Sunday, March 03, 2013

Lady Elliot Island

I discovered the joys of snorkelling quite late in life. We first tried it when we went to Pulau Tioman in 2011, and soon realised how fabulous it is just to float around and look at tropical fish. Andrew and I hoped to do some more snorkelling when we visited New Caledonia in mid-2012, but the weather wasn't warm enough. Hence our trip to Lady Elliot Island last week. Lady Elliot Island is in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Bundaberg (Queensland, Australia). It is part of the  Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and only about 45 hectares in size.

We spent five nights on the island. The weather was a bit disappointing  overcast, wet and windy for four out of the five days  but it was still a lovely place to visit ... and the snorkelling was wonderful! Regardless of the weather, we wandered down to the shore once or twice a day to swim with the fishies. Bliss.

Marine scientist Fabrice introduces visitors to some of the local wildlife

Being nerds, we also participated in a lot of the learning opportunities offered. Lady Elliot's multicultural staff run many free activities, including guided reef walks, talks about the island's history, vegetation and birds, bird watching tours, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the solar power station, water recycling, desalination and composting systems.

The highlights? Getting up close and personal with many different species of reef fish, and of course seeing lots of turtles. Lady Elliot Island is an important breeding spot for green and loggerhead turtles plus many different and fascinating seabirds. As well as snorkelling daily in the lagoon near our accommodation, I went on two guided snorkelling sessions further out in the Coral Sea. We'd travel by boat to someplace where the sea life was known to be abundant, then spend thirty to sixty minutes snorkelling around admiring the underwater communities. So cool! Lady Elliot Island is home to a major research project into manta rays and my snorkelling group was lucky enough to swim alongside several mantas on the day we went exploring. Gorgeous critters. Alas, no pics of the marine life. I don't have an underwater camera, and would prefer to look rather than snap anyway. You can see photos of some of the island's wildlife here if you're interested ...

I know this is ostensibly a food blog, but I won't waffle on about the food. It was tasty and plentiful. Not exactly fine dining, but who cares? The fish (ogled, not consumed) were awesome!

Thanks to Andrew for the panorama shot  please click on it if
you'd like to see a bigger version ;-)

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