After our dive intensive first week in Cairns, we headed south to Lady Elliot Island and slowed down (a bit).
Lady Elliot holds a very special place in my heart.  I first visited by myself while I was living in Australia after college.  I absolutely fell in love with it for the beautiful blue waters and amazing snorkeling/diving.  When mom and Dan came to visit, I was able to share it with them which was wonderful.
When Jason and I visited Australia back in 2010, we decided to visit Heron Island instead.  The accommodations are a bit more luxurious / romantic.  And we absolutely loved our time there even though we didn't do any diving and the snorkeling wasn't all that great.  We loved the atmosphere and being away from it all, a true island getaway.
So this time around we decided to head to Lady Elliot.  We flew from Cairns into Hervey Bay and spent the night before catching a little hopper flight to the island.   Below, left, is Jason enjoying the view along a walk in Hervey Bay.
To get to Lady Elliot, you take a small prop plane which lands on a grass strip in the middle of the island.  I sat behind the pilot on the short flight - like right behind the pilot.  I worried about my knees digging into his back through his seat!  Between the propeller blades you can see the island coming into view!!

I was so excited to return to Lady Elliot, but would it hold up to my memories from almost 20 years(!!!) ago?  Spoiler alert: yep.
We had booked a beach unit - they're the only units with air conditioning and we were a bit worried that it'd be too hot and humid for us to sleep without it.  But the benefit of beachfront is cool ocean breezes and we never turned it on :) 
The view was pretty spectacular from our sliding glass doors and bedroom window.  Just steps from the door was a picnic table holding various seashells and then glorious cerulean blue water.  Truthfully though, much of the view was of bushes of birds.  Lady Elliot is a huge nesting spot for various birds.  
Because the island is small (about 100 acres) and also a national park, the number of human visitors is limited which is great as you don't feel crowded.  But for the birds it's another story - space was definitely at a premium.  Many nested right on the ground.  On the left hand side of the middle picture you can see a bird sitting on its nest between 2 rocks - this was right out our backdoor.
Our time on Lady Elliot seemed magical.  They "only" did 2 dives a day so it was a slower pace than the dive boat, we definitely embraced island time with naps and plenty of time for relaxation.
Surprisingly, there was actually quite a bit to do out of the water.  We did a "behind the scenes" tour which was very cool - they explained the desalination process for how they got their water and showed us that equipment.  They also showed us their solar panels and battery banks.  They are very close to hitting their goal for next year which is to be 100% solar powered!
On our last night we took part in quiz night with some folks we'd met on the island and had a fun time using our new-found knowledge of the island which was one of the categories.
And, as always, we enjoyed taking walks and were shocked at some of the things we spotted just walking along the water during low tide.  We spotted a small black and white "banded snake eel" one night (had to go look that up in one of the many reef books provided at the education center next to the dining room).   Lots of blue starfish and a few fish here and there.  We also spotted a larger eel swimming along for quite a while.  Honestly - I'm glad I saw them from dry land, not too keen on an eel swimming toward me in water!  We did actually see a moray eel while diving but he was tucked back in a little hole which was nice :)
Oh, and we enjoyed some lovely sunsets...
It probably won't surprise you to hear, though, that what really stood out to us was our time in the water.  We went snorkeling one day and did 7 dives.  And boy did we see a lot!
I think we were both surprised at how much more colorful and healthier the coral looked off Lady Elliot compared to what we saw off Cairns.  The visibility when we were at Cairns wasn't great so that certainly added to it.  But the visibility off Lady Elliot was amazing and we marveled at how much there was to see.  A large variety of coral and fish plus lots of sharks, plenty of turtles and we even saw 2 manta rays which is what Lady Elliot is known for.  It's not really manta ray season so I was chuffed we got to see a couple. (chuffed is Aussie for pleased) :)
Below is a map that shows the various dive spots around the island. 
To get to the dives, we'd get our gear from the dive shop then jump on a little shuttle for a short drive across the island  (only a 10 minute walk but that's way too long when you're loaded down with dive gear!)  Then we'd hop on a small boat for a 5 minute ride to whichever dive spot(s) we'd be visiting that day. 
Sometimes the boat would be a dive boat with just seats, other times we'd be on one of the glass bottom boats.  
Each dive was led by a guide and we had some fantastic guides... Jeremy, Toby, Andy and Remy made sure we saw heaps of fun stuff!
Usually Tim was the skipper of the boat but one day Andy drove the boat and I  think he wished he was in the water with us because when we looked up at the glass bottom boat we saw this :)
Jason had gotten a GoPro (underwater video camera) for the trip.  Part way into our time on the dive boat I found myself wishing I had one... luckily I was able to borrow one for the last couple days which was a lot of fun.  When we got off the boat we picked me up one and I'm so glad because there was so much to see at Lady Elliot I would have constantly been trying to borrow Jason's :) 
I'm looking forward to putting together a video of all the various things we both filmed, but wanted to give you a sampling.  Below are some photos pulled from the videos I took both off the dive boat and Lady Elliot.  I did my best to try and give the fish name if I know it :)
The left shows Jason, the dive boat photographer and Michael diving off the dive boat along a wall of coral.  We saw a few sharks off the dive boat including this one.  He was trying his best to sleep and only moved once we got close.
One of the creatures we saw in abundance off the dive boat but did not see off Lady Elliot was the cuttlefish which I mentioned in my last post.  These now rank up there with sea turtles for things I am super happy to find.  The way they move and change colors is just so captivating.  I had a hard time whittling down my favorite snaps so apologies for the # but I wanted to give an idea of how many colors/patterns they show. :)
The big fish is a maori wrasse and they are very friendly and curious.  During a reef talk we learned that they have a very long memory and often remember various dive guides.  This one was certainly not shy and came up to us a few times.  Michael says hello the boat photographer takes a snap :)  The yellow and black caterpillar looking creature is a notodoris minor nudibranch. 
My favorite fishes to spot are the butterflyfish and angelfish.  The white fish below is a Threadfin Butterflyfish, the yellow ones are Mirror Butterflyfish.
The 2 yellow and black are Six banded Angelfish and the other is a Pufferfish.
 Below is another favorite - the Emperor Angelfish - we were lucky and spotted quite a few!
We also saw lots of turtles and sharks!
Sometimes the turtles would be chillin on the ocean floor and other times they'd swim right by to say hi :)
Oh, and did I mention sharks??
As I said, we especially loved the coral around Lady Elliot, lots of types from staghorn and fan to plate coral.  That's Jason and his GoPro rig, the black, white and yellow pair of fish in front of the coral are Moorish Idols.  We got to see several of these up close as well.
Seeing a shark really isn't all that scary since they usually want to get away from you as fast as possible.  But on one of our dives a big fish swam right through the group and we were feeling a bit spooked since it looked like a shark.  We found out later it's called a Cobia and they aren't sharks and are just super curious... whew.
The fish with the bright blue tail is a Eyestripe Surgeonfish.  The one with thin yellow and blue stripes is a Lined Surgeonfish.  The one with a goldish body with blue outlines is a Semicircle Angelfish and the one with blue, white and yellow stripes is a Royal Angelfish.  The one with the big black spot is a Saddle Butterflyfish.
I just loved all the vibrant colors of the fish, the photos definitely don't do them justice.  Often there'd be spots or stripes that were iridescent, you couldn't help but smile seeing them all.
Of course you can't go to the reef without seeing Nemo (orange Clownfish) and Dory (Blue Tang).  We even got lucky and saw baby clownfish and tangs which were super cute!  
One of the dives we did off Lady Elliot was the shipwreck of the Severance.  To be honest it wasn't our favorite, there really wasn't much to see and the current was REALLY strong around it.  Strong current is not your friend as a diver because it means lots of kicking which uses up your air faster which means a shorter dive.  We definitely preferred when the water was still - then you could assume a yogi pose and just float.  :)  It's a bit blurry but that's Jason just hangin' out.
The pics below show how the reef at Lady Elliot was teeming with fish... 
The yellow and white ones with dots in the top photo are Teardrop Butterflyfish.
And of course, thanks to Michael, we always had our eyes peeled to spot nudibranches.  The black one is a dawn flatworm (I guess the difference of a flatworm vs a nudibranch is lack of antenna?)  The blue, yellow and orange ones are chromodoris elisabethina (which I think is super cool since that's my middle name - pretty neat huh Aunt Beth?)
As I said, we were lucky enough to see a manta ray - one off in the distance and the one below up close as it was getting cleaned.  These are really big and so graceful to watch, they look like they're flying underwater.
When all is said and done, this is the sight that gave me the biggest smile underwater.  I'm so grateful I've gotten to share this experience with the love of my life.  He has made everything more special by sharing his excitement with me.  
As I write this we are sitting in the Melbourne airport waiting to board our flight to New Zealand and he's catching a catnap next to me.  I look down on him as he sleeps and I know I truly am the luckiest girl in the world!

You may also like

Back to Top