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Turtle Meets Turtles
It's well known that #Australia is home to world class #snorkelling. And no one is a better snorkel partner than dozens of feisty sea turtles. This area of the Great Barrier Reef has been well protected, making it a great spot to see all different types of sea life - and have an #active swim right next to them.
It’s one thing to see turtles hatching and laying their eggs, as I did at the Mon Repos Turtle Rookery on the Queensland coast near Bundaberg. It’s a completely different experience to actually swim with them.
Imagine snorkelling along then suddenly finding yourself surrounded by at least a dozen turtles
Imagine snorkelling along then suddenly finding yourself surrounded by at least a dozen turtles, just floating and chilling and enjoying the water like you. That’s pretty much what happened.
Let’s go back a step, though, and set the scene. I am basically in the middle of nowhere – on a small crop of land called Lady Elliot Island. It is the southernmost point of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is only 40 hectares large – about the size of the land the country’s Parliament House is on in Canberra. And it’s not even an island in the traditional sense. It’s actually a collection of bird poo and other sediment that has formed over the top of coral.
It’s 80 kilometres from the coast here on Lady Elliot Island and it feels as far away from civilisation as you can get on the Queensland tourism trail. The only access is by small plane and only one small eco-resort provides accommodation. Humans are not in the majority here. This is an island created by animals and an island still ruled by animals.
Humans are not in the majority here.
Humans are not in the majority here. This is an island created by animals and an island still ruled by animals.
The birds are the first thing you notice here. It’s an extremely important nesting site for seabirds and has the most varieties of any island in the Great Barrier Reef.
They sit everywhere – including in the middle of the paths to your rooms – and you’ve got to be ever vigilant not to trip over them.
But the real highlights are in the surrounding water. The island and the area around it have the highest level of environmental protection possible in the reef. That means clear waters and an abundance of coral and sea life.
So this is when I met the turtles. I had donned my snorkel and goggles, pulled on some flippers, and walked backwards into the water to avoid tripping over myself. I had put my head down and started swimming out into the lagoon on the shallow side of the island when I saw something large move to my right. When I looked across, I saw it gliding towards me.
Who knows what turtles think about? It looked like not much was troubling them. They certainly weren’t worried about a human with a fluoro snorkel suddenly appearing in their space. In fact, they came closer and were happy to play and pose for photos.
The coral reef here is home to a lot of sea life; from sea cucumbers to sharks (of which I saw just one small one) to manta rays and, of course, fish.
Snorkeling Guided Safari in Lady Elliot Island
Fraser Explorer 2 Day Tour ex-Hervey Bay
Visit Flying High Bird Sanctuary
There is little here to disturb the marine animals and this is the whole point of the Great Barrier Reef protection. For people like divers, snorkelers, and scientists, this is one of the best access points to the coral and the life that depends on it.
It’s fascinating to find out how you accommodate people in such an isolated spot.