Travel

Lady Elliot Island provides magic, naturally

Contributed

IT'S 7.30am on an ordinary Friday morning and I'm stuck in Brisbane traffic with stress levels rising. Rain clouds hang heavy and sodden ... it's a less than average start to my day.

It seems inconceivable then that just over an hour later I am flying high above a dappled sea, Facebooking my friends with aerial images of a white-rimmed coral cay, dotted with clusters of reef and washed by a lucid blue lagoon. "What's going on in your office today?" I tease.

Now it's morning tea and I'm joined by a chamber of turtles, blissfully unaware of the constant dinging of peeved social networking posts made by my working friends.

In the space of just over an hour, I have ditched the office and city life, trading it for a jaunt to Lady Elliot Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef in a 10-hour getaway that sees both my daughter and me opting for some outdoor life education in a day away from the desk.

Peter Gash, ecological crusader, wildlife warrior and co-owner of Lady Elliot Island, meets our one-hour-and-ten-minute Seair Pacific charter flight from Redcliffe, Brisbane, and promises to share with us a window into this secluded haven, a stone's throw from our city doorways, but an entire world away from suburban psyche.

"I just love to see the looks of joy on our guests' faces when they have visited Lady Elliot and experienced the pristine wilderness of such a beautiful place. I will have you home by sunset today but I can't guarantee you're going to be happy. You'll probably want to turn around and come back," he said.

In a world of tourism that strives to be bigger, bolder and more luxurious, Peter is a down-to-earth type of bloke who seems to get more enjoyment from watching us explore and snorkel in his backyard than taking over nature's wonders with swanky hotels in the bid for happiness.

Keeping the 150-bed eco-island facilities low-key, Peter has instead focused on the five-star environment and its preservation, taking the monumental steps to reduce the island's carbon footprint and restore it back to its natural glory.

"I feel humbled to have been entrusted with such a jewel and am determined to work tirelessly to be worthy of the task of looking after it," he said.

Our flight skimmed low over the Sunshine Coast and Glasshouse Mountains, following the sandy beaches, dunes and coastal bushlands to Double Island Point, Fraser Island, then onto Hervey Bay where 100km north we landed on a grassy airstrip in the middle of the reef.

After a short Island Discovery Tour everyone was kitted up to meet the locals - some 1200 of the Great Barrier Reef's 1500 species of fish can be found here, with the late undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau labelling the southern Great Barrier Reef one of the world's premier dive destinations. It doesn't take long for us to discover why.

Some of the country's best diving and snorkelling can be accessed straight off the beach but as the tide is low we travel a few minutes by glass-bottom boat to deeper water.

Contributed

Jumping from the boat I find myself part of a swirling, swarming mass of big-eye trevally. There are coral masses all around, teeming with life, but in the end it's the friendliness of the island's turtles that steals the day. As the sun streams through the crystal clear water, I cruise above a giant green turtle wallowing below.

She starts to ascend directly beside me, coming up for air as if wanting to meet me eye to eye. Dropping down once again we hang together, suspended in the deep blue.

In this intimate encounter I get to stroke her shell, study her patterned head, curious eyes and paddle-like flippers. After a casual buffet lunch we join a reef walk to meet some other distinctive stars. The bright blue linckia sea star, the New Caledonian sea star and a curious pincushion variety, all decorate the seabed.

My daughter picks up a sea cucumber, recoiling under her touch and stops to watch a soft-bodied marine snail, the nudibranch, one of the most colourful creatures on Earth, creep slowly across the coral.

Just before saying our goodbyes to the reef, our guide draws from the water a large plump and succulent looking creature glowing green and gold. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen and quite a delicacy I'm told. Thankfully, Lady Elliot Island is within a Green Zone and the abalone is placed back in the shallows.

Our day, unfortunately, is now drawing to a close. Peter with his vivacious energy tries to extract us from the water and threaten us with flight departures but no-one seems to care. Clad in wetsuit and ruffled hair, I begin to wonder what really is behind his winning grin.

I fear he knows we go home tonight, back to the traffic, as he swims home amid crowds of fish.

But for today at least, we city dwellers have gone beyond the ordinary. We have traded life in the office for an extraordinary day on the southern Great Barrier Reef, Facebooking it to our jealous friends.

>>More Travel stories

How to get there

  • Lady Elliot Island can be accessed as a day trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast with flights taking just over an hour
  • Alternatively, flights also depart from Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. Day trip rates from Brisbane (Redcliffe) are $699 per adult and $399 per child
  • Visit http://www.ladyelliot.com.au for further packages.

The writer was a guest of Tourism Queensland and Lady Elliot Island.

Topics:  great barrier reef lady elliot island travel


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Innovative new business to open in Biloela

COLLECTIVE SPIRIT: Josie Rigney will also be selling her own goods in the shop, trading as The Dainty Cup.

Kariboe St Collective will allow vendors to share space and costs.

Panthers name new captain for 2017 season

NEW ROLE: Panthers captain Karl Stevens is chasing success in Rockhampton after Biloela took out their home 9-a-side competition earlier this month.

Karl Stevens takes over the role from coach Ryan Wilson.

Division 6 campaign enters final stretch

GETTING IN TOUCH: Division 6 candidate Bronwyn Christensen (left) with Des Howe, Bill Stevens and Joy Stevens at the opening of the Theodore Men's Shed earlier this month.

Bronwyn Christensen and Terri Boyce in final push for votes.

Local Partners

Oscars to be politically charged

Oscars 2017: Live Coverage of the 89th Academy Awards.

Married At First Sight couple flouts the rules

Sean and Susan in a scene from Married At First Sight.

ONE couple is openly flouting the rules of Married At First Sight.

The one film that could beat La La Land

Mahershala Ali and Alex R Hibbert in a scene from the movie Moonlight.

OSCARS 2017 predictions: Who will win on the big night?

Actor Bill Paxton has died aged 61

Bill Paxton at the premiere of "Captain Phillips".

American actor and director Bill Paxton has died at 61 due

Un-American tale makes Lion weakest link in Oscars line-up

Dev Patel in a scene from the movie Lion.

PSYCHOLOGY researchers find US films most likely to win at Oscars.

Can rightful winner Moonlight take out Gosling in Oscars?

Can Lion pip La La Land at the post in this year's Oscars? Sunny Pawar (pictured) helped bring a powerful film to the big screen.

WILL Aussie film Lion triumph or will popular La La Land prevail?

Mackay's property market climbing like a Rocket Man

Renewed confidence in Mackay means more homes are being snapped up by those eager to plant their roots in the region.

There's movement in the real estate sector and it's all positive.

Mining downturn hitting mum and dad investors

18 Yeates Street, Moranbah sold for $135,000 in December, after being repossessed by a bank. The owners bought for $545,000 in August, 2011.

The economy still has two speeds, but with a painful twist

'Why we drove 800km to buy a treehouse with a disco ball'

The new owners have planned a few updates, but will stick with much of the original design.

A couple travelled almost 800km for the home of their dreams.

The trick homeowners are using to buy more properties

Chantelle Subritzky leaves her home each week for Airbnb guests.

Queenslanders are going down this path to help pay their mortgages

Stunning home blends South Pacific beauty with Orient style

Immaculate residence with two outdoor living areas

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!