The Southernmost Coral Cay of the Great Barrier Reef – Lady Elliot Island

After months of spending our days working in the red dirt of Australia building up those days for our next working holiday visa, a bit longer than expected due to COVID but that can’t be helped. It was time to treat ourselves.

The Lagoon

What exciting antics could we possibly get up too… living the backpacker lifestyle for the last 8 months we wanted a treat, a bit of east coast luxury.

During our time in Bundaberg we heard stories of the beautiful paradise of Lady Elliot Island, 46 nautical miles north east from the coastline. Located on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef within a protected Green Zone, making it a haven and sanctuary for hundreds upon thousands of migratory birds and marine life. Sounds like heaven to me, I’m in!

A cheeky overnight stay booked on the island, $1,376 for two people (1025 to my english pals!), it sounds a lot I know but wait until you see the island and what we got up to! The price included our flights, accommodation for the night, snorkel equipment, glass bottom boat tour and breakfast both days! If that isn’t worth the money then I don’t know what is. There are a few additional things you can pay for on the island if you want to, which we most certainly did, so take some extra pennies.

Aerial view of lady elliot island from the plane.
Isn’t she a beauty

9th October 2020, the day has arrived. At the airport at 8am to check in for our flight, the first time we are leaving Vandalf for over 24 hours in a public space. As you guessed I was so nervous, I checked every door about 100000 times. A bit over the top, but hey, I want to come back to my home on wheels!

Bundaberg airport is so tiny, quite cute really. After the crazy events that have unfolded since March 2020 it felt surreal to sit in an airport lounge, to chat to other families excited about the trip we are all about to take. No words to describe how lucky we were and still are to this day.

Our adventure starts now, after long 6 day weeks of pruning, picking and packing for over 7 months we were elated to be going on such an adventure.

You wouldn’t believe the size of the plane, it was so small seating up to 14 people including the pilot. It was a bit of a squeeze even for little me. Two full backpacks in tow and we shuffled ourselves into the two seats behind the pilot.

View of the pilot and lady elliot island through the window.
Getting ready to land

That first flight feeling, after months of staying behind closed doors, of hiding away from COVID-19. Words can’t quite describe it can they? The feeling of freedom. The feeling of hope, that one day the world might find itself back to normal. I was just ecstatic for the whole 30 minute flight. The gorgeous blue skies shining across the east coast of Australia. I wasn’t much of a water baby at this point, but my word it looked stunning.

As we got ready to land you could see Lady Elliot approaching, and I couldn’t believe it, she is so small! The grass runway stretches through the entire island, right through the middle splitting it into two.

As soon as we landed we were greeted by one of the staff for an introductory tour, to learn a bit about the day and what to expect. Some of the guests were only visiting for the day so had more of a schedule to make sure they had the best experience. Once we found out everything we needed to know we booked ourselves onto the afternoon glass bottom boat, which was included, and paid for our wetsuits, snorkel and fins for the next two days. It was only $20pp for the gear hire which was definitely needed for us newbies! Looking back.. I wish I knew how to dive back then!

Girl snorkelling, vast blue in the background.

With little to no experience in even getting in the Australian waters, never mind snorkelling, we decided to start out at the lagoon. Just off the shore line, really shallow and not much of a current. Lets just say we needed a lot of practice!

It was a whole new world under the surface of the water, I hadn’t seen anything like it before, fragile yet beautiful.

I have found a new definition of the word paradise, I had to pinch myself. Crystal clear waters, golden sand and no phone reception.

After swallowing our body weights in salt water learning to be a fish, we decided we should take a break and check into our room. Cosy little cabins a stones through from the beach, not far when you are staying on a tiny island.

Two turtles in the shallows. The females head is covered in barnacles.
Male and female green sea turtle rendezvous on the beach

Full of confidence after our morning outing on the lagoon we set off for our glass bottom boat and snorkel tour on the west side of the island. Our tour guides were fantastic with lots of information about the coral and their gorgeous home on the reef. They pointed out a huge stingray camouflaged under the sand below, you could just make out the outline and the eyes through the sand. According to the tour guide they love this area and it is a spa for them, their own little cleaning station. They come here to have local fish clean the parasites and organisms from their bodies. Pretty cool right?! I didn’t know much about the ocean and it’s inhabitants before this trip, and it most certainly spiked my interest. After showing off the reef through the glass it was time to get into the water.

A lot deeper than at the lagoon, it did freak me out to start off with. Having a guide to follow definitely calmed my nerves, they know the reef and what we can find. It was just incredible, brightly coloured corals and surrounded by fish going about their day. Who would have thought that the reef would be so noisy! Crackles and pops surround your senses. Too many turtles to count, young ones and old ones swimming around this tiny paradise.

You might have guess it but we loved the drift snorkel on the west side of the island so much that we dived straight back in! This anxious newbie followed the rope the whole time but it was out of this world, turtles, turtles and more turtles. I find it so hard to believe I am now a dive master, get me back to lady elliot reef – it would be an entirely different experience.

Bottle of prosecco at the beach looking out to sea.
Can’t beat a bottle of bubbles at the beach

We had ordered a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy next to the lighthouse for sunset. The staff brought it all down and set chairs up for the event. Sitting on a beach on the last island of the great barrier reef, a glass of prosecco in hand watching the sunset in the distance, surreal.

Back to the beachfront cafe for our evening dinner, it was just a buffet style but they were very helpful with my dietary requirements.

The island isn’t just popular with the tourists, if our snorkels are anything to go by the turtles are a huge fan too. Lady Elliot is a turtle nesting hot spot between November and March every year. When the eggs hatch, the little turtle hatchlings are faced with their first challenge. Getting to the water!

Girl standing on balcony of cabin with the milky way shining above.
Just look at that sky!

Around 1 in 1,000 baby hatchlings survive to adulthood, with a lot of them not making it past this first challenge. There are a number of predators waiting at the shoreline or soaring in the skies above to stop these little cute shells from making it to their destination. The staff of lady elliot want to limit the impact they have on these baby turtles so night time lighting is very limited. They have set up small lights very low to the ground along the pathways to reduce the chance of confusing the turtles and guiding them the wrong way!

Now we are on an island, 46 nautical miles from the homeland with little to no lights at night. The absence of artificial light makes the sky explode into tens of thousands of tiny diamonds, glittering the sky. I had never seen the milky way so clearly, it was beautiful. I didn’t think this island could be anymore special.

Nice early start for day two to make the most of the island before our flight back 😦

Two black noddy birds sitting in a bush.
Two black noddys starting to build their nest

First stop was breakfast before joining a bird tour of the island. A free little activity you can join to start the day. The guide took us on a short walk around the area near our accommodation and along the waterfront. She was very knowledgable and pointed out all of the different breeds we came across. It was the start of the season, and there were so many Black Noddies around in the trees and bushes. Watching the males bring different leaves and twigs back to the female for their nest was hilarious, some are so picky throwing them away and sending the male back out for more!

A young red-tailed tropic bird chick.
Marshmallow the Red-tailed tropic bird chick

We even came across a nesting Red tailed tropic bird with its chick, hiding in the bushes. They had named the little chick ‘Marshmallow’ it was so small and fluffy. SO CUTE. I think it is from here that my love of birds started to grow.

After the bird tour we carried on our walk around the island, it didn’t take long… maybe 40 minutes maximum and we saw so many turtles coming closer to shore to mate! Turtle-mayhem!

Girl snorkelling with five turtles.
Felt like I was on an episode of blue planet

With so many turtles around we grabbed our wetsuits and went back out for another snorkel along the drift. It felt like an episode of blue planet, there were turtles everywhere! We even witnessed a group of 5 male turtles fighting over a female to mate. I love nature! 

Looking back on all of the videos from this trip, would you believe it there are whales singing in the background. They can’t have been too far away!

I wish we could of stayed there forever it was heaven on earth. 

Until next time Lady Elliot

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