Great Barrier Reef - Cays and Reefs in Bundaberg-North Burnett

Swimming with turtles, Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island, despite the name, is actually a large coral cay, the southernmost of the Great Barrier Reef (the ‘Reef’). Its history serves as a great lesson in the evolution of a cay, and their significance for seabirds and turtles.

The cay has been in existence for thousands of years providing nesting grounds for green and loggerhead turtles, supporting large populations of nesting seabirds in the vegetation that had grown with the help of their droppings.

In 1863 guano mining commenced and ended just 11 years later when all the guano and practically all the island’s vegetation had been removed. It was once again, a barren, sandy coral cay.

In 1866 a lighthouse was built, and in 1966 a revegetation programme by lighthouse staff commenced, which was rewarded amazingly quickly by the return of the seabirds. Today the cay is a haven for over fifty species of tropical seabirds and wading birds with over 100,000 birds nesting on Lady Elliot Island during summer breeding season.

The cay demonstrates the resilience of some of the natural ecosystems of the Reef and how quickly they can recover given a little helping hand.

Snorkel and dive sites

An eco-resort on Lady Elliot provides great opportunities for snorkelling and diving as well as watching turtle nesting in season. 

Read our blog, Best places to snorkel and dive in Bundaberg North Burnett to find out about the amazing snorkel and dive sites in the Bundaberg Region.

Great Barrier Reef Blog