As most of you know I’ve been in Australia for the past week. I’ll be going to four parts of the continent – Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney doing a week in each. A full recap of Brisbane and the surrounding areas is coming soon but I wanted to highlight one of the major gems of Queensland, Lady Elliot Island.
Located in the southern frontier of the Great Barrier Reef (which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world), Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay situated within a highly protected Green Zone, which is the highest possible classification designated by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (which protects the biodiversity within the reef). It’s a short 30-45 min scenic flight off of Hervey Bay (which is a few hours north of Brisbane). The flight is an attraction in itself, as you witness a bird’s eye view of endless natural beauty. Lady Elliot Island is a popular destination for snorkelers and divers as it’s regarded as one of the best destinations to do so on the Great Barrier Reef. It houses over 1,200 species of marine life including turtles, mantra rays, barracudas and leopard sharks (which are harmless).
Whales also frequent around the island in the winter when whale songs can be heard under the water almost on a daily basis.
It’s also home to tons of birds (you see them everywhere nesting in the trees). It has the highest seabird diversity of any island within the Great Barrier Reef. The cay houses over fifty species of tropical seabirds and wading birds including the Buff-banded Rail, five types of Terns (Black-naped, Bridled, Crested, Roseate and Sooty), Black noddy, and Silver Gull.
It’s a small island, you can walk across it in 15 minutes. And it’s an easy day trip which consists of a great itinerary of a morning guided boat ride for a 30 minutes snorkel, followed by a complimentary lunch buffet and then hours of open shore snorkeling around the island and in the lagoon. In the package snorkels and fins are included (they also provide sunscreen and towels). The water was really warm, but wet suits are available at the dive shop if the temperatures drop. Fish feeding, snorkel lessons and island discovery tours are also available.
Bring water shoes (or they will provide Crocs for anyone that forgets) since the beach is made up of crushed coral, which feels like rocks under your feet and water shoes make the experience more comfortable.
For anyone that prefers to stay overnight, the only hotel on the island is Lady Elliot Island Resort, which comprises of tent cabins, single room units and suites. Rates include breakfast and dinner as well as snorkeling gear and tours. Keep in mind it’s an eco-resort so if you’re expecting any type of upscale five star experience, this isn’t for you. They are clean rooms but motel-like units with scenic landscapes for those looking to really take in the island.
We did a day trip and swam with the turtles and saw coral like I’ve never seen before, and I’ve snorkeled all over. The water is exceptionally clear and rich in sealife due to the total ban of fishing or taking anything from the surrounding waters. It’s a great destinations for pros, beginners, and families, since the lagoon side is very shallow and offers incredible sea life from the moment you step into the water. The other side of the island has more of a current and depending on the current and tide can be for more experienced swimmers. Boats and tours are also available for drives/snorkeling further out in the reef.
It’s clear from the staff, and environment they’ve created how passionate their community is about protecting the wildlife and are so knowledgeable about the marine life that surrounds them.
Flights are available to Lady Elliot Island from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Learn more ladyelliot.com.au