Scratchy and Al The Friendly Lagoon Turtles
If you ever stand on the beach in front of the restaurant at Lady Elliot and wonder whether or not it's worth going in for a look on the shallow side of the island, well think no more. Just do it! I can guarantee that if you take my advice and head in the direction I tell you to that you will never regret your decision. If you look out from the shore line right in front of the restaurant you will see 2 buoys just off shore, look out behind them towards the waves breaking and you will see one single white buoy usually with a Bridled Tern resting on it. It's about 100 metres off from the beach slightly off to the left. Go on keep on looking, you'll find it. Now go for it. Try to keep the sandy section to your left and the coral edge to your right. There are a few reasons for doing this. One being that it's a little deeper along the edge so that even when the tide is quite low you will feel a lot safer being above the sand and the other is that fish seem to hang on the edges or drop off as there are more places to hide from predators and it seems to grow more algae for them to feed on.
The first half of the 100 metres distance to the buoy is pretty cool with lots of Picasso Trigger Fish, Humbugs, Sea Anemone Fish, Lagoon Damsels etc. Then from about half way out things start to get more exciting, Giant Clams, huge Sea Urchins, Blue Spot Estuary Rays. Black Tip Reef Sharks and the list goes on. Gradually the coral clusters start to take on some amazing shapes and colours and the fish sizes increase. Not far to go now, are you bored yet? Well just keep on going, as soon you will meet the infamous "Scratchy" a very cute Green Turtle that in my limited knowledge of turtles would be from 15 to 20 years old. "Scratchy" is the coolest turtle you will ever meet. Her shell is only about 30 cm long and she has a small nick out of her shell just on the right of her very cute tale. Now if you promise not to hang on to her and to approach her very gently you will notice that she does not even attempt to swim away. Reach out your hand and rub her back and she will respond in a way similar to a dog that has it's favourite spot rubbed. Look at her face and you will see a look of pure ecstasy. She actually loves it so much that she gets totally out of control and can't swim anywhere. It's so funny I usually have to come up for air as I am laughing so much. She loves to have the white algal build up rubbed off her back so please help her out.( Please look at the video included with this story to see Scratchy in Ecstasy)
Keep on going and you will see many more turtles, some massive Floury Cod up to a metre long and various schools of fish. Now there is also a very handsome Hawks Bill Turtle that is roughly the same size as " Scratchy" that some of the girls in the activties centre of the island have nick named "Al". Now this is an extremely good looking turtle so I can kind of understand why they gave it my name, so find him yourself then look for me and see if you can see the resemblance. "Al" like most Hawks Bills has a black elongated head and a serated edge on it's shell. His ancestors were almost hunted to extinction because of the beauty of it's shell. "Al" like "Scratchy" also likes to be scratched but when he has had enough will spin around under your hand. Probably a defence mechanism when being attacked by largers fish like sharks.
To really apprecate the lagoon I recommend at least an hour possibly 2. Really have a good look underneath things and try to find that elusive lagoon octopus or some of the Starry Moray Eels that are everywhere if you know where to look.