Explore the Aquatic Wonderland off Lady Elliot Island

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May 10, 2016

by LAUREN QUAINTANCE, Writer

Up to seven metres across and weighing up to two tonnes, manta rays are the graceful giants of the sea – and you’ll be swimming with them here...

There’s a reason Lady Elliot Island, a 40-hectare cay ringed by coral on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, is sometimes known as “manta heaven”. Researchers have spotted more of the winged creatures here than just about anywhere else on earth. Up to seven metres across and weighing up to two tonnes, manta rays are the graceful giants of the sea – and you’ll be swimming with them.

That’s not all you’ll experience at this family-friendly island, which has more than 1200 species of marine life. It’s one of the first islands in the region to be named a “Green Zone” (which means there is a strict no-fishing policy) and visitors to Lady Elliot can reasonably expect to see turtles, dolphins, giant clams and parrot fish, as well as whales that pass by on their annual winter migration. You may even spot one of the astonishing epaulette sharks – a type of carpet shark that grows up to one metre long and can use its fins as muscular feet to walk on land.

SEE ALSO: How to Swim with Whales in the Great Barrier Reef

Bird-lovers will also be transfixed by the vast number of species on the island, including crested terns, black-naped terns, buff-banded rails, eastern reef egrets, oystercatchers, plovers and godwits.

All of this makes it the perfect spot to take children who are keen to learn more about their natural environment. Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is an eco-resort in the truest sense, with simple, flat-roofed prefabricated cottages – many with bunk beds – and safari-style tents on the edge of the sand. Without the distraction of TV or their mobiles, kids will be focused on snorkelling in the safe lagoon, searching for nesting turtles and beachcombing.

SEE ALSO: Explore our full guide to the Great Barrier Reef