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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 house reef located at its western side provide two very different snorkeling experiences. It allows snorkelers to easily encounter extraordinary marine life, including sharks, manta rays, turtles and even dolphins, above an unspoiled coral reef.

Snorkeling with sea turtle in Lady Elliot Island lagoon
Lady Elliot’s lagoon is one of the world’s best turtle-watching locations. Green sea turtles literally abound 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 are departing 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 of these options, you will find more information on the resort’s website.

Lady Elliot Island snorkeling map, Great Barrier Reef

Water entrance for snorkeling Lady Elliot Island 

To snorkel the lagoon side (area n.2), you can enter/exit the water from the beach edging the resort. Two entry points are marked on the beach. Note that the lagoon can only be snorkeled at high tide.

To snorkel the reef on the western side of the island (area n.1), it is recommended to enter the water in front of the lighthouse, where an entry point is also clearly marked. Before entering the water, check the sea and current conditions with the Dive Shop. If participating in a guided snorkel tour, you will enter the water directly from your boat.

Lady Elliot Island snorkeling tips and recommendations

There are two recommended snorkeling areas on Lady Elliot Island:

1. The 300 meters-wide lagoon fringing the eastern side of the island (area n.2 on the map above). It offers a shallow and sheltered area, well suited for beginners. The exploration of the lagoon is tide-dependent: during low tide, the water is too shallow and you will not be able to snorkel it.

You can check tide times at the Dive Shop. Snorkeling the lagoon, you will enjoy beautiful coral formations and a wide array of marine life, from colorful tropical fish to reef sharks and sea turtles.

Snorkeling with Manta ray in Lady Elliot Island
Manta Rays are Lady Elliot’s most popular visitors.

2. The house reef edging the western side of the island (area n.1 on the map above), in front of the lighthouse. This area is not “closed” by a coral reef, but it is located on the most sheltered part of the island. You can snorkel this area with a guided tour or swim out on your own.

This side of the island is where you have the best chance to see manta rays, which can be seen there 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 gther in large numbers. Lots of turtles, sharks, moray eels, and batfish can also be seen in this area, as well as -if you are lucky-, dolphins.

Octopus at Lady Elliot Island
Octopus enjoy the island’s shallows, protected by a marine reserve.

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 depth6ft/1.5m in the lagoon, 25ft/7.5m on the house 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 (from AU$445pp.)
  • 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.