17 Images to inspire you to travel to the Southern Great Barrier Reef

As International borders open and travel resumes, we wanted to share with you a handful of images that express why the Southern Great Barrier Reef is an incredible holiday destination. Lady Elliot is home to an abundance of marine life, big and small, such as turtles, sea birds, sharks, rays and invertebrates, including the beautiful reef itself. 


“Coral Gardens”

Explore the diverse range of coral shapes and colours at Coral Gardens. Located on the Western side of the island, you will find a snorkelling line here for guests to guide themselves with, and during our prevailing South- Easterly winds this area is protected and calm for snorkelling. Often sighted in this area are an abundance of fish, turtles, reef sharks and occasionally eagle rays and our cheeky local dolphin!

Photographer: Tourism and Events Queensland

“Snorkelling here is like nowhere else I have experienced; the turtles are so friendly and inquisitive” – photographer Jeremy Somerville.

At Lady Elliot, we are fortunate to encounter three species of sea turtle including Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) and Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) on both the Eastern and Western sides of the island. As we are located in a green zone, we do ask guests to refrain from touching the turtles, but you will find that you’re able to get incredibly close to them, with some individuals even approaching you! Turtles live at Lady Elliot year-round but nesting season runs from November until March while hatchlings are busy making a run for the ocean between January and April.

Photographer: Jeremy Somerville (@jeremysomphoto)


The rare Ornate Eagle Ray is a somewhat frequent visitor to Lady Elliot Island, despite less than 50 confirmed sightings worldwide. This placid eagle ray can reach up to three metres in length and is not equipped with a stinging barb. Each individual also has a unique spot pattern on its back meaning we can recognise our frequent visitors!

Photographer: Nicole McLachlan (@nicolemclachlanphoto)

“The Blowhole”

One of our most incredible dive sites is the Blowhole located off the Eastern side of the island. This amazing cave is at a maximum depth of 14 metres and the is large enough to drive a bus through! Inside, you will notice a variety of marine life, some of which are on the cave roof above you!

Photographer: Jeremy Sommerville (@jeremysomphoto)

“Crystal clear water”

Another reason to visit us is the water visibility. On average, visibility sits around 10-15m with often crystal-clear water in our tidal lagoon. The lagoon is home to an abundance of marine life including friendly green turtles, octopus, baby reef sharks, blue spotted lagoon rays, fish, coral, and giant clams! Located on the eastern side of the island, the lagoon runs along the entire front of the resort and is a maximum of 30 seconds from your room!

Photographer: Jordan Robins (@jordan_robins)

“Life above and Below”

There is always something to see in the shallows! In the early mornings and late afternoons, we often sight reef sharks cruising the shallow water, not to mention large schools of parrotfish feeding with half of their body above the surface!

Photographer: The Ocean Agency (@theoceanagency)

“My island home is waiting for me”

Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay roughly 3,500 years old and 45 hectares in size. You can walk a lap of the island in 45 minutes at a casual pace during which time you are likely to encounter a variety of seabirds during summer. This aerial image shows the reef structure (the darker areas) and the sandy areas (light blue) upon which we often locate stingrays and resting turtles.

Photographer: Naz Okui (@nazzzz_)

“An amazing show”

A courtship display between melanistic and chevron manta rays, during which time a female will flip, turn and roll in an attempt to select the fittest mate. Lady Elliot Island is known as the “Home of the Manta Ray” and for good reason! We account for around 70% of the manta ray sightings on the East coast of Australia! The island is also only 10km from the continental shelf which means we receive an influx of cooler, nutrient rich water which these elasmobranchs love! You can witness feeding, courtship, and cleaning here on Lady Elliot.

Photographer: Radim Klimes (@radimklimes)

“Coral Spawning”

This once-yearly phenomenon was captured late at night in the tidal lagoon showing tiny coral larvae being released into the water column. This incredible event takes place over a few nights during November and is quite spectacular to watch. We have noticed that some of our corals will start to spawn in the late afternoon while these branching corals often wait until around 8 or 9pm.

Photographer: Jeremy Somerville (@jeremysomphoto)

Large Green and Loggerhead turtles are often seen taking a rest on sandy areas of the reef along the first and second snorkel lines. They gently sway with the motion of the current but can rest for hours at a time! These sandy areas are also frequented by batfish and a variety of stingrays including cow tail rays, whiprays and porcupine rays.

Photographer: Sean Scott (@seanscottphotography)

On Lady Elliot Island, you have the opportunity to watch the sun rise in the east over our lagoon and also set in the west at the lighthouse quayway. Couple these incredible colours with an abundance of wildlife and you have created a very memorable experience.Photographer: Sherrin and Tom (@STimages)

“The severance shipwreck”

Located 22m below the surface, the Severance is now a popular dive site and home to a variety of marine life including rays, sharks, turtles, and invertebrates. The severance is just one of 20 different dive sites located around the island ranging in depth from 4 – 22 metres! If you are interested in diving on the island, we offer a range of courses including the Discover scuba diving course for new divers.

Photographer: Blaze parsons (@blaze_parsons)

“Inspector Clouseau”

“What an amazing and absolutely unforgettable encounter this was to see the world’s only pink manta ray” – photographer Kristian Laine. This fuscia coloured manta ray is to date, the only one of its kind! Inspector Clouseau appears often during August and only for a short period of time. Read more in our blog post about this fascinating ray: https://ladyelliot.com.au/blog/the-world-is-tickled-pink-for-inspector-clouseau/

Photographer: Kristian Laine (@kristianlainephotography)

Let’s not forget the incredible bird life of Lady Elliot Island! Home to tens of thousands of birds during summer, the island hosts the second highest diversity of bird life on the Great Barrier Reef! Our seabirds start arriving on the 1st of September and are on the island in high numbers until mid-late April. In total, over 100 species have been sighted on the island but there are around 10 species we have in high numbers during breeding season including the Bridled terns pictured.Photographer: Mark Galer (@markgaler)

The night sky never disappoints on Lady Elliot Island. Due to our location ~80 km from the mainland, the island is mostly unaffected by light pollution, making for incredible stargazing conditions. The historic lighthouse was constructed in 1873 and is a fantastic element in many Astro photographs. The island runs historical tours twice weekly inside the historical lighthouse and museum to give guests an insight into life on the island in the 1800’s and 1900’s.Photographer: Greg Sullavan (@gregsullavan)

Red-Tailed Tropicbirds

These stunning seabirds call Lady Elliot home during their breeding season with each pair (and chick) spending around 6 months on the island. Pictured here are a pair and their offspring which is only around 1.5 weeks old. The adults large red tail streamers are the reason for their name and are used in part for courtship as the birds exhibit elaborate flight displays and swing these feathers back and forth. Read more in our blog: https://ladyelliot.com.au/blog/welcoming-our-newest-team-member/

Photographer: Jacinta Shackleton (@jacintashackleton)

Solar Power

With over 800 solar panels, Lady Elliot Island is a little solar city! Powered by 100% solar power including our desalination plant, the island has achieved its solar power goals and is completely off-grid. There are many eco-friendly considerations the organisation has made including ditching plastic water bottles and straws, making our own soil and water, and composting our organic waste including cardboard.

Photographer: Peddle Thorp