Lady Elliot Island is a coral quay on the south end of The Great Barrier Reef. The tiny island featured on an episode of David Attenborough’s TV series, Great Barrier Reef not only because of the bird life, turtles and manta rays there but also because it is a conservation success story.
We journeyed to the island, explored all around it, and snorkelled in the lagoon. Of course, we saw lots of coral when out there snorkelling but we had not an underwater camera. However, another way to get a good look at the coral is to walk out into the lagoon at low tide.
We took these pictures with an ordinary camera aiming down at the water. The water was clear, as you can see, although later in our walk it got murky as the tide came back in.
The staff members of the Eco-restort at Lady Elliot Island lead the groups out. Of course, the first thing they tell you about is safety. If you scrape against the coral you will get a nasty cut and likely an infection. We put on our reef walking shoes. These are thick soled plastic slip-on shoes to protect your feet. You can get them when you arrive at the resort.
The protective gear for the rest of the body simply consisted of a pole to lean on, like one of those poles that nordic walkers use. We walked in the sandy bits that you can see in the pictures, staying clear of the coral. Staying upright while clutching a camera in one hand and a pole in the other was tricky to do especially when the tide turned and the water started surging.
Take snorkelling goggles too so you can get your face under the surface and get a good clear view under the water.Right away we saw all kinds of creatures. Look at the size of these starfish!
There are small reef sharks and huge sea slugs.
And coral of many kinds: ‘brains’, spiky ones, and some like manicured shrubs and huge ‘brocolii’ like creatures.
Later, we sat over a drink or two on the decking of the resort restaurant and thought how lucky we were to be there. We had not even known about this amazing island in our own country until seeing David Attenborough’s show.
What a flight it had been just to get to the island, an adventure in itself. With the beaches and the lagoon and the clear water and the trees full of birds .. Already we felt it was one of the best holidays we had ever had.
Next time we will show you more of the thousands of birds that nest on Lady Elliot Island during November.
Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.
Of Mawson’s first book, ‘It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In’, a reviewer said, ‘Reading this book is like receiving a great big hug of reassurance and a huge hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows.’
Fellow Baffled Ones and Gentlebears, We hope you are enjoying our tales of Lady Elliot Island. BeeBear went along on behalf of all of Mawson’s friends because she was small in the luggage (Mawson’s own generous proportions were WAY too big) and because she is an experienced aviator. She was thrilled to fly out there across the sea. She came home to tell all of Mawson’s household about exploring the island, the corals she saw in the lagoon, and the great day that she saw turtles at dawn.
There are thousands of birds on Lady Elliot Island too, and BeeBear did her best to explain how numerous and noisy they all were.
And now fellow BaffledOnes and Gentlebears, as promised, we are proud to present to you, direct from the dance troupes of Lady Elliot Island, the amazing, the wonderful, courtship dance of the terns.
‘Oh, will you do the courtship dance, will you do the courtship dance, Will you do the courtship dance, with handsome, hopeful me?’ ‘I might I guess, just SMS, I’m making up my mind. Then again, I like your looks, so lets lose no more time,’
‘Stick your tail feather up, Drop your right wing down, Stand on a leg and pirouette round. .’.
‘Its just a waddle to the left – no, to your left, your other left – And let’s do the wing dip now! Yes, let’s dip the wing dip now!‘
‘.. And a chest boop, And a chest boop,‘ ‘And let’s choose a tree, my dear’.
And soon you see couples perched in the trees and making renovations for the nest.
In the nests, on the ground, even right next to the walkways and the buildings there are parents minding fluffy chicks.
‘Will you just stay where I put you, junior.’ ‘Don’t want to. It’s boring. I’m bored. Where’s Dad and the food?’
And many chicks are in nests on their own, waiting for their parents, insisting they are famished, that they are fading away, that they need FOOD NOW.
This very new fluffy little fella was right under our veranda! Shy though, understandably, and only peeked out briefly when his parent returned.
If you love birds you will absolutely enjoy visiting Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia – if any of us can ever travel anyway again. (As a travel tip, we suggest not looking at a rerun of Hitchcocks movie The Birds before you go to the island).
And that’s all we have for you from Lady Elliot Island.
Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.
BeeBear has regaled her friends with tales of Lady Elliot Island, her journey there, her explorations of the island, the corals she saw in the lagoon, and whether she saw turtles. But her bird friends at home especially want to know if she saw tropical birds.
She certainly did! Lady Elliot Island is paradise for twitchers (bird spotters.) On this coral quay which is so small that the air-strip cuts right across it (see picture above) there are thousands of birds. They come for the nesting season and peak around November.
It’s high density living here. Birds that usually nest on the ground get squeezed out by the earliest arrivals of the season and so take to the trees instead. They are all over every branch of every tree.
The birds in the picture above were in the trees three metres from our veranda. You can simply sit on your cabin veranda with a camera and take pictures of domestic life among the birds.
Birds that prefer trees have to find themselves a place on the ground. It’s all about high demand for premium real estate.
Everyone is making a racket. ‘Mummy, where are you, I’m hungry!’, ‘Harold, you’ve been ages. It’s your turn to mind your kid’, ‘Steady on, Mabel, I only just got back’, ‘You stayed out at sea deliberately, didn’t you, leaving me stuck here with this squawker’, ‘I did not, Mabel, you’ve no idea how far I had to go for fish ‘, ‘ Hah! A likely story’, ‘Its true. I blame those trawlers’, ‘Oi, you lot, get off my branch’, ‘Your branch? Hah! It so is not.’ ‘It is, it is. Me and Narelle got it first, so get lost’. ‘ You did not, you great big liars, we got it first,’ ‘You pinched it!’ ‘ You get over here, mate, and try saying that, go on, go on.’ ‘ Mummeee, Daddeeeeee! Where’s my fooooood!’
Screeches, calls, warnings, quarrels. On, and on, all night it goes. The resort even provides ear plugs so that guests can sleep at night.
Birds soar everywhere. Outgoing- traffic of the parents leaving chicks to find food in the ocean crosses through incoming traffic of food-laden parents in what looks like an air-traffic controller’s worst nightmare.
The birds are all protected from humans these days, of course, and completely at ease with people. They perch all over the cabin verandas and some venture hopefully toward the diners in the restaurant. They even raise their young right next to the walkways and buildings, including the most unusual bird you see below.
This is the rare Red-tailed Tropic Bird. It’s one of the world’s oldest and most elusive birds. Read more about them here and here. We had the most wonderful good fortune to see a young one and only hundred metres from our cabin.
Just look at this Red-tailed Tropicbird chick hunkered into its ground-nest waiting for its ocean going parents. It was enormous. It was bigger than a full grown chicken. . ‘Food”, it cried, ‘Gimmee foooooood!’ Of course, we didn’t- no feeding of the birds on Lady Elliot Island. But we did wonder how the parents could ever bring back enough food to satisfy this big lad. Both of them were out at sea trying to do just that.
In the next post, fellow Baffled Ones and Gentlebears, we bring you even more birds and more chicks.
Welcome back to Lady Elliot Island, a coral quay on The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. We flew here with BeeBear (read all about it here) and walked around exploring (read it here.)
Almost every tree you see on the island in the photo above has been planted in the past 30 years during the patient restoration process. The island was stripped for the guano in the years before that. But it is a conservation success story now, and safe again for the turtles to nest on.
Those buildings in the photo below are some cabins of the Eco Resort. See how close they are to the beach. We stayed in one of those. They are not fancy because this is a low-impact eco resort.
During our stay in November, turtles were heaving themselves ashore after years at sea. On our first night we sat by the seats you see above watching the turtle who made these very tracks. Ironically, she dug right next to the sign about turtles.
Laboriously she dug, then moved, then dug, and moved again, not satisfied with the particular holes. On and on she dug. We were exhausted, and we were only watching. We went to bed and left her still digging. In the morning we saw that she had not been happy with any of the holes. No eggs laid.
We rose before dawn and set off stumbling along the crumbly edges of the island peering for obstacles. We did not take torches because the lights can disturb the turtles. We were part way around the island at the point where the runway comes almost down to the water when we saw tracks. Our turtle seemed to have lumbered ashore, gone into the bushes, worked her way through them and circled back around towards the sea. It must have been a very long trek for her, and all of it over ground deemed unsuitable for laying in.
There was a mound by the runway edge that might be a successful nest. (We would report it to the staff who monitor all the possible turtle nests). But where was she? Oh no, Look there! Our heroine is that rounded shell in the middle of the photo being watched over by a heron. She had taken so long at her mission that the tide had gone out. She was stuck within the reef.
We watched over her for a while as the sun came up. Sometimes she circled hopefully. Most of the time she rested. She had worked all night to clamber up the shore, to dig, to lay, and to get back down to the water – she must have been exhausted.
We moved away to leave our “Dawn Turtle” in peace. On returning from our walk, we were delighted to see her checking possible exits through the rocks and coral. As the tide came in the water lapped higher and she got a bit further out. And then with a splash and a surge she made it over the big outer reef.
There she goes, one turtle taking on the vast Pacific Ocean. We were so happy to see her making her way out, but worried too. The scourge of plastic is out there, just waiting to uselessly fill her stomach. And the long nets of the predatory trawlers show no mercy. But if .. she can still find real food and if .. she somehow escapes entanglement, she will be return one day to Lady Elliot Island. Let’s hope so.
Welcome back to Lady Elliot Island, a coral quay on The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. The Barrier Reef, as everyone knows, is the mighty reef down which Nemo’s dad swam to find his little son.
We flew here with BeeBear (read all about it here) and walked around exploring (read it here.)
But what do you really want to see at a coral lagoon? The lagoon of course! The glass bottomed boats leave from the beach at the end of the runway that runs through the middle of the island (see aerial view.) Almost all the trees you see here have been planted in the past 30 years during the patient restoration process – it had been stripped down for the guano in the years before that.
Looking back from the boat at nearly high tide, you can see how clear the lagoon water is. Those buildings on the far left of the photo below are some cabins of the Eco Resort. See how close they are to the sea. We stayed in one of those. They are not fancy because this is a low-impact eco resort.
Our glass bottomed boat took us further out to just above the main reef where the water gets more blue and you can see the whole island from here. Out and out we went. In the deeper water above the reef we tourists went snorkling with the boat crew keeping on eye on us so we felt quite safe. The staff on Lady Elliot Island must have the best job in Australia, in the world.
We saw all kinds of fish and a huge groper and even briefly saw a manta ray. A large green turtle came up from under a coral shelf right in front of me. It was one of those moments that stay in your mind forever. I have no pictures – didn’t have that kind of camera. Besides while you are down there, you just want to experience the moments fully, right there, as you are.
And what of the coral? The coral is not easy to see in the deeper water especially as the swell builds, and from the boat itself this is about all you can make out (below). The startling blues of the starfish are clearly visible though. We saw lots of coral at low tide and I will show you that later.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you without any photos at all of the wonderful animals in the lagoon, for once back on shore we saw this little fella. He was just turtling along right among the people! It is after all, a turtle’s home, not peoples’ home.
” I’m just a turtle, Turtling along, A happy green turtle, Burbling a song…”
We settled on a deck chair as evening fell. Would the big female loggerhead turtles clamber up this very beach in the night? Yes, they did! But that’s for another post.
We settled into the cabin and stepped out on to our little veranda just 50 metres from the beach by the lagoon. The tide was half out. Later, we joined a guided reef walk at low tide. Snorkelling is only allowed at high tide.
Overhanging our veranda were our closest neighbours: a few hundred of the thousands of quarrelling birds here to nest in November. This kind of high density living would make anyone quarrelsome! Birds that usually nest in the sand taken to the trees due to lack of ground space. Every pandanus tree branch is weighed down with occupants. The noise is constant. The staff kindly leave ear plugs in the cabins so that people can sleep at night. More about the birds later.
What does everyone want to do on their first day on a tropical island? Explore! We collected the essentials for Brave Explorers: strong shoes, hats, sunnies, water bottles, and we were ready. Oops, nearly forgot the SLR camera.
For most of our explorations we saw few other people. There are at most 160 people staying and working here. This is done deliberately to keep down the impact of we humans on the wildlife. Of course, they are all doing things too like swimming, snorkelling, going out in the glass bottom boats, or just lazing on their cabin verandas.
Some way around the shore we came upon a stretch of coarse sand. Here we could lurch along reasonably well, sinking into the whiteness.
But long stretches are a difficult scramble between the sea and sharp coral on one side and lumpy rocks on the other. The coconut here was washed ashore from elsewhere. There are no coconut trees here.
Between the trees that begin just up from the rocks and sand the nesting turtles were digging nesting holes at night. The staff teams go around each morning to count and inspect them. We hoped to see some later.
If you look at the map BeeBear is showing her friends (above), you can see a compass (or steering helm) symbol at the top. The lighthouse is up there. It’s keepers were the island’s only occupants for many years.
Over the next two days we took a reef walk, went snorkelling in the lagoon, and looked for turtles. More about that in future posts. For now let’s try to ignore those raucous birds and loll about on this coral quay looking toward the sunset.
Mark, your host at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.
Of Mawson’s first book, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In, a reviewer said, ‘Reading this book is like receiving a great big hug of reassurance and a huge hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows.’
Lady Elliot Island is a coral quay on the south end of The Great Barrier Reef. The tiny island has featured on an episode of David Attenborough’s TV series, Great Barrier Reef not only because of the bird life, turtles and manta rays there but also because it is a conservation success story.
Some time ago (when BeeBears could still travel on holidays) our BeeBear spent two amazing days and nights there. Naturally, she is bursting to talk all about it to the birds of Mawson’s house and to Tammy Turtle and to YOU.
Where is Lady Elliot Island? Zoom in on a map of Australia. Find Queensland. On the east coast of Queensland, you can see a large island, Fraser Island which is the largest sand island in the world. Lady Elliot Island lies north of Fraser Island. Just to get there was an adventure. First, BeeBear (and her people) flew ALL DAY from Perth in Western Australia to Brisbane in Queensland in Boeing 737 (comfort and movies) then on a turbo prop aircraft to Hervey Bay (lots of shaking and rattling. Sandwiches). Then the planes got even smaller. We hoped none would shrink too small to carry a small bear.
We flew out on a Beechcraft B 200 from Hervey Bay and returned on a Cesna 210 Centurion. As an experienced aviator herself, Beebear helped to oversee the control thingygums. If you zoom in on the photo below you can see the navigating thingygum. It shows our position and the red line shows our flight path.
Our flight from the coastal town of Hervey Bay to Lady Elliot Island took 80 minutes. We headed out over the sea and then northerly between the mainland and Fraser Island, the big one in the distance (below). It’s the largest sand island in the world.
Beyond Fraser Island is The Pacific Ocean where the turtles roam for years on the currents after laying their eggs on Lady Elliot and on many other islands of The Barrier Reef.
The colours and swirls and patterns of coastal seas are just too blue for words. And these pics were taken through slightly fuzzy perspex windows so in fact they looked even bluer. We flew past Fraser Island and had a good view of the little islands and sand banks too.
See that little island in the foreground of the picture above? Imagine an island like that all for oneself. Our BeeBear thought it just about the right size for a a small-winged bear to settle down on. She would just sit there in the shade by the sand all day simply being stunned by the colours of the sea. Cyclones could be a bother though.
Thar she blows! Lady Elliot Island hoves into sight (above). You can see the main coral reef where the deep dark blue ocean is breaking to white tops (and you can compare with the picture on the brochure at the top of the post). Within the reef lies the lagoon. You can do reef walks at low tide and snorkel there at high tide. You see green turtles and reef sharks and all kinds of starfish and fish and lots of coral. The island is so small that, as you can see, the airstrip goes right across the middle, one side to the other.
If you look through the blur of the propellor (above) you can see two bands of blue at the end of the landing strip? That’s the lagoon, and after the lagoon the dark deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. We were to see turtles right there where the runway strip ends.
And there is the Eco Resort on Lady Elliot Island. It’s deliberately low key and low impact. The staff are very involved in caring for the island. They plant trees and count the birds nests and the turtle nests and inform visitors about the wonders of the island.
The island was actually a conservation disaster until some decades ago, and since then it has been restored tree by tree. More about Lady Elliot Island in the next post when we go for a walk and enjoy the Slow Life.
Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. Of Mawson’s first book, ‘It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In’, a reviewer said,‘Reading this book is like receiving a great big hug of reassurance and a huge hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows.’
Meet Professor Cadbeary (Caddy), and her friends Gustave and Bomund. These brave bears are prepared to read about some of the awful things that People do.
It’s a miserable job for any bear, but someone has to do it.
Here at ‘A Bear Wouldn’t Do That’, our trio are bewildered that anyone would imprison refugee kids or pollute the ocean with plastics or heat it up until fellow bears have no ice floes and the dolphins are dying from the parasites multiplying inside them … among other awful things.
Most of the articles studied by Gustav, Prof Caddy and Bomund are published by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and The Guardian Australia, publications brave enough to report the unbearable.
In future posts Cadbeary, Bomund and Gustav will highlight some of the things that bears would never do. And some things that are so good that bears would do them too.
This blog ‘ A Bear Wouldn’t Do That’ is by Mark O’Dwyer, Perth, Australia. Mark would not do these things either.
Australia and Aotearoa (formerly New Zealand) have been ravaged by drought. The coastal plains have been inundated by rising sea levels. The ‘Whites’ of Australia, although impoverished by today’s standards, hang on to power through apartheid. They force the ‘Browns’, mostly refugee populations from drowned Pacific Islands, to labour on the little arable land that’s left.
We see this entirely plausible future from the point of view of a resistance movement, the Women’s Line, as they endure dangers to help the serfs held in the underground prisons escape to what we hope will be a better life for them in Aotearoa.
Sannah, “The Storyteller”, belongs to the Women’s Line. When a light skinned stranger calling himself Kaire arrives at her dome she must consider whether he is a spy. The twin mysteries of Kaire’s origins and Sannah’s purpose in “storytelling” drive along the narrative in the first novel. Kaire’s background when revealed gives us another viewpoint of the conditions on the planet.
As with all resistance movements, nobody quite knows who else is to be fully trusted. Missions are planned and after excruciating buildups of tension go wrong in some way. We have escapes by desert and by sea, rescues, betrayals, brutalities and passions. Yet Parritt’s low key writing makes this stark way of life seem almost normalised, which makes it all the more disturbing; and the wreckage of not just the planet but of humanity springs out at us.
“I want readers to grasp what is happening not only in contemporary Australia, but throughout the world with regard to refugees and the ongoing environmental degradation that poses increasing problems for humanity… By writing fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ‘ordinary’ people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable world.”
You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.