Lady Elliot Island, Australia Snorkeling Trip February 2018

Triggerfish over a sandy bottom Lady Elliot Island Australia
Lady Elliot Island Triggerfish

By Barb – (Adelaide, Australia)
In February 2018 I spent five nights on the small but beautiful Lady Elliot Island, in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia for a snorkeling trip. It’s located at the very south of the reef, only accessible by light plane from Hervey Bay.

Accommodations are very basic but you are on an island, only steps from a beautiful lagoon full of marine life. I spent hours snorkeling, and saw sea turtles, all kinds of fish and other sea creatures. I was there during turtle breeding season, and saw mother turtles making their way up the sand to lay eggs. And babies emerging from their nests to dash to the sea!

Five days was not enough and I hope to return. I would highly recommend a visit here if you love nature, and especially, snorkeling.

Eagle Ray over a hard coral reef Lady Elliot Island Australia
Eagle Ray at Lady Elliot Island
Large school of Convict Tang over sand a hard corals Lady Elliot Island Australia
School of Convict Tang – we saw while snorkeling at Lady Elliot Island

Epaulette Shark laying on a sandy bottom at Lady Elliot Island Australia
Epaulette Shark at Lady Elliot Island

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Nicole and Galen – Mar 30, 2018 – Thank You

Hi Barb, thank you for sharing your great pictures and some information about your snorkeling trip to Lady Elliot Island.

Is there more than one beach to snorkel from on the island? How far from shore is the reef? It looks like the depths are very good for snorkeling. Are there currents to contend with at all?

Thanks again.

Barb – Mar 31, 2018 – Lady Elliot Snorkeling

There is a shallow lagoon on one side of the island, only accessible at high tide – generally once a day. The other side of the island (five minutes walk away) has a deeper access and may be snorkeled anytime.

However when I was there it was windy and currents were up so I mainly stayed on the lagoon side where it was shallower (but lots of marine life). There were a couple of still days with little current but the other days I found myself in a fair current, but nothing unmanageable. It might just have been the time of year (end of summer) so I can’t vouch for other times.

I forgot to mention – the lagoon is only meters from your accommodation. You can step out of your room, and walk straight onto the beach.

Also the mother turtles were nesting only meters from my room – awesome sight though pictures were impossible as you cannot shine a light on them and they only come up in the dark.

Pam – Mar 31, 2018 – Coral?

Thanks for posting. What did you think of the condition of the soft and hard coral? Bleaching?

Steve Radley – Mar 31, 2018 – Best Snorkeling at Lady Elliot Island

Thanks for the pictures Barb. Lady Elliot Island has to be one of the best snorkeling and freediving locations on the Great Barrier Reef. I live in Brisbane and I’m always trying to get there as often as possible. My last visit was in August 2017 for the Humpback Whale migration.

To answer a few of the questions posed by Nicole and Galen the lagoon (E/SE side of the island) is readily and easily snorkelable (not sure there is such a word) about 1-1.5 m deep at high tide. The western side is deeper with fantastic reefs directly off the beach, about 10-20 m from shore and from 0-20 m deep with a huge diversity of life. Manta rays are common on this side and there are a few cleaning stations to keep them hanging around.

You definitely need to be aware of the currents on this western side but saying that the dive shop has a current indicator board which gives timely and up to date information.

You do have to walk a bit to get to the western side from the accommodation area. I take it as a great time to spot the many migratory birds that use Lady Elliot Island as either a roost or a spelling spot.

Hope this helps.

Barb – Mar 31, 2018 – Lady Elliot Island

No, no bleaching. Vibrant, healthy corals here. The island is located at the very “bottom” of the reef and has not been affected.

Steve Radley – Apr 1, 2018 – Very Little Bleaching at Lady Elliot Island

I agree Barb, very little coral bleaching at Lady Elliot Island unlike the Great Barrier Reef up north.

The triggerfish in your photo I know as a Picasso Triggerfish for fairly obvious reasons. They are very territorial and even try to see off potentially threatening homo sapiens, going for the eyes (mask), or the feet if you are standing on the sand (not on the coral).

There are many Green Sea Turtles at LEI all year round including within the lagoon and they seem to be very tolerant of inquiring snorkelers.

The Manta Rays (Manta alfredi) are also extremely tolerant of close encounters by breath-holding snorkelers, not so much of noisy bubbling SCUBA people though.

Nicole and Galen – Apr 1, 2018 – Thanks Barb and Steve

Thank you both Barb and Steve for your detailed answers to my questions including the distances from shore and the depths for snorkeling. That makes this a very useful post for folks wanting to snorkel at Lady Elliot Island. There is quite a bit more information about snorkeling at LEI on this other visitor page.

Kimberly – Apr 29, 2018 – Stingers?

This is so helpful Barb and Steve. Thank you for adding your current information. We are wanting to visit in early January. I’m told that is still in the “season” when there is a particular jellyfish that can be a rather nasty sting. Did you wear “stinger suits”? What do the locals say about this? Do they swim with stinger suits?


Barb – Apr 29, 2018 – Lady Elliot Island

Hi Kimberly, thanks for your comments. As Lady Elliott is located at the very southern part of the reef, the Bluebottles and Irukanji jellyfish are not common there. I did not wear a stinger suit, but I did wear leggings and a long sleeved top, mainly for sun protection. You should be fine.

Steve – Apr 30, 2018 – No Stingers at LEI

I’ve been going to LEI for many years now at various times of the year and so far have not encountered any stingers at all.

Kimberly – Apr 30, 2018 – Where did you stay?

Last question, where did you stay on the island? Or is there only one place (the Eco Resort)?

Barb – May 1, 2018 – Lady Elliot Island Accommodations

There is only one resort, it’s a very small island. They also control the flights in and out of the island. You need to book an all in one package directly with the resort. They do have accommodation options, from eco tents to beach side rooms.

Steve Radley – May 1, 2018 – LEI Accommodations

Hi Kimberly, there is only one place on the island. has all the information. I hope you get to go, it’s a great place.

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