With loads of sunshine, warm seas, refreshing sea breezes and a warm climate all year round, Tropical North Queensland weather is hard to beat. The region has two distinct seasons; a winter period of warm temperatures and low rainfall, and a summer period of balmy temperatures and higher rainfall.
Winter, or the 'Dry' season, begins in May and ends in October offering sunshine, fresh breezes and low humidity. Summer, or the 'Wet' season, extends from November to April and refreshes the region with tropical downpours of an afternoon and occasional dramatic electrical storms.
The Ribbon Reefs are remote, majestic and thriving with sea life, they can only be accessed by predominantly larger vessels with the knowledge to navigate these exclusive areas. These series of reefs are the Jurassic Park of fishing, containing the largest and most densely populated areas of reef, sports and game fish in the world. Fishing the Ribbon Reefs is something to tick off the bucket list!
Light tackle fishing for juvenile black marlin, sailfish and other pelagic species is ideal from late June to mid September. The heavy tackle marlin fishing season begins in September and runs through until December when giant black marlin (up to 1000lb+) migrate to the reef to spawn. However the region provides ideal water temperatures and bait schools throughout the year providing the opportunity to catch these incredible fish all year round: jigging & popper fishing for giant trevally, large coral trout and tuna for example. We encourage catch & release of billfish however you can also expect to catch fantastic eating fish whilst trolling, such as spanish mackerel, dogtooth and yellow fin tuna during this time – Great for sashimi the following day!
The Great Barrier Reef is full of stunning (and tasty!) reef species, such as Coral Trout, Nannygai and Red Emperor to name a few. These prized fish are great fun to fish for and ideal for the whole family to get involved. Our experienced game boat crew will take you to our tried and tested fishing spots, talking you through the best fishing techniques and will fillet your catch for eating - or take home with you!
The Ribbon Reefs
Characteristically no wider than 450m, the Ribbon Reefs are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marina Park and are covered in colorful corals that attract a plethora of reef life big and small, with sandy gullies separating them, themselves containing interesting critters. The Ribbons reef host several of Australia’s most spectacular dive sites, as well as arguably the most prolific Black Marlin fishing in the world at certain times of year - with general fishing topping the list also.
Diving on the Great Barrier Reef
Prominent dives spots on the Ribbon Reefs are generally quite shallow, with bommies coming up to as high as 5 metres below the surface from a sandy bottom that is between 15-20 metres below the surface.
Steve's Bommie is a bit of a legendary site too. The ballade of Steve varies according to who's telling the story, but the common thread is that Steve loved this bommie so much that it was named after him. A memorial plaque can be seen at 25m where most scuba divers start on this site. Legends aside, Steve's Bommie features a wealth of schooling action, big fish and macro life. Cruising barracudas, whitetip reef sharks and seasonally even dwarf minke whales will leave you wanting to look everywhere at once.
The Temple of Doom is another peculiarly named Ribbon Reef site. Aside from macro action on the bommie itself, pelagic fish are a constant and you'll have to ration your time between the reef and the blue. Shark sightings are common as are large rays and bluefin trevally of the 70 cm plus variety.
With great visibility year round and mostly calm sea surfaces, the Ribbon Reefs are the staple of many live-aboards and provide fascinating Australian scuba opportunities for all levels of diver. Endless options and incredible dives are available to you throughout your Great Barrier Reef experience!
Port Douglas > Opal Reef
Welcome on board BELUGA, in the peaceful surroundings and marina of Port Douglas. Located on the Coral Sea in the tropical far north of Queensland, Australia, a scenic 50 minute drive north of Cairns International airport, the town is known for its relaxing feel, and as the perfect balance of adventures between the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef system, and Daintree National Park, home to biodiverse rainforest. In town, Macrossan Street is lined with boutique shops and restaurants. Curving south is popular Four Mile Beach.
The Captain and the Crew will show you around your cabins, and shortly we will be steaming for 3 hours towards the stunning site of Opal Reef whilst lunch is served.
Guests wishing to do an afternoon dive can board the chase boat with a knowledgeable dive master to explore the southern end of Opal Reef.
In the late afternoon we will go to a near by anchorage for the evening to enjoy your first Great Barrier Reef sunset cocktails and canapés before dinner.
Opal Reef > St Crispin or Rachel Carlson Reef
Wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread and treats, and enjoy breakfast al fresco on the aft deck in the quietness of the Great Barrier Reef. Soon BELUGA departs for your next anchorage.
For guests wishing to try their luck at catching dinner, the chaseboat will be ready to take you on an adventure.
BELUGA will anchor near some fantastic dives. A morning wall dive is an exhilarating start to your day. Expect to be greeted with an absolute myriad of fish, from huge schools of fusiliers and sergeant major fish, to the always lovely greetings of numerous sweetlips.
Unwind over a well deserved lunch on the deck before heading into dive two for the day at the southern end of St Crispin Reef, or just relax on the day bed with a great book and soak up the Australian sun.
Ribbon Reef 3 > Cooktown
Steam to Ribbons Reef 3 - when we arrive, dive or snorkel the famous “Steve's Bommie" of Ribbons 3. Macro life clings to the bommie while large schools of fish, drawn to the structure, circle around it. Expect to see reef sharks, rays, schools of trevally, anemone fish, stone fish, nudibranchs, colorful corals. This dive site has something for everyone!
If fishing is your preference, your chase boat is available for a morning of fishing – whether it be trolling for pelagic species such as tasty spanish mackerel or bottom fishing for reef species such as Nannygai and Red Emperor!
Arriving in to Cooktown in the late afternoon, the Captain suggests a sunset cruise on the Endeavour River: at its most special time of day. Explore the harbour in the long afternoon light and then cruise upstream to watch the sunset over the distant ranges. While navigating the maze way of smaller creeks, enjoy a degustation of Australian cheeses and wines.
Once the sun sets, spotlights add a whole new perspective to the impenetrable walls of mangrove that line the river. Listen to some stories about Captain Cook’s passage along the Cape, about the glory days of pearling luggers and about the new Cooktown, gateway to the frontier. This sunset cruise can make for a wonderfully peaceful way to end the day.
Cooktown > Northern Ribbon Reefs
Adventure Day! Early this morning, your dedicated aboriginal guide, Willie, will meet you in Cooktown's Fishermans Wharf, for an exclusive aboriginal discovery (approx. 5hours). Discover the legends of a fascinating culture entirely rooted in Australia's history, and arrive at Rainbow Serpent Rock Art.
Your guide will take you through a dramatic landscape to six rock art sites, including the Rainbow Serpent cave and an ancestral Birth Site where Willie's grandfather was born. You will gain an understanding of the spiritual meanings and stories behind the paintings, and along the way learn some of the survival techniques of the Nugalwarra people - and maybe taste a green ant or two!
A short 30minute bush walk and short climb to two of the sites, this experience is accessible to the whole family. The Captain will welcome you back on board and you will be delighted to share your stories around lunch, whilst we cruise out to the Northern Ribbon Reefs and arrive in time for a late afternoon dive, snorkeling or try and catch some fish on the Chaseboat for the next day's lunch.
Northern Ribbon Reefs
Fishing, diving or water-sports today? The choice is up to you!
Try your luck trolling outside the reef’s edge for a marlin & other pelagic species, or if sports-fishing is more attractive, cast for giant trevally on the reef with poppers and stick bait lures.
Alternatively, there are various scuba diving options for the adventurous. Have you tried our motorised seabobs yet? Zoom your way around the shallow reefs but be warned, this is addictive fun for the whole family! Stand-up paddle boards or kayaks can also create the perfect setting to capture a fantastic photo of your tropical getaway.
Tonight, depending on the conditions the crew will set up a beautiful BBQ for dinner under the stars and moon. During your short tender ride back on board BELUGA, look overboard to see the abundance of massive King fish and big Lemon sharks! BELUGA's underwater lights attracts all these schools of fish.
Northern Ribbons > Ribbon Reef 9 or 10 > Lizard Island
Enjoy a sleep in or awake to the smell of fresh fruit and the sun rising over the ocean: BELUGA ups anchor early today.
Discover the Great Barrier Reef's most famous site, the Cod Hole. Dive and snorkel with these large friendly animals and venture out towards shark alley, then settle in for lunch whilst enjoying a leisurely afternoon cruise into beautiful Lizard Island.
Lizard Island > Port Douglas
Lizard Island hosts Australia’s northernmost island resort. It is located 150 miles north of Cairns and 57 miles north east off the coast from Cooktown. Lizard Island is an absolute tropical paradise, a haven of isolation, gratification and relaxation. Accessible by boat and small aircraft, this tropical haven is a bucket list destination.
Tender over to beautiful Lizard island to explore and hike up to the stunning Cook's lookout for a little exercise and some great photo opportunities! Back to Beluga for a late lunch, followed by an afternoon of swimming/snorkeling and relaxing in beautiful Mrs. Watson's Bay. Here the crew will set up a special beach BBQ complete with sunset views and memorable moments to enjoy your last evening on board.
Lizard Island > Port Douglas or fly
Guests can choose to fly back from Lizard Island to Port Douglas; altenratively, enjoy a sleep in and a last breakfast on the bridge deck whilst we continue cruising the beautiful coast, arriving back into Port Douglas for disembarkation by midday.
The Dwarf Minke whale is the smallest baleen whale, identified by about 50-70 throat grooves. The largest Dwarf Minke whale that was accurately measured was 7.8 m (25 feet) long with adults weighing 5-6 tonnes. They have a characteristic white band on each flipper, contrasting with its very dark grey top color. These and other markings can be used to identify different individuals. They have two blowholes, like all baleen whales.
Each year these graceful creatures migrate to the stretch of reefs south of Lizard Island, known as the Ribbon Reefs. The inquisitive nature of the Minke Whale brings them close to boats in the region to linger with divers and snorkelers, at times as close to up to a metre away. The whales are mostly encountered alone or in family groups of two or three, but can be in groups of up to eight.
Minkes display some extraordinary behaviour such as spy hopping, where they lift their head out of the water and observe the boats above the surface. Often they are seen tail-slapping the water, which may be an acoustic signal to other whales in the vicinity. Minkes are known to breach, but not quite as the Humpback Whale, which are also seen on the Great Barrier Reef in the winter months.
The only months to spot Minke Whales in Australia, is in June and July each year.
Guests can choose to support The Minke Whale Project, by inviting a guest researcher on board and assist in the gathering of data, tagging and identification of individuals.