species of snake and two species of tree frog. The only mammals on the island (apart from humans) are two species of bat.

About 10 species of bush birds are resident on Lizard Island, as well as numerous seabirds. Many migratory birds pass through, and regular visits are made by others. Nesting colonies of seabirds are established on nearby Bird Islet, and Osprey Islet. These include terns, gulls, reef herons, osprey and sea eagles. Ample reference material is available in the Station's library for identification of the fauna of Lizard Island.

Educational program

Institutions that send student groups to Lizard Island Research Station are responsible for the content and delivery of the educational program. Student groups must carry out a genuine educational program to be eligible to use the Station's facilities.

The education provider is often a biology teacher or lecturer at the students' institution, who is also the leader of the group trip. Alternatively, a company can be engaged to provide an excellent educational program as well as logistic support including boat drivers, snorkelling supervisors, meal planning and food ordering. Contact the Research Station for details of this service.

A typical daily program involves a lecture or briefing and one or two snorkelling trips, followed by workbook or library research. Initial field outings typically focus on snorkelling procedures and general observation. Once students are comfortable in the water and gain some familiarity with the environment, more focused studies can be introduced as appropriate to the students' academic level. Presentations and/or reports are usually required of students at the end of, or following, the trip.

Collecting specimens or manipulating the environment at Lizard Island (and throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) requires one or more permits. Most student groups conduct worthwhile observational studies without the need to obtain permits. More about permits

Groups usually schedule half a day during their trip to hike to the summit of the island, Cook's Look. This activity traverses numerous terrestrial habitats and invokes the island's interesting Aboriginal and European history.

A half-day trip to the outer reef, about 20 km from Lizard Island, is very worthwhile. This can be arranged by chartering a dive boat from the Lizard Island Resort. Enquire at the Research Station during the planning stage of your trip for the current charter fee, and for booking the boat.

Size and composition of groups

Student groups must comprise between 10 and 22 people in total, including an appropriate number of suitably-qualified and experienced adult supervisors. For secondary school students, there must be at least one supervisor for every five students. For university groups, the student to supervisor ratio can be higher. 

Configuration of accommodation (quad- and triple-share rooms) may restrict groups to a lower maximum size if separate rooms are required for male and female students and for supervisors. This is normally the case for secondary schools, where 20 people is the usual group size: 16 students (with each gender represented by multiples of four) and four supervisors.

All group members, including supervisors, should be competent swimmers.

Adult supervisors must be fit and active. A suitable number of them must be qualified and competent to drive small outboard-powered boats. They must present a current boat licence issued by any Australian state and they must demonstrate competence on arrival. Boat drivers must have a moderate level of prior boat driving experience.

One supervisor will be the snorkelling coordinator who has responsibilities as outlined in the Station's snorkelling regulations for groups. To meet these responsibilities, the coordinator must have adequate snorkelling and boating experience. One or more of the supervisors must hold current qualifications in first aid and in provision of medical oxygen.  

Duration, timing and cost of visits

A visit of at least six nights is advised so that students get beyond the "gee whiz" stage and really start noticing things. Student groups must stay for at least four nights to be eligible for the highly subsidised student group fee. Because research usage of the Station is greatest over the Australian summer, student groups are unlikely to be accommodated between October and February. The busiest time for student group bookings is during the Australian school holidays in April, June/July and September.

Student group bookings are taken up to 13 months in advance. A small deposit must be paid at the time of booking, 50% of the fee must be paid four months before the start of the trip, and all other costs must be paid within 30 days of departure. Current costs

Accommodation and food

Student groups are accommodated in Kirby and Suntory houses. Each house has three bedrooms (two quad-share and one triple-share), two bathrooms and a large kitchen/ dining area. More about accommodation

Groups must order food in advance for delivery by barge, and cook and clean up after themselves. Cooking is done and meals are taken as a group in one of the two houses. The best way for groups to organise meal preparation and cleaning up is by roster. This should be arranged with participants before the trip. More about ordering food 

Boat usage

A group of 20 people will use four small outboard-powered boats. The group must include a competent and qualified adult driver for each boat. People with a boat licence but little practical experience in driving boats will not be accepted as boat drivers. A thorough induction will be provided to suitable boat drivers. Boats are well-equipped with safety equipment and a there is a formal sign-out procedure for daily boat use. More about boating

Snorkelling and diving by student groups

Snorkelling is a major attraction for student groups at the Lizard Island Research Station. To enhance safety, formal snorkelling regulations for groups apply. Personnel requirements for snorkelling by groups are outlined in the link below.

High quality snorkelling equipment, including wetsuits, is available for hire at the Research Station and many student groups take advantage of this facility.

The Station is fully equipped to support SCUBA diving by researchers but this activity is not usually offered to student groups because the Station operates under occupational scuba diving regulations. These exclude people younger than 18 years, require specific training that is not available through most recreational diver training agencies, and require a substantial level of diving experience. 

For student groups whose members do qualify as divers under the Station's scuba diving regulations, additional requirements may be imposed by the Diving Officer depending upon the level of experience in the group. As well, additional fees will apply. More about diving and snorkelling


Groups are met at the airstrip and transported to the Research Station by 4WD vehicle and tractor, a distance of 2 km over a rough, sandy track.

After settling into the accommodation and sorting out food supplies, the group meets with a Director of the Station for an orientation talk. This covers domestic arrangements, snorkelling, boating, use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Lizard Island National Park, and visitors' responsibilities. Hire of snorkelling gear can then be arranged, and designated boat drivers will be given detailed induction.

Research Station staff are always available to assist with planning the day's activities and to advise on field sites. One of the Directors will be happy to give a presentation to the group about reef life, research or reef issues one evening.

Things to bring

Travel to Lizard Island is by light aircraft and baggage must be kept within the allowance as advised by the charter company. As there will be four people sharing most bedrooms, it is more comfortable for everyone if luggage is kept to a minimum. Each person should bring:

  • Beach towel and bath towel
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • Shady hat that can get wet and will not fly off during boat trips
  • Sunglasses (polarising lenses are MUCH better than others for seeing into the water)
  • High SPF sunscreen
  • Long-sleeved shirt or rash vest for sun protection
  • Snorkelling gear including a wetsuit (if already owned, otherwise hire it at the Station)
  • Shoes and socks for walking
  • Shoes for getting wet on reef walks
  • Personal insect repellant
  • Soap and other personal items
  • Camera
  • Swimsuit
  • Summer clothing
  • Light sweater for cool evenings
  • Writing materials
  • Small day pack or bag
  • Water bottle of about 1 litre
  • Appetite for learning, plenty of enthusiasm and a cooperative spirit!