…. oh yes! That’s Lady Elliot island for you. We booked a two night stay, despite knowing that an extended family member thought it was a horrible place. One of my rules for living paid off here – “to each his own”. I love the sea, I love coral, I love tropical fish in their own environment, I love nature and I love snorkelling – what was there to lose? Even bad weather by the sea has its own charms. So off we went.
Bundaberg, where we were staying, is very flat apart from “The Hummock”, the remains of a small volcano which erupted over a million years ago. The flatness is very obvious from the plane.
There is no boat access to lady Elliot as it is a coral cay, surrounded by a reef. Every three months a barge is able to come in at ?high tide where some idiot, in the distant past, in his wisdom blew a hole in the reef. The rest of the time perishables are flown in by light plane. I also love light planes (I love a lot of things, don’t I?) so the flight over was magic. As we approached the island, the sea had a lot of almost concentric circular rings of turquoise blue water surrounding the island – we never got a real explanation of what had caused the colour difference.
The island looked just like it should as the pilot circled it looking for manta rays and sharks to show us (we didn’t see any, although others did).
Lady Elliot is an eco-island – low key, down-market, no television, no mobile phone coverage, no “entertainment”, no “beautiful people”, no day spa or any other kind of spa, no plush room styling, no ‘fiddled with” food (one of my unloves!) and one public phone.
The ensuite rooms are basic motel style but with a large bathroom and very comfortable beds – in ours, anyway; there are also bunk rooms (the ones I saw were 4 bedded in permanent tents) with shared bathrooms: Our room was the closest to the camera and the balcony looked straight out to the lagoon – when we weren’t doing other things we spent our time sitting there in the beautiful sea breeze, drinking tea and reading and knitting.
Dress code is comfortable and very casual except for the dining room where swimmers and bare feet are not allowed; the food is good old style country pub food – lots of it, and always a vegetarian option and soy milk available – and always a serve yourself buffet; the dining room is pleasant with laminated tables but why would you eat in there when the building has a huge undercover and also outdoor eating area on the balcony and terrace outside, looking straight at the sea: This is the view from the verandah of the dining room and bar at low tide – the terrace is just visible on the left. At six o’clock each night there are “island whispers” in the adjoining bar. A pre-dinner snack is served and bookings taken for the next day’s activities. The bar serves light snack type meals between 10 and 3 each day. There is also espresso coffee available in the bar , and even decaf soy for wimps like me. Free tea (bags) and instant coffee are available all day in the dining area.
The activities as opposed to “entertainment” are many and varied. Included in the tariff is a 1 hour glass-bottom boat ride, divided into 30 minutes coral viewing and 30 minutes snorkelling, or you can choose to have a 1 hour snorkelling trip instead. We chose the mixed option. The boat travels along the beach n the other side of the island where there are two areas designated for snorkelling. It’s possible to swim there at high tide by yourself, but for those who are not strong swimmers (like me!) the lagoon outside our room is better, so I welcomed the chance to snorkel in the deeper water with someone to rescue me nearby, if necessary!
Each day there were various other activities – snorkelling and scuba diving lessons; dive boats; guided reef walks and island explorations (a discovery walk, a history walk and a night walk). Because the island is so small there is overlap in all these walks, but each has a different focus and we enjoyed them. The guides are young graduates in marine biology or similar and knowledgeable and personable. There are also “behind the scenes” tours as the island is mainly solar powered and all water is provided by their own desalination plant. Some evenings there are talks by the guides about different aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, and our first evening we played “Island Trivia” which made us realise how much we knew but also how much we still had to learn about the island and the reef!
More next time.