directions_boatCruise in Great Barrier Reef & Cairns

Explore the Great Barrier Reef with marine scientists on a small group expedition! (Cairns roundtrip, June 2021)

Follow the Minke whales on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition!

This small ship expedition cruise is a rare opportunity to join marine scientists as they explore the Great Barrier Reef. This expedition has a special focus on the annual migration of the dwarf Minke whales, with the opportunity to swim eye-to-eye with these magnificent creatures.

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10 nights
  • hotelAccommodation
  • restaurantAll meals
  • local_barSelected drinks
  • airport_shuttleSelected transfers
  • local_activitySelected entry fees
  • thumb_upTips & gratuities
  • terrainShore excursions
  • starsExclusive experience
  • free_breakfastDaily breakfast

About this holiday

Slide 1 of 12
Your expedition cruise ship

Join this once-in-a-lifetime nature conservation experience on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as you explore some of the most remote edges of the outer reef, discover beautiful and complex habitats and find sanctuary in the peaceful solitude of the Coral Sea.

Hosted by some of Australia’s most accomplished reef experts, you will participate in real scientific research projects which will be curated by theteam and includes a focus on the annual migration of the dwarf Minke whales – with the opportunity to swim eye to eye with these magnificent creatures. Other projects include coral surveying and identification for the world-first Living Coral Biobank project.

With full access to the most knowledgeable and respected Marine Scientists in the world and the opportunity to witness their expertise, energy and passion, this expedition offers a rare chance to learn and make a difference in coral conservation.



Your cruise price includes:

  • All excursions, including hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and introductory scuba session, with the exclusion of selected optional museum entry fees and scuba diving
  • Presentations, briefings & workshops by our highly experienced Expedition Team and guest hosts
  • Snorkelling and introductory scuba session
  • All meals, with morning and afternoon tea
  • Selected beers, wines, spirits, juices & soft drinks with lunch and dinner service, and 24 hour tea and coffee
  • Post-cruise transfers
  • Open bridge access and engine room tours
  • Australian Geographic expedition jacket and hat
  • All fees & gratuities

Expedition Highlights:

  • Have the chance to swim amongst the Minke Whales and come eye to eye to make a true personal connection with these beautiful and curious creatures.
  • Be a part of conservation history by taking part in coral surveying and collections for the world’s first Living Coral Biobank project
  • Share your journey with a team of the most respected and knowledgeable Marine Scientists in the world
  • Discover Australian heritage and history as you explore the frontier township of Cooktown
  • Make connections with ancient indigenous culture and hear the tales of creation from a traditional elder amongst the rock art at the sheltered Yindayin cave
  • Learn about reef conservation at the Research Station on Lizard Island and visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy island
  • Close each day over a refreshing sundowner as you watch the sun set over the blue expanse of the Coral Sea
  • Explore spectacular Osprey Reef, and observe overnight scientific research on the elusive Nautilus


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Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom

Coral Discoverer set a new benchmark standard for small ship cruising in Australia. Refurbished in November 2016, she continues to raise the bar to new levels of sophistication in expedition cruising in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 1800-tonne Coral Discoverer took cruising with Coral Expeditions to a new level. Her shallow draught and manoeuvrability allow her to go where larger vessels cannot. Her tender vessel, Xplorer, can seat all 72 passengers for excursions to beaches and rivers. Coral Discoverer is equipped with latest technology active stabilisers to ensure comfortable cruising in open waters and is fitted with modern safety and navigation equipment and wireless internet facilities.

Travel dates


One departure only (30 June-10 July 2021)

Book now with 30 days before deposit payment is required

  • Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom - from $17,250 per person twin share only
  • Promenade Deck (Category A) - from $15,150 per person twin share only
  • Promenade Deck (Category B) - from $19,900 sole use only
  • Main Deck (Category A) - from $13,050 per person twin share only
  • Main Deck (Category B) - from $12,400 per person twin share only

* Please note $500 pp from your fare benefits the non-profit organisation GBR Legacy

Call our Brisbane based travel team on 1300 414 198 to secure your cabin on this amazing journey!




Board at Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal at 4:00pm where there is time to settle into your stateroom before our 5:00 pm departure. Cruise northwards from Cairns toward Cooktown, and at day's end, join fellow explorers and crew for the Captain’s Welcome Drinks.

DAYS 1-10:

Our Great Barrier Reef itineraries are flexible, to take advantage of changing conditions. Below are the key destinations we visit.


The Ribbon Reefs are renowned for their prolific marine life. Enjoy excellent diving and snorkelling, with interpretation from our marine biologist and the opportunity to spot iconic species.

Here we may have the chance to snorkel with the graceful dwarf Minke whales. Growing 8-9 metres long, they migrate through the Great Barrier Reef during the winter months. An encounter with them is a magical experience, as the whales are known for their curiosity and may want to have a closer look at you. Our time here will be dictated by the whales. As wild animals, they are unpredictable, and we cannot guarantee a whale encounter.


Named after the famous American conservationist, Rachel Carson, this well-protected platform reef provides our main opportunity to assist with the citizen science project. Dr Miller will present on the Coral Biobank project before he leads an expedition underwater to survey coral species and marine life. The GBR Legacy team will review survey results and conduct collection of specimens.

The following day, continue your surveying work at beautiful Mackay Reef, located off Cape Tribulation. The vibrant fringing reef offers a rewarding underwater discovery and you might spot some of the numerous turtles that gather here.


Osprey Reef is the summit of an undersea mountain in the Coral Sea. With amazing underwater visibility, magnificent coral, and plummeting drop-offs, it is a highly-prized dive destination and a true expedition experience. In the late evening, watch as the marine science team conducts research on the elusive Nautilus. Our visit here is subject to weather conditions.


Come ashore in historic Cooktown and learn the history of the Guugu Yimithirr, the first people of this country. Discover European history at the site where Lt. James Cook beached HMB Endeavour, wander through the rare flora collection at the Botanic Gardens and visit James Cook Museum, where the story of Cook’s landing is told from an Aboriginal perspective and where artefacts are on display.


With a Traditional Owner guide, view the remarkable Endaen Aboriginal rock art at Stanley Island. Hear the stories of the first settlements on the island and marvel at the contact-period paintings in the impressive rock shelter. The art here depicts the first sailing ships to visit Queensland shores, identified as 16th century Portuguese and Makassan ships.

At Davie Reef enjoy snorkelling or glass-bottom boat tours over the colourful fringing reef or stroll on the cay to see the lively Brown Boobie bird colony.


Start the day with a dawn hike to the summit of Cook’s Look, from where Lt. James Cook searched for safe passage through the reef. Snorkel over giant clam gardens, or relax with a walk on the beach. We may visit Lizard Island Research Station to learn about coral reef research. Later, enjoy sunset drinks on a quiet beach.


Explore beautiful Fitzroy Island with a walk through the Secret Garden or a hike to the Summit to enjoy panoramic views. Snorkel over the fringing reef, relax on spectacular Nudey beach, and learn all about turtles at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, where sick or injured turtles are cared for before being returned to the wild. In the late afternoon, arrive at Sudbury Cay, a tiny sand cay that barely rises above the Coral Sea. As the sun gently sinks below the horizon, enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Drinks on your own private sand island.


Our Great Barrier Reef adventure concludes in Cairns this morning as we bid farewell to new-found friends, the Master and crew, disembarking at 8:00 am.

A post-cruise transfer to the city or airport is included.

This itinerary is an indication of the destinations visited and activities on offer. Throughout the expedition, there may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel.



Embark: Board in Cairns at 4:00pm for a 5:00pm departure
Disembark: Arrive in Cairns at 7:00am and disembark at 8:00am

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Fine print


Travel at 60 and supplier booking conditions apply.


Secure your booking and have 30 days to pay your deposit when booking a domestic cruise (with the exception of Kimberley departures), which departs during 2020 or 2021. Flexible Deposit Policy is not available on Definitive Kimberley departures. Available on new bookings only. If flexible deposit is activated, booking is considered secured with deposit pending. If deposit is not processed by end of flexible booking period, the booking will be automatically cancelled. Flexible Deposit Policy cannot be extended or transferred.  When secured, deposit can be protected under the Deposit Protection Policy. Offer ends 31 Dec 2020.