Lady Elliot Island – Day 2
I woke up at 8:30 when breakfast ended at 9… so I rushed over and ate in an empty dining room. Another buffet, with eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, and pancakes. I wasn’t able to get onto the day’s snorkel boat tour, so instead I went straight to the lagoon for a morning snorkel. They say it’s only good to snorkel there within 2 hours of high tide, which was at 8:30 today. I found it hard to move around without fear of scrapeage since it was so shallow. I am gradually accumulating more and more scrapes the more I venture out here, though I never remember how.
So the lagoon was pretty good, but probably not why LEI is said to have the best dive sites. It was shallow water and small corals, but I did see more colorful clams and fish and many more blue sea stars. I also spotted a New Caledonian sea star, which is an orangey-pinkish-yellowy, all nestled in the coral. Since it wasn’t deep, everything was so close to me, so I was able to get a good look at the coral and such. But there wasn’t anywhere near as much there as there is further out where it’s deep enough to dive. I’d love to go out deeper with the daily boat trip, but definitely not by myself again.
As the tide was going out, I switched to the other side of the island to try the Coral Gardens. And again, no one was around. It took me awhile to figure out how to traverse all the rocks and coral chunks offshore wearing flippers. I dove in when it got deep enough, but waves kept crashing over me and I couldn’t find the reef. Then somehow, I plopped right into the Coral Gardens – the real reef! It was quite deep, with high coral structures you could swim around, like a giant maze. I was immediately surrounded by heaps of fish, of all types and colors, most of which were swimming in and out of the coral. Amazing how this world exists beneath the water, and most people will never experience it.
Then out of nowhere, a giant sea turtle appeared just in front of me! It was gorgeous. Turtles swam so gracefully, as if they own the reef. They take their time and acknowledge all the fish that come up to them, and keep going. I swam directly above this turtle for quite some time, in complete awe of the fact, and watched as he slowly flapped his arms and swam. He led me to a big open area where literally THOUSANDS of fish were swimming in schools together, all coming from different directions and converging at some inconspicuous point ahead. I was just blown away, honestly. Unbelievable.
After my turtle stalking, I turned my focus to the fish, which are hard to photograph since they’re always moving around. It was still amazingly fun to watch them though. I saw a few smaller sea turtles too, one of which gave me some great shots. It even swam up to the surface and then back down again.
At this point, I was feeling a bit tired (despite sleeping 10:30-8:30 last night) and the mask was hurting my face (though it did leak much less than my mask from yesterday), so I decided to get out. Had I not been bothered by these or any other problems, I could have stayed out there all day. But I couldn’t figure out how to get back the way I came; since the tide had gotten lower, I couldn’t just swim over the reef and to shore. I kept getting stuck in the reef maze! And I didn’t want to swim out deeper and get swept over the entrance rocks by crashing waves, so I swam in the other direction, looking for a way out that just didn’t exist without climbing over coral, which I really did not want to do. I swam out to a moored boat and rested on the rescue board attached to it to try to get my bearings. I could find no easy way out, so I had no choice but to swim in as far as I could and then walk over the reef. I didn’t have to touch as much reef as I’d expected to, but I still felt bad.
I was extremely glad to be on land again after that experience, and napped on the empty beach. It was wonderful… except for the nasty sunburn on my backside. My back must have got burnt when I was snorkelling because I had it covered when I napped. Grr. Que painful.
An hour before sunset, I went to the lagoon/resort side, sat in a patio/beach chair, and read while watching the tide. The more expensive reef suites are situated right on this beach, I can’t believe I never see them taking advantage of it!
Sunset on the other side of the island was pretty, of course. No clouds, just light pastel purple/blue in the east and orange/yellow/pink around the sun. Gorgeous, obviously. The beaches here are always pretty though, situated between forest and sea and full of white coral.
I got to dinner early and signed up for the snorkel boat tour for 9:30 tomorrow. The bar and patio were crowded with people waiting for BBQ dinner and taking advantage of the free drinks and snacks. LEI’s having a pirate-themed night, so workers were all decked out in pirate gear. Cute. I feel a bit out of place because it’s mostly just families here, no (young) solo travellers. I am enjoying my time here immensely without my friends or family around, so it’s hard to care too much that I stick out like a sore thumb.
The rest of the night was spent in ridiculous pain, due to sunburn on my break. Moving and bending would stretch my skin and cause more pain. It was horrible. Sleeping was even worse – I woke up so many times and tried to find a less painful position, in vain. Finally, around 6:30am, I started using a pillow under my stomach, which elevated my back and minimized the pain. Too bad I only had another 2 hours to sleep!