On the 24th we flew in a small plane above the Sunshine Coast to Lady Eliot Island.
- We flew over a beautiful 75 mile stretched of white sand beaches with almost no people to be seen. At one point there were several cars driving on the beach as if it were a highway.
- The Broadwater and Morton Bay contain over 300 islands.
- Just as we passed Brisbane we could see the peaks of the Glasshouse Mountains. They are the cones of extinct volcanos dating over 21 million years.
- We flew over Fraser Island which is the largest (123 X 25 km) sand island in the world. It has over 44 fresh water lakes.
Lady Elliot Island is located 100 km north of Harvey Bay. It is the only coral cay along the entire 2000 km of reef that is capable of landing a fixed wing aircraft. Coral cays consist basically of a layer of coral sand atop of varied collection of hard limestone rock. The island appeared above sea level roughly about 3500 years ago a coral rubble spit. Coral cay’s consist basically of a layer of coral sand atop of varied collection of hard limestone rock.
From 1863 to 1873 Mr. J Askunas mined the island for guano. He leased the island for profit. The new state of Queensland needed the money and he was the highest bidder. All of the trees were cut down to aid in removing the guano. The island was reduced to a barren oasis in a sea of plenty. Thanks to Don Adams the island was re-vegetated.
What a beautiful site it was from our plane. You can see the reef surrounding the island.
We were given an orientation about the island and a tour of the facilities. One of the instructions we were given was to keep a close eye on the food as we were eating and to never leave it on the table. This is because of the Buff Banded Rail. They are the cheekiest resident birds. They are very fast-moving and will steal your food in a flash. They are more likely to be found running around the resort than flying in the air. There were a lot of them and their advice to watch our food was definitely accurate.
Another thing we were told is that we had to wear shoes that would protect our feet from the cone shells. They have creatures in them that will sting us. They had shoes for us to borrow for the whole time. I was lucky to find a pair of Crocs that fit me.
They told us we could go almost anywhere on the island but to be careful not to walk on the airstrip when the lights were flashing.
We picked up our snorkeling equipment and both Rose and I rented wetsuits. We took a brief lesson in the pool on how to snorkel.
This is our Eco-Cabin.
One of the wonderful features of this island is that you can snorkel in several places right off the edge of the island. One of the places is in a lagoon but you can only snorkel there during high tide. We had to wait until 4:30 to go out.
The weather was absolutely beautiful and we were advised to take our trip on the glass bottom boat because they seas were calm and they didn’t know what the weather would be like the next day.
I rented an underwater camera just for the fun of it. Out of hundreds of attempts to take photos, I actually captured a few that I can share in this post.
You couldn’t really see much through the bottom of the boat, but we were given the opportunity to go snorkeling off the side of the boat. What a treat it was. At first I swam right along the rope until I felt more confident out in the water. We stayed in the water for about 30 minutes.
It was difficult to get photos of the beautiful fish, but here are a couple of photos of the coral that I captured.
I loved the purple lines going through the coral.
Here I am just before I got back onto the boat. I was happy to be wearing a wet suit.
At about 14::00 I headed for the lagoon. I spent about 90 minutes out there enjoying every minute. Here are a few photos from my first time in the lagoon.
The first thing I saw was a Spiky Sea Cucumber.
I was really excited and it was just the beginning. The fish was harder to photograph because they were always moving.
There were many of these cute black and white fish.
I love this one.
Can you find Nemo?
Somebody took a photo of me close to the shore before I got out of the water.
It was impossible to get out of the water without getting a lot of coral sand in our shoes.
After my shower, I walked down to the beach past the old lighthouse …
… to see the sunset. Before the time for the sunset I visited with the 3 generation family who came to the island for a whole week to celebrate the grandfather’s 70th birthday.
After visiting with the family I realized that we had about 45 minutes before sunset. So I took a walk down the rocky beach.
I sat down on the rocks and watched the birds. This Bridled Tern sat on the branch in front of for about 15 minutes without moving. What a great subject for a photo. They return to the island to breed each year. They are also known as dog terns due to the barking sound they make.
Right behind me were two White Capped Noddy. They are the noisiest birds. Usually found nesting in trees all over the island which is unusual because they have webbed feet like most seabirds. They migrate from Swain Reef each summer to breed.
In this photo that I took on another day you can see the webbed feet.
I know there are so many sunset photos, but I had to post a couple of mine.
We enjoyed our dinner buffet. One of the things I ate was stuffed capsicum. Capsicum is the Australian word for peppers. Then we went to a lecture about the deep-sea. Although the lecture was at 19:30, I could hardly stay awake.
One other thing I did today was to leave the last of my brother Bob’s ashes in the water around Lady Elliot Island. I am sure that this would have been one of his favorite beaches to visit.
I awoke at 5:30 and I was in time to walk down by the lagoon to see the sunrise. Since I was early, I walked down the rocky beach and found this piece of Red Pipe Organ Coral stuck in a rock. Of course I had to take a photo.
I don’t usually get to see sunrises.
The morning scheduled event was a cool reef walk in the lagoon at low tide. I had to use a pole to make sure I didn’t fall. We had to be very careful to just walk on the sandy parts and not touch any of the coral.
The guide told us that these beautiful, colorful things were actually Burrowing/Boring Clams. The mantle tissue secretes a weak acid like substance that can dissolve the calcium carbonate that surrounds the clam. Each plant has its own individual color and pattern. They have light reflecting cell bundles that produce the color. They have photosensitive dots around the edge of the mantle that to text light changes and causes the clam to close. Here are two examples.
It was great fun walking through the coral. Rose spotted what she thought might have been a small snake. We were able to hold a spiky sea cucumber. One of the people spotted a very small Epaulette Shark hiding in the coral. Another found a very small octopus. Can you see it in the photo?
I signed up to do a snorkel safari that was scheduled to leave at 1:00. After talking with the staff, I decided to cancel. I loved my 90 minute snorkel in the lagoon, but he warned me that on the safari there would be high waves and I had to be a strong swimmer and experienced snorkelers. He didn’t want me to be disappointed. I decided that I didn’t want to have waves going over my head and into the snorkel tube, so I cancelled.
So I walked the 2.5 km circumference of the island. I used the walking-pole walking around the island involves going over very rocky places. The colors of the water were so beautiful.
I did another short walk with a guide. We saw some Red-tailed Tropic Birds with their chicks. These gracious seabirds have been nesting on lady Elliot Island since 1983 and are only found on one other island along the great barrier reef. These birds spend most of their life on the sea and only coming to land to nest, making them a very special site to see here at lady Elliot Island. They can sleep while they fly.
The chick in this photo is only a couple of days old.
I learned a bit more about the tree I had taken a photo of in Redcliffe. It is a Pandanus tree. It is one of the iconic trees of the tropical islands. They have distinctive strong roots above the ground that help secure themselves to the unstable ground and harsh conditions. The roots give them the appearance of walking across the ground and also allow them to soak up as much of the precious rainfall as possible.
We also saw a couple of the green tree frogs that appeared on the island. They are not harmful to the coral so they don’t mind them being here. They have to stay close to a water source so this one is near a bucket of water.
High tide wasn’t until after 16:00 so we had to wait to go snorkeling in the lagoon. I swam further out this time and what an unbelievable time I had.
There were several star fish and they were so beautiful.
Can you even believe the colors in these?
Rose swam over to me and pulled on my fins. She pointed out a Green Sea Turtle. I was so, so excited. It swam around me and I was able to scratch its shell.
Then I could hardly believe my eyes. I swam right over a Cow Tailed Ray. It was resting in the sand. At first I though it was dead, but it kept moving its tail back and forth.
I could hardly believe how big it was – I think at least 5 feet long. Then a Remora swam over and rested on its tail.
I was so overwhelmed.
When I got back to our cabin, Rose told me that they are very dangerous. It is the kind of ray that killed Steve Irwin. But the guides told me that I was far enough above it and that the reason Steve was killed was because he was stung right in the heart.
After another great dinner, we took a night walk. We looked at the amazing star lit sky, explored more of the island, and learned several stories about the ghost of Susannah McKee, one of the lighthouse keeper’s wife, haunting the island.
Today Rose and I walked down to the north end of the island and went snorkeling in some deeper water. I no longer had the rented camera with me to photograph the beautiful coral.
When we landed back in Redcliffe, we were picked up by a driver that I hired through the company to take us back to Brisbane.
I so highly recommend Lady Elliot Island to anybody who is going to Australia. I have barely touched the wonder of the this beautiful, fun-filled place. In addition to the incredible time we had, we met people from many places. I hope to stay in contact with them.