Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is perfect for a green holiday

Experience the splendour of the Great Barrier Reef at its most pristine. The only footprint you will leave on this tiny island will be on the beach.

  • Alexandra Carlton
  • April 2020

One of the first things I notice as I step expectantly from the plane onto Lady Elliot Island, a small speck at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, is that there is not much to notice at all. When it comes to man-made structures, the 42-hectare island, 85 kilometres northeast of Bundaberg, has little more than a runway and several low-lying buildings used for dining, hiring diving gear and administration. A 19th-century lighthouse sits not far from the main settlement, and a cluster of cabins and tents allow up to 150 guests to stay overnight at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort (ladyelliot.com.au).

The number of guests who can stay overnight on the island, in cosy glamping accommodation, is limited.

Otherwise, the island belongs to its natural inhabitants – the thousands of birds, including noddies, terns and sandpipers, which live there permanently or migrate annually, and the green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles that use the island’s sandy shores to lay their eggs.

Lady Elliot Island’s eco-credentials go much further than its eponymous resort sitting lightly on the land, however. The retreat gets almost all energy from solar, and up to 250 kilograms of waste is composted daily or returned to the mainland for recycling. Since 2018, custodians Peter Gash and his family have sought to restore the island’s vegetation to its native state. They have removed invasive species such as lantana and replaced them with essential nesting trees for birds and coral cay natives including casuarinas and octopus bush.

Conservation efforts on the island include replanting native plant species.

The world beneath the waves around the island is also vigilantly conserved. Lady Elliot sits within a “green zone”, which means fishing is banned and the reef’s 1200 marine species – including manta rays, turtles, sharks and tropical fish – are protected. In addition, resort staff participate in several reef monitoring and coral health and wildlife projects, including Project Manta, which aims to track the local manta ray population that swells in size around the island each winter.

While I don’t encounter manta rays on my visit, I only need to wade a couple of metres into the coral lagoon that sits just off the sand, right outside my tent door, to come face to face with gentle turtles bobbing through the water, sleek eagle rays and comically fierce little reef fish guarding their personal patches of coral.

The waters around Lady Elliott Island are perfect for snorkelling and diving.

Starting my mornings this way helps adjust to the island’s unhurried pace. Meals are relaxed and communal, and afternoons are spent snorkelling to the outer reefs. It’s true, there wasn’t much to notice when I first arrived at Lady Elliot Island but there is an infinite amount to see, experience and wonder at when I slow down and truly look.

Explore more of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays – find the perfect destination for your holiday style here.