Early stage trip planning
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Collecting specimens or manipulating the environment in any way requires one or more permits from state and/or federal agencies. As well, exporting any biological specimens from Australia requires a permit.
Marine Parks Permits - required for any collecting or manipulation of the marine environment around Lizard Island
Fisheries Permits - required for using certain items of collecting equipment in the marine environment, and for collecting particular kinds of marine organisms.
Ethics approval - required for scientific use of any vertebrate (except fish eggs and fish larvae) or cephalopod. The Animal Ethics Committee that issues the approval must be registered in Queensland.
Terrestrial Permits - required for any collecting or manipulation of the terrestrial environment around Lizard Island.
Export Permits - required for exporting any specimens or biological material from Australia
Commercial Activities Permits - required for certain commercial activities
All diving at LIRS is "occupational" diving which is regulated by state law and carried out according to an Australian Standard. People who intend to scuba dive at LIRS must provide all the documents listed in the LIRS Diving Regulations to verify their qualifications and experience. Relevant sections of the diving regulations are included in the LIRS Diver Induction Package.
In summary, the following documentation is the minimum normally required for undertaking scuba diving at LIRS:
- Completed online Diver Registration Form
- Approved diver certification card
- Current AS2299 dive medical or equivalent
- Proof of at least 15 hours of relevant diving experience, including recent diving experience as defined
- Current first aid qualification, including CPR
- Current medical oxygen provider qualification
LIRS provides all LIRS divers with thorough induction to the diving regulations and procedures, including assistance with risk assessment.
Links to more information about scuba diving at LIRS
LIRS recognises two categories of snorkeller: independent snorkellers and group snorkellers. There are different regulations for each category.
- Independent snorkelling
- Group snorkelling
- Group Snorkeller Form
- Group Snorkelling Supervisor Induction Package
- Group Snorkelling Supervisor Form
There are risks associated with entering any body of water and additional risks exist in coral reef environments. All prospective visitors should make themselves aware of these issues and consider how to manage the risks. A risk assessment must be conducted by each group before they will be allowed to dive or snorkel from LIRS. Frequently asked questions are answered below. Please contact the Directors with any other queries.
Frequently asked questions
- What sort of wetsuit should I bring?
Surface water temperature ranges from 30oC in summer to 23oC in winter. It is usually windy in winter so wind chill is a consideration during trips in the Station's open boats. Scuba divers who spend a long time in the water each day (i.e. multiple dives of more than an hour each) generally wear at least a full length 5 mm suit year round, often adding a vest and hood in winter. For single scuba dives of up to an hour, a 1 mm long suit or 3 mm short suit keeps most people comfortable between October and March but additional warmth is needed outside these months. Snorkellers do not usually need a wetsuit for warmth between October and March and a 3 mm long suit or a 5 mm short suit are usually adequate during the cooler months. As well as warmth, protection from stingers (see below) and from sun should also be considered.
- Are deep water, strong currents, rough seas and poor visibility hazards for diving at Lizard Island?
The water is less than 20 metres deep at the base of the reef all around the Lizard Island group and depth does not exceed 35 metres within a kilometre of the reef crest. Most research diving is conducted in water less than 10 metres deep. Moderately strong currents can occur at particular places and at certain times but there are many places where currents are nil to slight. Lizard Island is big enough to provide some protection from wind-generated waves on its lee side in all but the most extreme weather condtions. Underwater visibility is normally 8 to 12 metres but this can be reduced subtstantially in extreme weather conditions.
- Are box jellyfish a problem at Lizard Island?
Box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) can be lethal but these animals are usually found close to the mainland. We know of no reports of box jellyfish sightings or stings at Lizard Island. The risk of encountering a box jellyfish at an offshore locality such as Lizard Island is very low but it is probably higher during and after flood conditions on the mainland during summer. A lycra suit or a wetsuit provides protection to the parts of the body that it covers.
- What about irukandji and other marine stingers?
Irukandji syndrome is a very painful and potentially deady reaction to stings from a range of jellyfish species. The small, transparent jellyfishes that cause irukandji syndrome can be found in offshore waters. There has been an increase in the number of reported irukandji stings in Queensland in recent years, including two deaths. An irukandji sting occurred at Lizard Island in March 2004. A 21 year old male was stung on the forearm and had to be evacuated to Cairns by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. He had an unpleasant two days in hospital but recovered completely. Other marine stingers also occur at Lizard Island. These can cause pain but are not lethal. They usually occur during the warmer months, especially during northwesterly monsoon condtions. Again, a lycra suit or a wetsuit provides protection to the parts of the body that it covers
- And what about sharks and crocodiles?
Many kinds of sharks are found in the waters around Lizard Island. The ones most commonly seen are white-tip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus), black-tip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos). Sharks are not considered a hazard in this area for reef diving as long as food is not introduced to the water. Estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are common on the mainland adjacent to Lizard Island and they are able to swim long distances at sea. Sightings at Lizard Island were infrequent prior to 2004. Since then, crocodiles of 1 to 2.5 metres in length have been seen periodically and several have been captured and removed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Divers and snorkelers should leave the area immediately if a crocodile is sighted and report the sighting to LIRS.
A current recreational boat licence issued by any Australian state is required to drive any of the station's boats. A licence issued by a state other than Queensland is only acceptable for up to 90 days. Some overseas boat licences are also acceptable for short-term visits - LIRS can provide a list.
Queensland Recreational Shipmasters' licences can be obtained in Cairns after completing a half-day or one-day course. LIRS can provide information about these courses on request.
While a licence is necessary to use a LIRS boat, it is not sufficient in itself. Users must also demonstrate competence at Lizard Island in driving the style of boat they will be using. New boat drivers may need a lengthy period of driving under the supervision of a more experienced member of their team before they attain sufficient competence to be authorised to drive independently.
All boat users are provided with thorough orientation to the style of boat they will be using at LIRS including boat handling, LIRS boating regulations, safety gear and local boating conditions.
Use of boats away from the Lizard Island Group requires a driver who has substantial sea experience in similar conditions(and preferably local knowledge) and demonstrates a very high level of competence using the boat.
Flying is the only option for getting to Lizard Island - the supply barge does not carry passengers. The 260 km flight takes about one hour.
LIRS visitors can book seats on flights between Cairns and Lizard Island that are chartered by the Lizard Island Resort. The regular twice-daily service ceased in March 2020 due to covid-19. Since the resort reopened in December 2020, several flights per week are scheduled according to the resort's needs at the time.
Flights must now be booked through the Lizard Island Resort by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate your preferred dates of travel along with some alternatives because flight availability can be tight. You should get a response to your request within five days.
As soon as you have a confirmed booking, please send the details to LIRS so we know when to pick you up.
For the current cost of flights, see Eligibility, bookings and costs/ Other costs
Flights depart from the East Air terminal at General Aviation, Cairns Airport. This is on the opposite side of the runway to the domestic and international terminals, a 5 to 10 minute taxi ride away for which the cost is about $20. Allow at least 90 minutes between connecting domestic flights in Cairns.
You must check in at the East Air terminal at least an hour before departure to allow for preparation of the flight manifest. Boarding may be denied if you are late checking in.
The Lizard Island Resort provides transfers for resort guests between terminals but other passengers must arrange their own transfers. Desk staff at the East Air terminal are happy to call a taxi for you on request.
To reduce plastic waste, East Air does not provide bottled water on its flights. It provides reusable bottles for resort guests only. If you want drinking water for the flight, please bring your own bottle and fill it from the East Air water fountain.
The baggage limit on flights to Lizard Island is 20 kg checked plus 5 kg carry-on. Volume is also a limiting factor due to the small baggage pods on the light aircraft.
Please do not present at check-in with large, hard containers such as Nally bins. Containers that are larger in any dimension than a medium-sized suitcase (67 x 45 x 29 cm) will not fit into the baggage pods. Bulky equipment must be sent ahead by barge.
Transfers between airstrip and LIRS
On arrival at Lizard Island, you will be met and transferred to LIRS by vehicle. Please advise the arrival time of your flight so we know when to expect you. We have no other way of knowing which flight you are on.
Everyone in Queensland is obliged by law to minimise the biosecurity risks of their activities. See here how you can do your part when you come to Lizard Island.
Groups of more than 9 people travelling together will generally need to charter their own flights. Please advise LIRS of the company and the expected times of arrival and departure as soon as you know these details.
Several charter companies operate from Cairns. When obtaining quotes:
- Ensure that the quote includes the landing fee at Lizard Island, which is charged per aircraft per landing. Visitors to LIRS are not exempt from the landing fee.
- Find out the baggage allowance for the quoted aircraft. Either stick to that allowance or arrange for more capacity.
- Ensure that the charter company understands the need to check its aircraft for biosecurity risks before flying to the island.
LIRS has access to space on a barge that is chartered privately by the Lizard Island Resort. During the covid closure in 2020, the schedule was monthly. As of February 2021, it has reverted to fortnightly but that may change at short notice.
The Resort charges LIRS according to the amount of space used. LIRS recovers this cost from its visitors by charging an amount per box, payable when you leave.
There has never been any problem with space for LIRS food, but space for large amounts of equipment is sometimes lacking. For this reason, you should contact LIRS first if you will be sending more than the volume equivalent of 3 Nally bins (60 litres each) per person.
LIRS is indebted to both the Resort and the barge company for this generous arrangement, and we try to make it as easy as possible for both companies to deal with our goods. Do not contact the resort or the barge company to enquire about space or any other issues. All such queries must be addressed to LIRS. Please note that all freight consigned on the barge is at the consigner's risk.
How to send food and equipment to Lizard Island by barge
Refer to barge schedule.
- From February 2021, the barge to Lizard Island has reverted to a fortnightly service (from monthly) but that may change.
- Delivery details (date, time, provider) may change from barge to barge during these uncertain covid times.
- For each barge, LIRS will send an email to the relevant people that provides essential information for that barge trip. It will give about one week's notice to submit the food order to Coles. You can start the food order earlier and just leave it in the cart to check out at the right time. .
- Food MUST be ordered for delivery to the barge yard on the specified day/time. The barge's chillers and freezers are not available to accept it earlier.
- Research equipment can be delivered any time up to the date/time advised for delivery of food - it's not a problem if it's delivered earlier. Freight should be labelled as follows:
Lizard Island Research Station
c/- Sea Swift
52-54 Tingira Street
CAIRNS QLD 4870
- You can deliver non-refrigerated goods to the barge yard yourself prior to the barge loading date. The yard is open from 7.30 am to 3 pm weekdays and to midday on Saturdays. It is about a $20 taxi ride from the city centre to the barge yard.
- If you're freighting equipment to Cairns by road or air from within Australia, the freight company will deliver it to the barge yard if you have addressed it as shown above.
Importing goods into Australia
If you are importing equipment into Australia from overseas as freight, you may need to hire a customs agent in Cairns to arrange customs clearance and delivery to the barge yard.
Researchers can mail personal items and inexpensive items of research equipment to themselves at the following address:
Lizard Island Research Station
Cairns QLD 4870 AUSTRALIA
Air freight between Cairns and Lizard Island
Air freight companies do not have an arrangement with the carrier between Cairns and Lizard Island. Once it reaches Cairns, air freight is put into the mail system which entails a slight delay. There is thus no point having things air freighted from Cairns - they might as well go through the mail system directly. Express Post from other cities within Australia is also likely to be as fast as air freight. The mailing address is shown above.
Items that are classified as dangerous goods cannot be carried by air. This includes many laboratory chemicals including alcohol at concentrations higher than 24%.
Dangerous goods must be sent by barge, properly packed and accompanied by the appropriate dangerous goods documentation. If you will be shipping dangerous goods off the island at the end of your stay, you must bring completed dangerous goods documentation with you.
Charged "dry shippers" with liquid nitrogen fully absorbed may be flown as part of your baggage allowance under certain conditions. If you intend to fly with a dry shipper, discuss your plans with LIRS well before your visit.