Gem on the Southern Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island
As one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, visiting the Great Barrier Reef has always been high up on my travel bucket list. I even went as far as exploring it on Google Street View Oceans when it first came out.
Don’t judge :P
But thanks to FlyScoot and Tourism and Events Queensland, I finally got the chance when they approached me after reading my story on how I quit my job to travel the world on a budget with 16k savings. :D
The Great Barrier Reef is huge. I mean you can even see it from space! Although there are many ways to visit, I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the Southern Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island. A lesser known gem, Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay located 80km off the coast, and can only be accessed via a scenic flight from either Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane, or Gold Coast.
Home to manta rays, turtles, and over 1,200 species of marine life, the island is situated within a highly protected ‘Green Zone’, ensuring unspoilt views of the Great Barrier Reef.
We took a 45min scenic flight from Hervey Bay Airport, and huddled together with a few others onto a small propeller plane. There wasn’t any inflight entertainment, but you certainly wouldn’t need any with views like that!
Pro-tip: Ask to sit beside the pilot for the best photo opportunities.
Getting all excited on-route to Lady Elliot Island
Our 10-12 sitter propeller plane The breathtaking approach towards the island
The island itself is pretty small, and you can walk from one side of the island to the other in 15mins. This also means that you can literally step out of your room and walk right up to the coral reefs! There’s something really quite magical about being so close to nature. Native birds rule the island, and turtles lay their eggs on its shores during nesting season. We even met some people that saw baby turtles hatching a couple of days before we arrived.
The room we stayed in, which was a mid-range Garden UnitSchedule of activities that changes daily
The island is ran by the well organised and enthusiastic staff at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. Although not luxurious, the rooms are comfortable, and comes with hearty buffet breakfasts and dinners. There are also daily organised activities (free and paid), as well as detailed instructions for you to enjoy your own unguided activities. It was nice that you could either choose to be guided, or explore the reefs at your own pace.
Pro-tip: For those on a tight schedule, you can also do day-trips from the mainland. Although I do recommend staying at least one night!
After our island induction and briefing, we immediately grabbed the free snorkelling gear and headed to drift down the coral gardens.
It looks tiny from here, but the manta ray was actually as big as a small car!
Our turtle meeting a real turtle. The turtles are quite friendly if you swim up to them steadily.
We were so addicted to the snorkelling that we jumped at every opportunity to explore the reefs over the next day. In-between, we also did a glass bottom boat tour, island discovery tour, fish feeding, and reef walking. For those who want to dive, you’ll need to plan the trip such that you have enough time to recover from your dive before your flight out of the island.
At night, the stars take centre stage. You can even lie on the airstrip, gazing at the spectacular night sky. We were there during turtle hatching season (February to April), so we tried searching for baby turtles making their way to the water. There’s a daily briefing where the island guides will point out potential hatching sites and vantage points where you can watch without disturbing the turtles.
Island guides mark out nesting sites and even indicate the dates the eggs were laid on it so we can estimate which site might hatch first.
Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky as the people we met earlier and didn’t see any. If you’re around during the turtle nesting season (November to February), you might also spot turtles laying their eggs!
At the end of our 2D1N stay, we found it really difficult to leave this magical island. Being so close to nature was truly a welcome break from the bustling city life we’re used to back home. If you plan to visit Queensland, definitely check out this beloved gem.