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Dive Review of Lady Elliot Island in
Australia/Great Barrier Reef

December, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Lee Thé, CA, USA
Reviewer   (6 reports)
Report Number 3479
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Liveaboards in Indonesia (Komodo, Wakatobi), Caribbean (Bahamas, BVI);
land-based in California (Monterey Bay, Catalina), Florida (West Palm
Beach), Canada (Vancouver Island), Caribbean (Bahamas, BVI, Cayman Brac,
Little Cayman, Cozumel), Hawaii (Big Island, Maui), Philippines (Puerto
Hawaii (Big Island, Maui)
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy  
Water Temp
70   to 71    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
30   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Required to stay with group; be back on boat with 750psi; report psi to
dive master frequently during dive; obey divemaster at all times; threat of
being grounded if any rules flouted; no indie shore diving allowed, only 2
boat dives/day possible + a few night dives.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
3 stars  
Shore Facilities  
3 stars  
None on boat but all trips short; big rinse tank on shore but no camera
table; viz not so hot and reefs/fish so-so, but abundant turtles during
breeding season at least (hawksbill, loggerhead, green), fair number of big
fish due to strict fishing ban actually enforced unlike in 3rd world
country national parks; big fish include leopard sharks, mantas, groupers.
Plus you have opportunity to shoot turtles onshore laying eggs, and
>90,000 birds on island during breeding season offers terrific
opportunities for bird photography--several species of terns nesting along
with tropic birds, silver gulls, rails, more.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
2 stars    
Lady Elliot Island is definitely a mixed bag. Strong, steady wind during
our stay precluded diving anywhere but in the lee of this little island
(roughly the width of the landing strip). So we wound up visiting several
sites repeatedly, including the only wreck, a yacht with a fair amount of
life around it. Diving was safe and easy, with no walls & the bottom no
deeper than 85 feet or so--albeit with pretty slim pickings compared to
Indonesia where we usually dive. The only difficulty was that for the
afternoon dive we had to wade over the reef in a foot or two of surging
seawater for about 50 yards, carrying all our gear, to reach the boat.
Morning dives during high tide let the boat reach the shore and let its
nose ramp down. No dock. Apart from this deathmarch and the chilly 71
degree water it's a great place for newbie divers. No big currents, close
supervision by the divemasters, long surface intervals, and a saltwater
pool for initial checkouts. You will need a full 5mm suit with hood

For experienced divers it's galling to be so micromanaged by the
divemasters. You rig your own gear and shlep it, though they do take you
from the dive center to the shore where you embark via stretch golf cart.
However, you will see some big fish, lots of turtles in water and some on
land at night, good snorkeling in between dives--including turtles--and
some nice white sand beaches by the best snorkeling area help. 

Lady Elliot Island is at the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef
National Park. Small planes fly there regularly from as far south as
Brisbane. So if you're in southeastern Australia and can't get up to Cairns
or Port Douglas for the Great Barrier Reef liveaboards, and have people
with you who don't dive, you could do a lot worse. Accommodations were OK.
Buffet b'fast and dinners featured all you can eat hearty Aussie fare &
a chance to meet dozens of other divers and families of nondivers there for
the birds & turtles & small island ambience. No AC but the sea
breeze did the job. Our room was spacious. No TV of course, and no
internet--the island's about 70 miles offshore. They also have tent cabins.

Birds cover every horizontal surface and fill every tree during nesting
season--which was in full swing in Early December. Also,Lady Elliot Island
is probably the most economical of GBR islands you can stay on & dive
from. We spent a week there. I'd be surprised if we went back, but if we
wound up there we would enjoy ourselves. 

I can't report on the windward dive sites. However, we did stay on the
island's windward edge by a largish shallow lagoon that you could snorkel
except at low tide. The snorkeling there was great--lots of fish + turtles
to see and not that far below due to the shallowness. Steady, mild current.
I'd snorkel-drift to one end, walk back to the other, then drift down
again. One of many things non-diving family members could do while you're
diving. Oh, and despite normally just having two dives a day, they did
offer a few night dives, which were pretty good. 

BTW I felt quite safe in the Cessna Turbo Commander we flew out & back
on. As small planes go it was quite comfortable, and had plenty of power
for takeoffs from that short gravel strip. Try to get this plane--it's
better than the other one they fly. Tight luggage limits though. However,
they will store luggage you don't need on the island for free at the
airport. And it's easy to catch a shuttle to a train station if you want to
take one of those great Queensland trains before/after.

Warning: don't buy the DVD of UW pics sold by the gift shop unless you can
verify that every single pic doesn't have a big fat watermark through the
middle of it. We complained about it after getting home and they sent us a
make-good disk. But it wasn't much better. We should have taken the refund
they offered.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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