Lady Elliot Island: An island of tranquility

Life’s a beach … getting away from it all on Lady Elliot Island.
Life’s a beach … getting away from it all on Lady Elliot Island.

Peter Gash, managing director of Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost cay of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, is totally unapologetic about his resort not having the same standard of facilities as some other resorts.

Look, he says, the Great Barrier Reef is littered with stories of developers who invested too much capital, couldn’t survive a couple of tough years, and went belly-up.

“I don’t want to end up like them,” said Peter.

 Snorkellers enjoy their time on the reef at Lady Elliot Island.

Snorkellers enjoy their time on the reef at Lady Elliot Island.

“And don’t worry, we attract plenty of guests who could easily afford to stay anywhere they chose. They come here because the place is so naturally beautiful, because it offers them plenty to do, and because we care about its sustainability.”

Not that Lady Elliot Island, which takes its name from the wife of a colonial Governor of India, via the name of the ship that officially discovered the island in 1816, has always been so well looked after.

In fact at times its management has been downright has been downright remiss. During the 1860s and 1870s, it was mined for its iguano, and almost completely denuded of vegetation — to the point where it was sometimes regarded as a navigation hazard.

Peter Gash … totally committed to maintaining a sustainable resort.

Peter Gash … totally committed to maintaining a sustainable resort.

A low-key resort was established on Lady Elliot Island in the mid-1980s but its real resurrection seems to have started under the stewardship of Peter Gash, a couple of business partners and a dedicated team of workers, who love the place as much as does Peter — well, nearly.

They’ve seriously enhanced the revegetation program to the point where the island is considered home by a vast array of birds. They’ve made excellent use of solar power, which they put to both general use and in running the Lady Elliot’s desalination plant and its waste-recycling program.

Peter did stress how much they’ve reduced their dependence on diesel, and while the actual figures now escape me, the achievement has been hugely impressive.

Lady Elliot Island … a paradise for snorkelers.

Lady Elliot Island … a paradise for snorkelers.

So, what can guests expect at Lady Elliot and what activities can they undertake?

Firstly I guess, potential visitors should pay heed to a warning. If they’re rigidly rusted on the five-star trappings of many hotels and resorts, then Lady Elliot Island probably isn’t for them.

Accommodation is scattered among about 40 cabins, and is basic but comfortable. Dining is buffet-style, with dinner and breakfast included in the tariff and lunch available at extra cost.

The food is nourishing, and the choice and quantity of food seem to satisfy all the guests, and there’s also a bar and café.

Lady Elliot Island … accommodation is in basic but comfortable cabins scattered throughout bushland.

Lady Elliot Island … accommodation is in basic but comfortable cabins scattered throughout bushland.

The island is a mobile-phone dead spot, there are no in-room phones or TVs, and while internet is available guests have to use it from the dining-room’s sprawling verandah. So, it is definitely a place to remove yourself from the demands of modern technology and simply relax or undertake as much adventure as you’re comfortable with.

Much of that adventure comes through snorkelling and scuba diving, or just enjoying life from a glass-bottomed boat, and much of the island’s activity is generated through the dive shop.

Teeming with aquatic wildlife … the clear water off Lady Elliot Island.

Teeming with aquatic wildlife … the clear water off Lady Elliot Island.

Snorkellers on my trip reported reported seeing plenty of colourful fish, mantas and large, quite inquisitive turtles.

A sunset cruise not only offered plenty of bubbly and delicious morsels of food, but also rewarded guests with some unexpected up-close encounters with migrating humpbacks — a truly exhilarating experience.

Lady Elliot Island has its own airstrip, with flights from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast … and it caters to a bevy of daytrippers keen to enjoy its peaceful beauty.

Visit ladyelliot.com.au for more information.

John Rozentals was a guest of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort and Tourism and Events Queensland.