Lady Elliot Island. Where do I start? Anyone who knows me or who has looked through my photos knows that I have been here more than a few times… I love exploring new places and meeting new people so to get me to visit the same place more than once means that there is something special there. Something amazing.
Lady Elliot Island has something special, something amazing and she has it every time I visit. Despite its small size, the experience is always unique. One snorkel you could come across an ancient loggerhead turtle, then the next snorkel swim through a school of trevally. One dive you could spot 5 or 6 nudibrances then the next dive have 5 or 6 manta rays swimming over your head. One morning you could experience a sunrise like no other then the next morning you could have a clutch of baby turtles racing down the beach in front of you. One night you could learn about dolphins and manta rays or have fun playing trivia or bingo, then the next spend lying on the beach looking up to the stars. I could go on, but you get the picture.
I decided to write this blog as more of an overall review of the island rather than a day to day experience because whilst new, different and exciting things happen every day, me blabbering on about the 6 incredible sunrises and sunsets that I watched and the 3 snorkels/dives I did every single day would be a bit much.
You can only get to the island by plane. Planes leave from the Gold Coast, Redcliffe, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. I usually fly out of Hervey Bay which is a 40 minute flight. It is a lovely flight, flying past the magnificent Fraser Island and gorgeous blue waters of Platypus Bay. I would love to do that flight during the Whale season one year as you would most definitely see whales jumping from the plane. Before you know it, in the distance you can see the island and surrounding reef. As you approach, the pilots always do a fly around so you can get great views (and pictures) of the island below. Keep your eyes peeled because you can often see from the plane turtles and Manta Rays swimming along the surface.
A bit of Background. Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. It is a private island that hosts a small eco-friendly resort. It is home to thousands of animals including birds, turtles, sharks, fishes and even has its own resident Manta Ray population. During the months of June to October, migrating whales can also be seen swimming past the island. In addition to its eco campaigning, it is famous for beautiful clear snorkeling and spectacular diving.
The islands swimming areas can be divided into the eastern and western sides of the island. On the Eastern side, just off the beach from the resort is the Lagoon. A safe shallow area protected by the outer reef that is only swimmable during high tide. This lagoon is host to starfish, hundreds of species of fish (including Nemos), reef sharks, octopuses, rays and the friendliest turtles you will ever meet, who are always happy (despite the apparent frown) for a photo or a selfie.
The Western side of the island is slightly deeper and heads into open water. This is where you have a higher chance of spotting Manta Rays feeding or hanging out at one of the many cleaning stations on the Reef. You will also come across larger more mature turtles including Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles.
Diving here is always spectacular. Normally confined on the Western Side due to tide/wind conditions, you can also dive on the Eastern side if weather permits (if you get the opportunity to, take it, you won’t regret the Blowhole). Whether you are into larger creatures like sharks, turtles, trevally, barracuda and manta rays or prefer the macro creatures like pipefish, mantis shrimp and nudibranches, there is something for everyone with visibility usually between 20-30metres!! Every so often you may get some special guests including whales, dolphins and hammerhead sharks.
If you’re not a strong swimmer, don’t worry, the staff will provide assistance and teach you in the pool, the lagoon or on the snorkelling safaris that they run daily. Additionally, if you would like to experience the underwater world without getting in the water, glassbottom boat tours are also regularly run.
In addition to swimming, there is a plethora of activities on dry land to get involved with. The resort runs regular education sessions on the creatures of the island as well as island tours, bird watching tours, night tours, reef walks and turtle hatching tours (in season). There is also a games area, play equipment set, beach volleyball court and table tennis table for the kids.
I should mention the birds. The island is heavily populated by birds with over 50 different species and over 100,000 birds calling Lady Elliot Island home at some time during the year. With the size of the island, that is a lot of birds!!! Regularly spotted species include black noddies, brown booby, lesser Frigate Birds, Terns and Silver Gull. During nesting season you will get the opportunity to see baby chicks too. Given there are thousands of birds on the island, the chance of being hit by a wayward dropping is quite high. I see it as more of an initiation to the island. Lol ;)
Now Turtles are abundant on Lady Elliot Island. To prove this, this photo below contains 7 turtles in the one photo!!! While I’ll admit this would be a rare occurrence, I maintain that it is extremely rare to go for a swim and not come across a turtle.
Turtles are heavily part of the Lady Elliot Island experience. During the months of November to February, one has the opportunity to see a mother turtle under the cover of darkness crawl up the beach and lay 80-120 eggs. These eggs will mature over the next 8 weeks and during the turtle hatching season (February to April) one can experience the incredible natural spectacle of 100 turtles escaping their nest and scurrying down the beach under the light of the moon to the water. They will then spend the new few years at sea before magically returning to the same island they were born on to lay their own eggs.
While up early one morning to watch the sunrise, I was fortunate enough to experience a late clutch of eggs hatching. Watching the hatchlings make their way to the water under the glow of the morning sun… Heaven
I mustn’t forget the staff. From the pilots, to the reception staff to the activities, bar and kitchen staff, they are all extremely friendly and more than happy to have a chat or answer any questions you have. I have nothing but praise of the staff each and every time I visit. They are just wonderful
Before I sign off, I must mention the sunrises & sunsets… Pure Delight… Every. Single. One. Of. Them… And to make the sunsets better you can order drinks and cheese platter which they will deliver to you on the western side of the island.
Lady Elliot Island is Paradise. My day was: Sunrise, Wildlife, Snorkeling, Diving, Relaxation, Beaches, Fun Activities, Sunset. Repeat
You’ll be happy to know that the place is very eco-friendly, with strategies and policies in place to minimize its impact on the environment. It regularly wins Ecotourism awards including a Gold in the Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism in 2014.
Check out my album for more photos of the island. I have only posted a select few of my favourites, but have many more if you would like to see them. If you would like any further information on the island check out their website. http://www.ladyelliot.com.au/