Whenever a list of the greatest destinations for diving in the world is compiled and published, Lady Elliot Island, off the coast of Queensland, is usually somewhere in the top ten.
If diving on the Great Barrier Reef is on your holiday agenda but you don t have the time or motivation to travel all the way to the Whitsundays or Cairns, Lady Elliot is the prefect destination for you. It s only 46 nautical miles north-east of Bundaberg and even closer to the idyllic holiday town of 1770, so flight times from either location are short.
With an area of just 40 hectares (99 acres), Lady Elliot Island is the southern-most coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also one of only six island resorts on the Great Barrier Reef (the Whitsundays are not on the reef, but coastal islands) and one of only three with flight access. Not only that, it is one of the few coral cays where you can fly straight in and land on the water right on the reef, a big advantage to maximise time in the water. It s no wonder this area attracts its untouched gardens of coral divers from all over the world. Snorkelling and beginner dive options are also available for the less-experienced who want to see the Great Barrier Reef at close range.
You can see a wealth of marine life here including a resident population of 40 Manta Rays. There are countless varieties of fish and live corals but you may also see some life above the water as well. Sightings of turtles, turtle hatchlings, dolphins, birds, and even humpback whales have been reported in this area as they travel up and down the coast between June and October each year.
Other activities include cruising the waters surrounding the island in a glass-bottomed boat. There is no better place to see the reef without getting wet, and the water here is so stunningly clear that you can see right down to the bottom. Once back on land, you can take a guided reef walk (protective footwear is available) or be involved in fish feeding.
A resort on the island only allows 105 guests to stay overnight in order to conserve the delicate environment. Alternatively, you can fly in direct for a day trip from a variety of locations along the Queensland coast, of which Bundaberg and 1770 are the closest. Daily flights also operate out of Brisbane, Coolangatta (Gold Coast), Maroochydore (Sunshine Coast) and Hervey Bay.
Lady Elliot Island was discovered in 1816 by Captain Tomas Stewart who was sailing the Queensland coast in his ship the Lady Elliot. The vessel was named after Anna Maria Elliot (1777-1829), the wife of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Baron Minto, known as Sir Gilbert Elliot between 1777 and 1797 and as The Lord Minto between 1797 and 1813. He was a Scottish politician who held numerous diplomatic posts, including the Governor General of Cananda, and the colonial governor of India, 1807 to 1813. Anna Maria Gilbert was the daughter of Sir George Amyand, 1st Baronet, an army contractor during the Seven Years War and later a director of the East India Company. The vessel Lady Elliot had been built in Bengal at the time her husband was colonial governor.