48 hours on Lady Elliot Island [gallery]
One of the jewels in the crown of the Great Barrier Reef, the tiny coral cay of Lady Elliot Island situated off the coast of Bundaberg is a sanctuary for marine life and travellers too. From snorkelling just metres from your room, to learning about the initiatives that will see the eco-resort become 100% sustainable in 2020, here’s what 48 hours on Lady Elliot Island looks like.
Day 1 – AM
First things first, get here. Flights depart Gold Coast, Brisbane, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg daily and we promise it’ll be one of the best of your life. If travelling between June-November, keep your eyes peeled for whales below.
Before you go racing for the water’s edge, put your bags down – they’re pretty useless bobbing in the ocean. There’s a range of accommodation options, all of which are a stones throw from the water, so you really can’t go wrong.
Formalities out of the way, let’s go for a snorkel. The lagoon on the eastern side of the island is tidal and only open at high tide, while the western side with its deeper ledges is perfect all day long.
Keep a look out for eagle rays, manta rays, turtles, dolphins and any one of the 1,200 species of fish that frequent the waters.
Day one – PM
Organise your tours
Head to the activities board and also the dive centre to check out what tours are on while you’re on the island and the tides so you can nail you snorkelling.
From reef walking to bird-watching, glass-bottom kayaking and (in-season) nightly turtle tours – there’s something for everyone.
Explore the forest
It’s not all about the big-blue on LEI. The Pisonia forest in the south-west part of the island is associated with a large noddy bird rookery, and the island boasts a pair of sea eagles that also frequent this area.
As part of the reforestation program (more on this below) that revitalised the island following extensive mining from the 1860s to the 1970s, LEI now has the second highest diversity of bird species on the Great Barrier Reef. There’s up to 95 different species of seabirds, land birds and shorebirds visiting throughout the year (especially from September to May).
Cheers to day one
There’s only one thing to do at sunset: grab a beer (don’t worry, they drive an esky around to the best sunset spot so you can purchase a drink there) and watch the sun fade away for the day.
Day 2 – AM
Rise and shine
Good morning explorers, it’s time to start your second day of adventures. A morning stroll around the island or a day-break snorkel are much better than Weet-Bix and catching the bus to work.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, a good coffee is always appreciated. But purchasing it in a keep-cup from one of the most environmentally conscious resorts on the Great Barrier Reef is even better.
LEI has serious eco-credentials that are obvious across the island. Largely driven by solar power, the island is on the cusp of becoming 100% sustainable, and will achieve the feat early in 2020. Add to this the on-island re-greening program (more than 4,000 trees planted to date) and their carbon-offsetting program (planting native forests at the Barolin Nature Reserve adjacent to the Mon Repos turtle rookery in Bundaberg) there’s no wonder why they picked up Gold in the Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism category at the Queensland Tourism Awards in 2019.
Go a little deeper
If you’re a diver, LEI is possibly your nirvana. Be sure to pre-book so you don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience.
If you’ve never dived before, you can sign up for an intro dive, or you can complete your open-water certification on the island (although you’ll need to stay for more than two days).
Day 2 – PM
Meet the logo
Lady Eliott Island is known as the home of the manta ray for a very good reason. During the winter months they’re prolific in the waters on the western side of the island. Be sure to join a snorkel tour to check them out, or if you’re on the DIY snorkel-trail, head to the aptly-named manta bommie.
Nail the turtle photography
The turtles in the eastern lagoon are absolute posers. Please take their photo, they get moody when you don’t.
One last sunset
Sit back. relax. Breathe it all in.
Cherish the memories
It’s time to depart and reflect on your unbelievable 48 hours on Lady Elliot Island.