Lady Elliot Island is a unique coral cay at the very southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. I decided I wanted to take my two teenage sons to see the reef, and only had time available in January. This is a time of year when the weather in North Queensland is unpredictable and often cyclonic (as hurricanes and typhoons are known locally). It is also staggeringly hot and unpleasant. So I looked for the best coral cay accommodation, as far south as I could get and Lady Elliot Island was the answer. We stayed there for 4 nights. I wanted to stay on a coral cay to avoid the hour long boat trips that are necessary if you want to visit the reef from most Queensland island resorts.
The Island offered exceptional reef for diving and snorkeling (two of us dive). We had six dives, and saw turtles, sharks and manta rays (there are about 40 that live around the island) on almost every dive. Even the snorkelers saw rays, sharks and mantas. Late January is nesting season for the tens of thousands of sea birds that use the Island. It is also nesting season for the hundreds of turtles that use the island (we saw turtles laying eggs, and also hatchings while we were there).
As an experience of a vibrant coral cay ecosystem, it was simply extraordinary and we loved it.
As a resort, it is far from perfect, but is tolerable. The accommodation is -very- basic. It is generally old, and barely maintained. It was generally clean, although there was quite a bit of mould and corrosion. Being nesting season, the entire resort is constantly recovered with guano. The staff clean most seats daily. Although distinctive, the smell is generally not overpowering. The trade winds keep the smell to an ok level. The noise is constant and around the clock. We found it soothing, a little like surf in the background and slept well. The only accommodation with air conditioning are the "suites". These are fibro demountable huts, similar to those found on remote mine sites. At this time of the year there is generally a trade wind, but on still days, it can be extremely humid and uncomfortable. The food is university refectory standard, at best. We found the staff lovely, many were marine biology students.
There is little else to do except dive or snorkel. The resort does make some effort to organise bird, turtle and historical tours during the day. The pool is smaller that most backyard suburban pools and is really only suitable for small children.
The dive shop staff were great. Equipment was generally fairly new and well maintained. Dives were well organised. Almost all dives were at around 18 metres, which surprised us as much of the coral at 12 metres was more interesting. The deeper dives did result in more mantas, however. Dives involve a 3 minute ride in a golf buggy across the island to the boat, gear on, buddy check, then a 3 minute ride out to the edge of the surrounding reef. Extremely convenient diving.
Things you might want to take include a traveler’s peg less clothes line, reef shoes, batteries, Ipods and books for entertainment (there is no bar scene). There are no phones (satellite phone available for outbound calls), newspapers (but they can be ordered), or television.
We thought the Island was simply amazing, but four nights in the resort facilities was about our limit. It would perfectly suit someone who was simply looking for maximum dive time. I did not really do a value comparison against other cay accomodation on the Geat Barrier Reef because of my selection criteria mentioned above.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Lady Elliot is a true coral cay island located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, north of Fraser Island. The island is regarded as one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations on the Great Barrier Reef and is famous for its unspoilt coral reef and amazing array of spectacular marine life including turtles and manta rays. Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort provides a range of low key accommodation options ranging from 2BR Island Suites to Eco Cabins for those on a budget. The overnight rate includes: Full buffet breakfast and dinner daily; One free glass bottom boat/guided snorkel tour per person; Free use of snorkel equipment (mask, snorkel, fins); Range of free guided Island activities/tours; and Environmental Management Charge. Scenic flights depart daily from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay/Fraser Coast, Brisbane (Redcliffe) and Coolangatta. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Lady Elliot Island Eco Hotel Lady Elliot Island