Surprising things you didn’t know about Lady Elliot Island
How well do you know a Lady called Elliot (aka Lady Elliot Island)?
Our bet is probably not that well, beyond perhaps rattling off some things about her appearance, like crystal-clear water, golden sunsets, and crunchy coral sands to name a few of her best features.
Dive a little deeper and get to know one of Queensland’s most adored islands, and surprise yourself (and woo your trivia table) with these 10 things you didn’t know about Lady Elliot Island.
1. Lady Elliot Island got her name from a ship
Contrary to what the name suggests, Lady Elliot Island wasn’t actually named after a lady, at least not in the first instance.
In 1816, a cargo vessel sailed past the island and the captain, Thomas Stewart, decided to name the island after his boat.
A little further north, you’ll also find a reef named Lady Elliot Reef, which was named after the same ship. Unlike the island which was named from afar, the reef is where she ran aground.
Either way, both Elliot ladies in the Southern Great Barrier Reef are absolutely stunning and teeming with marine life.
2. Birds of a feather, flock at Lady Elliot Island together
Without a doubt, Lady Elliot Island is where you’d take someone if you wanted to cure their Ornithophobia (a fear of birds).
Lady Elliot Island has the second highest diversity of bird species on the Great Barrier Reef and there are 105 different species of seabirds, land birds and shorebirds who choose this island 80kms off Bundaberg to nest.
So prolific is their nesting, it can be like stepping over landmines going from the airstrip tarmac to reception, trying not to step on a bird. These are not the kind of birds that take flight at your approach, but which sit and stare unblinkingly at you as you walk towards them.
Since some of these feathered fluffballs have come from Siberia by way of Japan and the Philippines to this speck in the ocean, we won’t give them too much of a hard time for resting their weary wings on just about anything here. We’d stop, sit and stare too if we’d just flapped our way 10,000kms south!
3. It’s full of sh*t
We’d love to see a real-estate agent write the For Sale ad for Lady Elliot Island’s foundations. The island is equal parts coral and bird poo, making it a geological anomaly.
As the story goes, the coral reef around Lady Elliot began to grow towards the sunlight 6000 years ago, until it was eventually exposed, creating the cay.
Typically this style of coral cay isn’t suitable for vegetation to take hold, which is where the story of Lady Elliot Island’s evolution truly begins.
The birds found use for this exposed coral, making Lady Elliot Island one of Australia’s biggest toilets, littering the 42ha island (100 acres) in poo containing nutrients and seeds to facilitate the island’s growth. Over time, bird droppings hardened together with beach sediments into beach rock – and just like that, the island was formed.
Sturdy, or should that read, ‘turdy’, foundations.
4. There’s even something for green thumbs
Those with a passion for flora will be delighted to hear that Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort runs a free nursery program for guests to unleash their inner Don Burke.
The nursery opened in 2010, with the aim to grow Pisonia trees, which were wiped out between 1863-1873 when the island was mined for Guano (bird poop).
In fact, only eight of the original trees remain on the island, which also explains why so few birds have a branch to nest and opt for ground-floor digs.
Peter Gash, the caretaker of the island, is on a mission to reinstate at least 25 trees which would have once provided essential habitat on the island. It’s a slow but steady goal given the island’s rocky conditions – but one we know they’ll achieve.
Get to know more about the island’s curious history by wandering around the nursery, taking a re-vegetation tour or getting your hands dirty with the nursery staff by doing some weeding or planting Pisonia trees.
5. Plastic is a no-go here
While many tourism operations have since joined the party, Lady Elliot Island was the first island to ban plastic water bottles on its premises. As a result, you won’t find any bottled water here. Instead, you’ll be gifted a refillable bottle which becomes yours to hydrate throughout your stay.
This is just one action undertaken by the team at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort to effectively make the entire island carbon neutral, earning the resort Advanced Eco Certification by Ecotourism Australia.
What’s more, it’s not just any old water you drink from the taps here. The drinking water on the island is produced by a reverse osmosis desalination plant, which in keeping with everything else on the island, is energy efficient.
6. It’s home to creatures great and small
Lady Elliot Island might be known as the home of turtles and manta rays, but did you know the island also plays home to the humpback whale population who take the Pacific Ocean Highway each year between May and November?
The foreshore is one of the best spots to watch the acrobatic displays – all without getting your hair wet.
For those who spend their island adventureunderwaterr, you’ll be happy to know the whales swim so close to the island that their songs can be heard underwater by snorkellers and divers.
7. There’s so much more on offer than swimming and snorkelling
After you grow tired of the 20 dive sites around the island, Lady Elliot Island has plenty more things to do which don’t involve snorkel masks and bathing suits.
For the reef experience without getting wet, strap on a pair of Crocs and go reef walking. Here you can see creatures like octopus, sea cucumber, crabs, seastars, moray eels, anemones, corals, epaulette sharks, abalones, sea hares and sea slugs just mere steps off the land.
To learn a bit more about the island, join Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort staff for a tour. There’s a tour to suit every passion point: historical, island survival, re-vegetation, marine debris, fish feeding, behind the scenes and bird watching tours.
Swap tours for talks and get to know the marine creatures further with the island’s resident marine biologists and experts.
8. It’s a role model for solar
On this eco island, the solar panel to person ratio is almost 3:1, with 400 solar panels (and counting) on the island.
This never-ending commitment to being green and clean, is why Lady Elliot Island is recognised as a role model for best environmental practice within the tourism industry.
9. It’s stinger free
Good news for swimmers, snorkellers and scubees, Lady Elliot Island is not affected by the stinger season and it is safe to swim all year round without a stinger suit.
That’s because Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost island on the Great Barrier Reef – the first island or the last, depending if you’re a glass-half-north or glass-half-south kind of person.
10. You can walk the entire island… in under an hour
How would you like to say you’ve circumnavigated an island of the Great Barrier Reef?
It’s an easy tick on Lady Elliot Island. All you need is a pair of shoes and 45 minutes to walk around the island, to see birds (of course!), the flora of the island and fish jumping in the reef’s shallows.
If you’d prefer to take a more structured stroll – choose between the two self-guided trails. The Eco Walking Trail incorporates the Climate Change Trail developed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. While The Discovery Walking Trail will take you on a historical tour of Lady Elliot Island, including the lighthouse which operated from 1873-1995.
Looking for more reasons to put this island on your list? Read this post!