Posted on 09 October 2017
“Four days of snorkelling and diving with these gentle manta rays and other sea creatures is an experience none of us will ever forget.”
On June 19 this year, a lucky group of eighteen students and three teachers journeyed to Hervey Bay airport, where they boarded two small planes for the flight to the tiny coral cay called Lady Elliot Island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
Belonging to the Capricorn and Bunker group of reef islands, Lady Elliot Island is about 85km north-east of Bundaberg; it lies within a highly protected zone of the Great Barrier Reef so the reef remains pristine and undisturbed with an abundance of coral and marine life. The world’s largest manta rays frequent the waters surrounding the reef and are most common in the winter months. With comfortable water temperatures of around 22 degrees Celsius and water visibility at its best, Ormiston College students set out to discover these amazing gentle manta rays plus a multitude of other spectacular creatures in nature’s underwater playground. Students and teachers flew in to the small Eco Resort on the island to discover a genuine eco-tourism experience.
With few other tourists on the island and day trip visitors limited due to accessibility by plane, Ormiston College was fortunate enough to experience a series of amazing natural encounters both above and below the water. The resort offered very comfortable accommodation and there was plenty to eat with a full buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner served in the Beachfront Dining Room. The added addition of beachfront café snacks meant everyone was well fed between activities. The laid back lifestyle, friendly atmosphere and classic hospitality made our group feel like we were at home. There is so much to discover on Lady Elliot Island and there were plenty of activities undertaken by our group in order to explore the coral cay properly.
Ormiston College students undertook every activity from viewing the colourful live coral on a glass bottom boat ride, to getting up close and personal with the tropical fish and turtles by snorkelling or scuba diving. Students new to diving were given the opportunity to try an introduction to scuba diving if they wanted. There were also guided natural walks over the island plus reef walking and fish feeding. By the end of our four day stay, we had really come to know the island well. The waters around Lady Elliot Island are crystal-clear making it the perfect way to spot the turtles, dolphins, fish and giant manta rays that call them home. You can also see birds nesting, and hear migrating humpback whales singing when swimming underwater.
Night time, and some free time, meant activities like billiards, volleyball, cards, trivia, quizzes and movie nights, were also possible. All the organised activities were designed primarily to encourage us to understand and appreciate the significance of the ecosystem we were experiencing. The primary purpose of the trip being to give Ormiston College students the chance to truly appreciate the importance of our Great Barrier Reef and the role of marine science in the reef’s preservation.
Four days of snorkelling and diving with these gentle manta rays and other sea creatures is an experience none of us will ever forget.
Lady Elliot Island is quite distinct from the Whitsundays and North Queensland tropical islands as it is a coral cay situated in the heart of the reef. Recently voted by the Professional Association of Diving (PADI) as one of the top five places in the world to dive with manta rays, it certainly lived up to its reputation as ‘home of the manta ray’ for Ormiston College students.
Secondary School Teacher – Science