TOUR OF THE WEEK
September 3rd started out like any other day here on Lady Elliot Island; birds chirping as the spectacular sunrise could be seen from the Eastern Side. However, there was an atmosphere on this particular day that could not be explained. Staff and guests alike all agreed that the whole day was nothing short of magical. Pilots described the conditions around the island as they flew in as “the best they’d ever seen”. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the ocean looked like a blanket of glass. The water visibility was out of this world, and the mid-morning Glass Bottom Boat ended up being one that guests will truly remember for many years to come.
After everybody all hopped into the boat and we were well on our way out on the reef, you could actually see the bottom of the reef over the sides of the boat as clear as if you were peering through the glass flooring. As we reached the Lighthouse Bommies we could tell that the reef was absolutely teeming with wildlife, as huge schools of Big Eyed Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus), Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and a few Manta Rays (Manta alfredi) all glided past.
Your browser may not support display of this image. It was on to second reef next, where the boat came to a halt in order for the excited guests to jump out into the serene water and see all of nature’s offerings first hand! As the boat stopped and snorkelers started to ‘gear up’, one guest exclaimed excitedly “whales!” and pointed to an area within 20-30m from the boat. Jumping at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I along with a handful of guests slowly made our way out to the area where the whales were originally spotted. There was no need to do this however, because from the sounds of the boat and snorkelers, the whales seemed intrigued already and halted in their tracks, and had already begun to make their way toward us. Confused at where the whales had gone, myself and three guests surfaced together, asking the question of the moment; “where did the whales go?” As soon as we said this, as if out of nowhere, two huge Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) surfaced right beside us! Taken aback at what was happening, we hastily put our heads back in the water and were greeted with a sight that words cannot describe…
It is always said that the awe, intrigue and admiration for whales that humans possess is due to their mystery and wonder. Very few people attain the opportunity to swim with these astounding creatures, but I can tell you, it will be an experience that I will never forget! Their power, beauty and grace are amplified tenfold when you gaze at them in situ- in their world. There is much to be said about watching whales from the surface; even a glimpse of their dorsal fin is enough for someone to develop a lifelong love for these animals. To see them playing, investigating and interacting with each other as well as us snorkelers is something I will always take with me. They say that whales have a wisdom that humans could never match, and looking into the eyes of these huge creatures you can tell that there is infinite awareness, intellect and knowledge which far outstrips our own.
We were definitely in their domain, and while we were snorkelling beside them, we could definitely all feel a sense of inadequacy. We were well aware that one impact with their powerful pectoral fins or tail fluke could put someone in hospital (if they were lucky), however the whales’ self awareness made us feel at ease, assuring us that they knew where we were at all times, even if they were out of our sight.
Your browser may not support display of this image. Expecting to catch only a short glimpse of these gentle giants before they continued their journey past Lady Elliot, we were all happily surprised at the fact that these creatures weren’t showing signs of just a quick visit! They surfaced numerous times, and seemed as though they were swimming circles around us! A good half hour went by as we all watched in awe as they never left our side, showing signs of playful behaviour and an incredibly inquisitive nature.
After what felt like a lifetime, the whales surfaced once more, and then continued on their journey; the longest migration of any animal. As we all hopped back into the boat, elated at the experience we’d just had, we enjoyed watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins as we journeyed on back to shore. It is times like these which remind us of the beauty of these majestic creatures, and of the imperative need to protect and conserve them for future generations to come.
DIVE OF THE WEEK
Your browser may not support display of this image. The stand out dive for this week consisted of a vast array of underwater wildlife. Following the decent into the wondrous depths of Sandy Second, divers encountered the resident school of Big Eyed Trevally. As they circled around, the divers paused for photo opportunities before continuing down second reef. Here they witnessed numerous Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus), as well as a well camouflaged Octopus (Octopus cyanea), which displayed it’s adaptation of changing its’ colouring to suit it’s surroundings. A Leopard Ray (Himantura leoparda) was also spotted before it glided off and out of sight. Moving on down from second reef, a large Coral Trout (Plectropomus leopardus) was seen just hovering above a huge mass of plate coral. As the divers continued on their journey, they reached Lighthouse Bommies and traveled further on down to 45 Degree Bommie where they discovered upwards of a dozen Manta Rays being cleaned. As the guests positioned themselves for magnificent shots of these beautiful creatures, their line of sight was interrupted by a huge male Green Turtle looking for his 15 seconds of fame. With countless photos, and memories of a spectacular dive, guests surfaced with smiles from ear to ear as they reflected on their underwater adventure!
Students from Varsity College and Picton High School visited Lady Elliot as part of their learning about Australian Reef systems, and were dazzled by the beauty of the island’s underwater world!
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
Snorkelling with Humpback Whales of course!