There I was snorkelling in the brilliant blue water when I saw the green sea turtle: slow and dull on land but in the water cruising along beside me, the sun’s rays danced off its shell and made it sparkle.
Lady Elliot is the closest thing to a deserted island on the Great Barrier Reef, north of Brisbane. But this means no mobile phone reception, my generation’s worst nightmare. How are you supposed to update your Facebook and Twitter statuses and tell people the amazing time you are having right at that very moment?
Once the initial panic subsides you begin to sink into the peace, here, a 25-minute plane ride from Hervey Bay. The maximum island population is 100 and it turns out that the lack of signal is a blessing. What would a mobile phone mean here anyway, in a tranquil paradise bursting with wildlife?
First stop, that sparkling water: There’s the option of venturing out into the deeper waters offshore but the lagoon, less than 10m from the Eco Resort, is equally teeming. However, in the deeper waters you are more likely to spot the island mascot: manta rays.
Floating over coral in the warm water, I saw an array of colourful schools of fish, like a festival. There’s the fish orchestra – the Trumpet, Drummer and Flutemouth – the arty creatives – the Parrot, Rabbit, Butterfly and Batfish – and the buskers – the Angel, Clown and Surgeon.
The resident artist, the Picasso Trigger Fish, was by far the coolest with its blue face mask and colourful body, though it is very territorial and if you get too close to its patch of algae it will raise its trigger and torpedo towards you and bite.
The week I spent on Lady Elliot was action-packed and exciting. I diligently followed the activity board and recommended tours. A very low tide made for the perfect reef walking experience. Amongst the branching and brain corals I saw sea stars (Blue Linkia, New Caledonian and Pin Cushion), urchins (Decorator and Red Slate-Pencil), clams, far too many sea cucumbers (Leopard Spot, Long Skinny Black, Green and Sandy), not to mention the dangerous Blue Spotted sting rays as well as the harmless Epaulette sharks.
Turtles are magnificent creatures that live to 100. Though to get to that age is a perilous journey in itself, with only 1 in 1000 reaching maturity. I was lucky enough to see not only see turtles in the water, but also see them laying their eggs and turtle hatchlings racing to the water at night. Baby turtles are adorable and if they survive the multitude of dangers and obstacles in the open ocean when they next come back to the island, they will be 30 years old.
The island is not very big and can be explored in about two hours at an extremely slow walking pace. Lady Elliot is a bird haven and I counted 20 different bird species with the White-Capped noddy the most prominent.
There was a far-away visitor – Ruddy Turnstone from the Northern hemisphere, an island punk – Crested Tern, regular restaurant food thieves – Buff-Banded Rail and Capricorn Silver Eye as well as the rare Red-Tailed Tropic Bird chick. Also don’t be alarmed by the creepy baby crying at night, it’s actually just the mutton bird (Wedge Tailed shearwater) trying to locate its partner in its underground nest.
The sun shines brightly it seems even when it’s raining everywhere else in Queensland and I scored perfect weather for the entire week. For those who love photography, wildlife or just lazing about on the beach and relaxing, Lady Elliot is your ultimate getaway paradise.
This article also appears in Australia’s #1 Travel Magazine, Australian Traveller:
and Lady Elliot Island’s website:
The University of Queensland School of Journalism and Communication wrote an article about my success in publishing with the Australian Traveller: