Frankland Island Day Tour - Marine Biology Walk Information

Normanby Island which is part of the Frankland Islands group is very unique, comprising a continental island and a coral cay.

The continental island was formed when the Great Dividing Range was formed and since the sea level has risen, it has remained exposed.

Over time corals have settled around the island and due to the natural process of wave action, sediments have started to accumulate. It is the continual build up of these sediments that have formed a coral cay and a group of islands.

Now these beautiful islands are there for guests to either take a Great Barrier Reef camping trip or a day tour on Frankland Islands for a day of snorkelling, scuba diving and exploring the reef by glass bottom boat or semi-submersible submarine.

Frankland Island only allows 100 guests on the island each day making it a very special Great Barrier Reef tour indeed. It really is a pure island adventure where you can walk the island with a Marine Biologist and learn all about the wildlife both on the island and in the waters of the coral reef. Enjoy a tropical lunch spread set up under the trees and have a few drinks and enjoy the scenery. This is Gilligans Island posh style.    

Frankland Islands group

Vegetation – Succession

Many of the species of plants what are growing on the littoral fringe of the Frankland Island originated from other islands or the mainland. Their seeds are buoyant and would drift up with the high tide, and grow from there. The plants situated in the middle of the island originated in two ways. Firstly, the occurrence fruit bats and birdlife nesting on the island which have eaten fruit from other islands or the mainland. They would fly here and do their droppings, their guano would fertilize the seeds in the fruit and the plant would grow from there. Secondly, as the soil quality improved and the shade created from other plants reduced the temperatures in the middle of the island, vegetation from the continental part of the island was able to grow in these more habitable conditions. This helped to stabilize the sediments on the island and enabled more sediment to accumulate making the coral cay larger. This process is known as succession. The forming of an ecosystem which previously did not occur.


Mangroves are a group of plants that have adapted to be able to live in very salty, unstable, low oxygen conditions. This particular mangrove is also known as a pioneering mangrove which means it often grows on the fringe of river mouths or edges of islands, like it is here. It has many special adaptations including those little peg roots you can see under the water (pneumataphores). This extensive root structure helps to stabilize the plant, it acts as a little snorkel helping the plant to breathe, and also is an ultra-filtration mechanism reducing the amount of salt that enters the plant. Any salt that does enter the plant and is not required by the plant is stored in old leaves. Once the leaf becomes too toxic with salt, the plant simply discards the leaf, removing the salt from the system.

Coral Reef Rubble

What you may be standing on may look quite destructive but it is a natural process carried out by wave action. In this case most of this coral reef rubble was deposited here by a couple of cyclones (Joy and Winefred) in the early 1990's. And as you will see most of the rubble is staghorn coral (Acroppora spp.), which is a fast growing species – about 15cm a year. It is very susceptible to wave action but it is similar to a bush fire on the mainland. It wipes out large sections of reef and allows different species to settle and grow. This pile of coral reef rubble also helps to buffer the island behind it from wave action.

Beach Rocks

This structure that you will be standing on is what is known as beach rock. It is formed from the skeletons of coral you will see around the island. Coral skeletons are made from Calcium Carbonate which is also known as limestone – a key ingredient in cement. With all the coral piled up, the weathering process of rain and high tides dissolves some of the limestone and puts back into solution. Over a period of time this hard porous structure is formed. It is actually the fastest forming sedimentary rock.

Frankland Island Rock Pools

Intertidal rock pools are home to many free living and sessile marine organisms. The rock pool itself is a very hostile ecosystem. Their can be multiple plants and animals sharing a very limited supply of resources. As the tide goes out and the rock pool has separated from the ocean there is a large reduction in mixing of the water column. This, along with the organism's respiratory processes, uses up the dissolved oxygen in the water which can cause 'drowning' of certain animals. Additionally, evaporation of the rock pool increases the salinity of the water, often having a toxic effect for certain organisms.

Frankland Island is one of Cairns most natural and most beautiful uninhabited Islands you can visit from Cairns on a day trip. We highly recommend it but make sure you book early as only one boat per day takes holiday makers to this Great Barrier Reef island.

Full Day Frankland Islands Trip

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Great Barrier Reef Tours | Frankland Islands Reef Cruises | Snorkel & Dive
  • Departs From: 169 Ross Road, Deeral, QLD 4871
  • Duration:

    9 hours (approx)

Book your day tour to beautiful Frankland Island and you will have the most wonderful day on an island that is so natural and pure without and without the masses of tourists that inhabit other islands. You can stroll around and do some island beachcombing in private whilst other tourists snorkel and dive the safe waters that surround the Frankland Island Your Island Day Tour Includes:- Fresh tropical lunch with seafood Glass bottom boat or semi-submersible coral viewing tours Guided Island Walk Reef Ecology Presentation Maximum 100 People All day snorkelling plus equipment Morning and Afternoon Tea

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