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

Lady Elliot Island, Dec, 2006,

by Lee Thé, CA, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports). Report 3479.

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 Galera),
Hawaii (Big Island, Maui)
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 70 to 71 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 30 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments 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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