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Lady Elliot Island, known as « The Home of the Manta Ray », is a coral cay located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The shallow lagoon fringing the eastern side of the island and the coral reef located at its western side provide two very different snorkeling experiences. It allows snorkelers to easily encounter extraordinary and a large variety of marine life, including Sharks, Manta rays, Turtles and even Dolphins, above an unspoiled coral reef.

Green sea turtle at Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot’s lagoon is one of the world’s best turtle-watching locations. Three species, including the abundant Green sea turtle, can be spotted around the island.

How to go snorkeling Lady Elliot Island?

Lady Elliott Island is private and can only be accessed by plane. The best way to explore and snorkel the island is to book an overnight stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, the only accommodation available on site.

Flights depart daily from Bundaberg (the closest departure point, a 25-minute flight from the island), Hervey Bay, Brisbane, and Gold Coast. Day visits, including return flights, guided tours, snorkeling equipment, and the use of the island facilities, can also be arranged with the resort (from AU$500pp. from Bundaberg). For both options, you will find more information on the resort’s website.

Lady Elliot Island snorkeling map, Great Barrier Reef
Lady Elliot Island snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Lady Elliot Island

There are distinct snorkeling areas at Lady Elliot Island as shown on the map.

To snorkel the lagoon (snorkeling area 1 on the map), you enter/exit the water from the beach at one of two entry points marked on the beach signage: 1. the Lagoon entrance near the restaurant area, or 2. the Fish Pool entrance near the lodging rooms.

Note: lagoon snorkeling is tide-dependent, and you must use signage near the education center or at the dive shop to know when this area is open.

To snorkel the western reef (snorkeling areas 2, 3, and 4 on the map), you can enter the water from the Coral Gardens Keyway (snorkel entry 3) or from the Lighthouse Keyway (snorkel entry 4).

Before selecting your snorkel and entering the water, check the tide, sea and current conditions with the Dive Shop as it will determine where it is best to enter. Depending on currents you can drift the entire length or choose to enter/exit at the same area.

From either the Lighthouse or Coral Gardens entry, you must wear reef shoes to walk through shallow areas to and from the snorkel area. Note: there are elevated baskets in which to leave your reef shoes. If you intend to drift the full length, you can carry your reef shoes either in a mesh bag or in your wetsuit.

Semicircle angelfish at Lady Elliot Island
The Semicircle angelfish is one of the most beautiful reef fish you might spot at Lady Elliot Island.

Lady Elliot Island snorkeling tips and recommendations

There are two recommended snorkeling areas on Lady Elliot Island:

1. The lagoon fringing the eastern side of the island (area 1 on the map).

The Lagoon offers a shallow and sheltered area, well suited for beginners. The depth in the lagoon varies between 2 and 7 feet/0.5 and 2 meters. Snorkeling the lagoon, you will enjoy beautiful coral formations and a wide array of marine life, to include colorful tropical fish, octopus, sea stars, reef sharks, and sea turtles.

Lady Elliot’s lagoon is a remarkable location to swim with sea turtles. The most common is the Green sea turtle, but you might also spot the Hawksbill turtle and the rarer Loggerhead turtle.

Whitetip reef shark at Lady Elliot Island
A Whitetip reef shark.

2. The reef area on the western side of the island (areas 2, 3, and 4 on the map).

This area encompasses both the Coral Gardens area (snorkel area 2 on the map) and the Lighthouse area (snorkel area 3 on the map), also known as “Second Reef”. Only advanced snorkelers can venture on the outer reef (snorkel area 4), which offers the greatest chances to see the mantas.

The coral bommies are home to cleaning stations, attracting mantas throughout the year. However, if swimming with the mantas is the main reason for your visit to Lady Elliot Island, opt for the winter months, when they gather in large numbers.

Reef manta ray at Lady Elliot Island
Encounter with a Manta ray on the outer reef.

Lots of turtles, sharks, moray eels, and batfish can also be seen in this area, as well as -if you are lucky-, dolphins.

Restaurants & accommodations nearby

The only accommodation available on the island is the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, offering suites, tents and cabins. A café and a bar are found at the northern tip of the island. Breakfast and dinner are included in the night rate.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaGreat Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Maximum depth7 feet/2 meters in the lagoon, 25 feet/7.5 meters on the western reef
  • Water entranceFrom a beach (or a boat, if you take part to a snorkeling tour)
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsOvernight stay or day tour
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.