Want to make your work colleagues envy and enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef from a unique, privileged location? Stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, off the coast of Hervey Bay in Queensland, Australia: a laid-back resort on an island just about wide enough for small aircraft to land. With no harbor available, this is how you’ll arrive.
History of Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot Island appeared above sea level roughly 3,500 years ago. Sea birds landed on the island, bringing with them the vital guano and seeds necessary to establish vegetation.
In 1863 and for the following decade, guano miners stayed at Lady Elliot Island, extracting this valuable natural fertilizer from the soil (3 feet of surface soil was removed). Such destructive practice resulted in the loss of almost all the vegetation, except for eight Pisonia trees, which still remain today.
In 1969 Don Adams, a keen aviator, initiated a re-vegetation program, using shrubs and seedlings of native plants from nearby Great Barrier Reef Island and the mainland.
Having emerged from the ashes, Lady Elliot is now a great example of sustainable tourism.
What to do at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Snorkel! The ideal location for both absolute beginners and those with experience, Lady Elliot Island is THE place to give it a go. Visibility within the reef is excellent thanks to the crystal clear water, which means you’ll see turtles, lots of fish, corals, sea stars and the not very intelligent but extremely important sea cucumbers – vacuum cleaners of the oceans without heart or brains.
Further out and beyond the wave-breaking reef which surrounds and protects the island, you’ll find rays and whales even – you can watch them breaching from the Verandah of the Resorts’ restaurant, which is a very special treat when you are having morning coffee or lunch.
Sustainability lessons on biodiversity and climate change
Lady Elliot Resort does a good job in communicating the importance of biodiversity and how climate change affects its fragile marine environment. Throughout the islands lead educational walks with signs about local flora and fauna. There are guided walks and if interested in marine wildlife, make sure to join the nightly presentations on sharks, rays and whales, given by trained marine biologists.
Morning reef walk
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort offers a number of free day activities during your stay. Despite its early start, the morning reef walk was one of our favorites – we even did it twice!
During low tide (early morning when we were there) the lagoon is accessible for walking and exploring. Put on some reef shoes (provided) and grab a walking stick for balance, then simply follow the charming marine biologist who’ll point out anything noteworthy.
We were lucky to see three green turtles passing us on their morning cruise, plenty of blue and red sea stars, sea cucumbers of all sorts and shapes, and even an octopus.
Glass bottom boat and guided snorkeling tour
The Glass Bottom Boat activity is also included for day visitors and overnight guests. This is your chance to spot marine wildlife without getting into the water, though you can also hop into the water and snorkel near the boat.
Evening presentations – sharks!
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort offers evening presentations in the Reef Education Centre. During our stay we were lucky to have a presentation about sharks. We learned a lot, and when we say a lot, we mean it! For example, there are more than 450 types of sharks and most of them are harmless and small.
Yes, sharks have the reputation of being deadly and violent (this was our perception, too), but humans are not part of most shark’s diets. If they bite, it is simply out of mistaken identity or curiosity. As we are destroying their environment and their natural source of food, this unfortunately might happen more often, as sharks need to get closer to the shore to find new sources of food.
Sunset and night walk, star gazing
Imagine yourself in the middle of an empty beach, only the ocean in front of you, with no artificial lights in sight. There you are, watching a sensational sunset, listening to the comforting sound of the waves as they hit the coral reef. After dinner, you come back to the beach, where you look up at a breathtaking night sky – the majestic Southern Cross constellation and what looks like thousands of stars dotted along our very own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Behind the scenes tour: learn about freshwater, solar panels
Another activity you should not miss during your stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is the Behind the Scenes Tour. Lady Elliot Island is a tiny spot, situated 80km out from the mainland. There is no harbor, so everything – everything! – has to be transported by helicopter or small aircraft.
During the Behind the Scenes tour, you’ll learn how the Eco Resort is run, where the drinking water comes from, how they manage waste water from the showers and toilets, and even how they deal with Queensland’s Marine Park Authority.
For us, the most interesting part was to learn about the solar panels and their batteries, which work best at 30% capacity. Hopefully very soon, new battery technology will make solar energy much more efficient and sustainable.
If you decide to spend your holidays in Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, you will not only have a one-in-a-life-time encounter with the pristine and stunning environment that is the Great Barrier Reef. You will also support a resort whose owner, manager and team are strongly committed to sustainability.
Many thanks to Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort for hosting us.
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