Sunrise at Lizard Island

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stretches for some 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles)—a little farther than the distance from Miami to Portland, Maine, to put it in perspective. Along the length of the reef, there are some 900 islands, including Lizard Island, not far from Cairns off the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula. The island is considered sacred by Australia’s Aboriginal peoples, who believe it was created during the Dreamtime, when heroic figures that were the ancestors of mankind wandered the earth. When you see the island at sunrise, it is not hard to understand why this magical place is viewed as special by the Dingaal people. The island, surrounded by five smaller ones, is located in a brilliant-blue lagoon, with mangroves and 24 sandy beaches edging the shore. At 359 meters (1,178 feet), Cook’s Look is the highest point on the island and gets its name from Captain James Cook, who climbed there to survey the sea and chart a way to navigate his ship through the reefs. Keep your binoculars handy: The island’s namesake monitor lizards may be hard to spot from your ship, but some 40 bird species are found here, including sea eagles, ospreys and terns.