Sunday, July 19, 2015

Paradise at Lady Elliot Island

Up close with sea turtles in the Lady Elliot Island Lagoon

At the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay that is teeming with marine life and beautiful landscapes. On Day 7, we woke up early to catch a short flight over to Lady Elliot Island on a small plane (there were only 6 total passengers plus the pilot). We would spend the day, sleep over and then return back to Hervey Bay in the late afternoon the next day.

We were excited for the plane ride over that would give us a chance to see the coastline and islands from above.

Earplugs in and ready to rock!

Pelican Sands island just off the coast of Hervey Bay

The coastline of Fraser Island - largest sand island in the world

We arrived and were so excited to have our orientation and a walk around

The activities board let us know about the things we could do with our time on the island

Although we had our resident "Australian Dangerous Animal Expert" (Liam) with us, we still needed to read the warnings about cone shells and stone fish in the waters of Lady Elliot (both venomous and deadly!)

The view from the cafe to the "lagoon" - where we did most of our snorkelling and reef-walking

We were geared up and ready to hit the water

We had to hurry to get to the lagoon for snorkelling while the tide was still in and there was enough space to swim over top of the reef in this protected part of the island.

Our eco-cottage

The view from our cottage

Family bunk beds - Bryce and Liam were REALLY excited that we could all sleep in a bunk bed

After lunch, we took a walk around the island to check out some of the amazing coral

We were told: "If it looks like a cone, leave it alone" (and we did:)

We all had our 'reef walking' shoes on and looked for great discoveries

The water was crystal clear - we found heaps of these beautiful blue seastars

These blue clams were really cool as well

Amazing fossils!

Where do I look? Everything is interesting.

Bryce on a reefwalk

Not a sand beach here...

Some sort of sea star?!?

The lighthouse

The air strip

We went out on a reef walk equipped with sticks and scopes to help see under the surface

Lady Elliot Island has over fifty species of tropical seabirds. We were able to watch a couple of red-tailed tropic birds fly in to their nests and even sneak a peek at an egg that they were keeping warm.

Sea cucumber - these things were everywhere!

When the tide was out - everything emerged out of the water

This little guy wanted to make sure that we kept moving (he even pointed the way)

And then the sunset...

Love this picture of Chy!

Liam found this rock and wanted to show us all the tiny crabs inside of it

Bryce in a tidal pool

The entire island is solar-powered. Really quite remarkable - an eco-resort for sure!

And wouldn't you know it...Finding Nemo was the movie on the big screen during dinner.

The next morning was cool and really windy 

Found this guy in the recycling bin

Our plan was to head back to the "lagoon" for a morning snorkel....and we were rewarded!

A wobbegong shark 
(Chy found him and then I managed to get closer than I expected to grab this snapshot from above)

Click on the video clip below to watch Chy and I snorkelling with sea turtles - so incredible!


After our snorkel, we went on a glass bottom boat ride out to the Coral Gardens area of LEI and while we were getting ready to snorkel...
we watched a massive breach by a humpback whale a few hundred metres from our boat!

(not our picture - but it looks like what we saw:)

Chy-Anne and I had a chance to snorkel the "Coral Gardens" on the side of the island where manta rays are often seen. No mantas - but some amazing fish!

We checked out the education center to find out more about the island

Black White-capped Noddy

We continued on our walk around the island and completed the rest of the coastline on another reef-walk expedition

This is the area near where the turtles nest and hatch (Feb to April)

We joined an Guided Island Walk and learned even more out about LEI

Liam holding a sea cucumber

Bryce holding a sea cucumber

Only 8 of the original trees have survived on the island - 
and the ones below are over 400 years old. Wow!

Bryce and Liam feeding the fish

Our flight home approached and while it was a slightly larger plane - it was still very small (around 12 of us). I even got to sit as co-pilot (which was a bit freaky) and had to make sure I didn't touch anything in front of me since the controls were all "live" on my side as well!

Goodbye, Lady Elliot!

What an incredible place!

We landed back in Hervey Bay

Bryce fell asleep and needed a carry off the plane...

I even had my own special ladder to get in and out of the co-pilot seat

Once we gathered up all of our stuff, we hopped in the car and had to drive the 3.5 hours back down south to Brisbane. 

We had a flight the next morning from Brisbane to Cairns (2 hours) and begin our final stretch - the main Great Barrier Reef and North Queensland!

Next stop: Cairns, Queensland

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