Rare and Unique Sightings on Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot never ceases to amaze divers, snorkellers and wildlife lovers alike. In the last 6 months, staff and guests have come across a large number of very rare creatures and much to our delight, many have been captured on camera for us to share with you!

The Pink Manta

On the 23rd of December 2020, Master reef Guide Jess Blackmore received an early Christmas present when she was guiding a snorkel safari, only to look down and see the infamous Inspector Clouseau! The fuscia pink animal was utilising the islands “cleaning stations” which are coral assemblages’ home to many small fish that eat parasites and dead skin from marine wildlife. Jess commented “He has been seen less than 10 times in total and only at Lady Elliot island, and I finally got to see him on a snorkel safari yesterday after 5 years of looking”.

This striking creature shot to fame in March 2020 as several images went viral showcasing the individuals bright pink underbelly. Keep your eyes peeled when snorkelling on the Western side of the island for a Manta ray with a bend in its tail, bright pink cephalic lobes and a bright pink underside!

Photo Credit: Jessica Blackmore

A fever of Cownose Rays

Rays on the moooooooove… get it? All jokes aside this was one of the most spectacular things we have seen on Lady Elliot! On the 6th of March several island staff were enjoying an after-work snorkel just outside of the lighthouse quay way when they came across something very special. Master Reef Guide Jacinta Shackleton could only manage to say “Guys, RAYS!” but as soon as the rest of the group looked down, they understood the lack of words as they cast their eyes upon 100 Cownose rays swimming in formation.

Dr Andrew Chin from James Cook University was thrilled with the sighting, commenting: “Because they are rarely sighted, the cownose ray is not well documented across the Great Barrier Reef or in Australian waters, so it’s fantastic to have that record from Ms Shackleton so we can try and learn more about them and their movements”.

Photo Credit: Jacinta Shackleton

An albino green turtle hatchling

On the 8th of March 2021 two members of the island’s revegetation team came across a very rare albino turtle hatchling! Jessica Buckman was absolutely amazed with her 1 in 100,000 sighting, commenting “I’m so grateful to be a part of turtle research on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, which is currently seeing an increase of 3-4% of Green sea turtles”. Turtle hatchlings face a survival rate of around 1 in 1000 making it to adulthood so we wish this rare albino hatchling a safe trip!

Photo Credit: Jessica Buckman

Ornate Eagle Rays

These rays might just be the most stunning thing you can see in the ocean, a mixture of beauty and grace gently soaring through the crystal-clear blue waters off Lady Elliot. Over the years there have been several sightings of these incredibly rare animals, but in the last 6 months staff and guests have managed to spot at least 8 different individuals which can be differentiated by unique markings on their backs.

Photo Credit: Jacinta Shackleton

If you have visited Lady Elliot and come across any of the aforementioned, or any other rare sightings please pass them along to our research team (Leaf to Reef: The biodiversity of Lady Elliot) and tag #ladyelliotisland if you share to social media. Happy Wildlife spotting!