Lizard Island is first a national park—framed by the corals of the Great Barrier Reef and fringed with idyllic beaches and mangroves. Set upon a white-sand stretch of coast amid 2,500 pristine acres, Lizard Island resort is the only development on the island, accessible exclusively by plane. It is cut off from the world by gentle turquoise waters, promising coveted seclusion at the edge of one of the planet’s most important natural treasures.
The property, which recently underwent a stunning and comprehensive refurbishment, is at once a breathtaking encounter with nature, and a quiet, restorative retreat. For most, it proves to be both over the course of a trip—or even a day. A remote swath of the largest reef system in the world is just off shore, ready to be explored by snorkel or scuba, by kayak or glass-bottomed boat. Helicopter tours give offer an astonishing overview of wonders marine and terrestrial, and relaxed beachside dining and a state-of-the-art spa play counterpoint to all the exhilaration.
The stunning and ethereal Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and Lizard Island offers a rare and exclusive look at its unique ecosystems. As one of the world’s first certified eco-lodges, the 40-suite lodges seeks to maintain a responsible, sustainable presence within the national park, while also respecting the traditions and beliefs of the Dingaal people who have called the island home for many centuries.
The splendor of the coral ecosystems is accessible in many different ways, whether you choose a full-day diving excursion to get up close to remote parts of the reef, a glass-bottomed paddle-ski outing, or a guided snorkeling tour. Yet the wonders here are not only underwater, and the lodge encourages guests to discover the magnificence and biological importance of the island as a whole, offering naturalist talks on everything from rare bird and tree species to the constellations of the southern sky.
Guests who reserve their space through National Geographic Unique Lodges are treated to a complimentary private sunset cruise. Cast off from Lizard Island in the late afternoon and enjoy refreshments and a seafood platter as the sun melts into the horizon. Keep an eye out for marine life and watch the deep hues of twilight illuminate the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
In 2014, Cyclone Ita wreaked havoc on Lizard Island, forcing the lodge to close for a multimillion dollar repair. Less than a year later—days before the lodge planned to reopen—Cyclone Nathan blew through. These days, signs of rebirth are abundant, in large part thanks to the environmental efforts of Lizard Island. Some $45 million dollars later, the reopened lodge has doubled down on its longstanding sustainability initiatives, which date to 1996, when Lizard Island received an ecotourism certification through the world’s first ecotourism distinction program. As part of its storm cleanup, the lodge planted more than one million indigenous plants, shrubs, and ground cover to help return the island to its natural vibrancy.
The lodge minimizes its environmental impact with the use of diesel generators and limited solar power, biofuel, LED lights, as well as composting, recycling, and wastewater irrigation systems. Approximately 60 percent of all lodge waste is recycled or given an alternative use. Chefs source local food from vendors and markets in and around the Cairns area. All guests receive stainless water bottles upon arrival that they can fill with the still or sparkling natural spring water that flows from the lodge’s underground artisan well.
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