Lady Elliot Island, Queensland
Type of dive: Reef
Access: Boat (15 minutes)
Minimum qualification: Open Water
Depth: 10 -25 metres (30-80’)
Visibility: 10-30 metres (30-100’)
Water temperature: 23°C (73°F) – 26°C (78°F)
Best time to visit: Anytime (Can be windy in February/March)
Snorkelling: Yes, great diversity!
Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef and is in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s ‘Green Zone’; affording it the highest level of protection.
Located 85 kilometres (53 miles) north east of Bundaberg, home of the famous Bundaberg Rum, it is only accessible by air. Lady Elliot is part of the Bunker Island group which includes Heron and Lady Musgrove Islands.
Lady Elliot has a chequered past.
The first industry on the island was in 1805 when ‘bêche-de-mer’ (sea cucumber) was harvested for export to South East Asia. In 1863, a license was granted to mine the island for ‘guano’ (bird droppings) for fertilizer. Over the next ten years, the island was mined flat including most of its trees and top soil, leaving only its lighthouse, built in 1866. A new lighthouse was constructed in 1995.
The island remained a virtual desert island until 1966 when lighthouse staff commenced a re-vegetation program. The island quickly recovered and is now a seabird haven. Over 55 species of seabird visit the island and in summer, 50,000 birds nest here.
An airstrip and modest accommodation was built in 1969 and today, Lady Elliot Island is a beautiful resort getaway for only 100 visitors at any one time.
Surrounded by exceptionally clear water, the island boasts many great dive sites suitable for all levels of scuba diver including a small wreck, Severance.
The Severance sank in 1999 and lies in 21 metres (69’) of water on its keel, listing to the port side. Most of her masts and superstructure are still intact.
One of the island’s most spectacular dives is the Blowhole, a cave which has an opening through the top of the reef at 14 metres (45’) and a large deep water opening to the side in 22 metres (72’).
The coral around Lady Elliot is diverse; large plate and staghorn corals are in pristine condition and the underwater walls and caves support a colourful array of soft coral.
Fish life ranges from large schools of pelagic such as schooling barracuda, to the resident larger species including coral trout, blue angels, spangled emperors and moray eels. Colourful tropical fish including cardinals, clown fish, lionfish and Moorish idols also inhabit the coral gardens.
Manta rays, eagle rays, white tip reef sharks, wobbegongs, shovelnose rays and large bull rays are sighted regularly.
Drift dives and night dives only add to the excitement of a Lady Elliot Island diving experience.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Great dive sites to visit while you are there:
Hiro’s Cave, Lighthouse Bommie, Three Pyramids, Coral Gardens and Encounters.