Lady Elliot Island // Return to Eco Paradise

Return to Eco Paradise //

Last month I had the pleasure of revisiting the beautiful Lady Elliot Island with my wife and I was extremely happy to come away with a new series of the most rewarding nature images I’ve captured. Four days on an island with no phone reception is certainly a refreshing change from my daily routine, but it’s that captivating blue water and life-filled shallow reef surrounding the island I wanted to experience once again with my camera. I spent an average of 6 hours per day exploring some of the bluest ocean water and capturing (in photos) the most amazing sea creatures I've ever seen.

Lady Elliot Island, known as the ‘Home of the Manta Ray’, is one of 16 coral cays in the Capricornia section of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. With a focus on eco-tourism and sustainability, the Island provides visitors with an opportunity to experience its unique ecosystem with minimal human impact. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can walk straight off the beach into pristine tropical waters filled with hundreds of various marine creatures, including sharks and rays, whales, dolphins, fish species, starfish, coral and their renowned sea turtles and manta rays to name just a few. It truly is an ocean photographer’s playground.

Although we have been to Lady Elliot twice now, I don’t think it will be our last trip to the Island. The staff and guides are exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable and go out of their way to ensure you have the best experience possible whilst visiting the Resort. I simply can't get enough of this place!

This is a collection of some of my best memories exploring the blue ocean and shallow reef fringes surrounding Lady Elliot Island.

Hawksbill Sunrise :: Details/Buy

I've had this image in my mind for a few years and I was finally able to create it just recently while exploring the shallow reef fringes of the Island's east lagoon. It's one of the most difficult photographs I've captured in terms of not only finding a turtle whilst swimming around the reef in near darkness but to be able to time it with a rising sun over the ocean makes it all the more challenging. Access to the lagoon is subject to tides, so on this particular sunrise I pretty much had one chance to get it right as the following morning there was next to no water over the shallow reef.

Thankfully this beautiful Hawksbill turtle wasn't too shy and allowed me to hang around and somehow feature it in a split sunrise photo as small waves rolled over us from the strong incoming tide. This image was created from an idea in my head and some good old fashioned luck and is one of my most rewarding images in this collection. 

Manta Ethereal :: Details/Buy

This was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had!
Swimming out on sunset to the Lighthouse bombie I encountered two beautiful manta rays gliding just a few metres below the surface. It was the first time I'd seen one up close, and I was in awe not just of their size, but how graceful they cut through the water. Like giant sheets of silk. Within a few minutes, these creatures seemed to show a sense of ease and began to mimic how we swam with them, displaying what looked like some kind of underwater dance. From what I have since found out these rays may have been showing us some kind of courtship dance. Whatever it was, it was breathtaking to watch.

I've had some pretty cool experiences in my time on this planet but having the chance to share the ocean with huge manta rays would have to be up there with the best of them.

Due to weather conditions on my previous visit to Lady Elliot I wasn't able to witness these beautiful creatures surface feeding, let alone swim within a few feet of them. But this time round they came out to play! They are by far the most graceful and majestic ocean going animals I've seen and to watch them gliding through the deep blue waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef has left me truly humbled.

Wings :: Details/Buy

The ocean holds many treasures. A beautiful green sea turtle glides over white sand on the western side of the Island. This is one composition I had hoped to capture whilst creating turtle images over the sand and I really like the contrasts in this black & white adaptation.

Flight Aquatic :: Details/Buy

I came across this sand covered sea turtle whilst free diving and doing a bit of soul searching over the reef on sunrise. So crazy how that golden light bleeds down from above. This is a personal favourite of mine.

Gleaming Silver :: Details/Buy

Safety in numbers? On day three of my Island adventure we heard there was a dolphin going crazy feeding on these fish not far from shore. This was just the tip of the iceberg in this school of fish and there were about four bronze whalers lurking below as they circled the bombie. It was pretty amazing to watch so many silver planks reflecting from the setting sun above.

I love all things ocean. While I was exploring the Southern Great Barrier Reef I couldn't resist coming away with a new collection of turtle and ocean life images. This time for many shots I swapped my 15mm fisheye lens for a 16-35mm to capture detail and close up profiles, especially for these amazing turtles. I still can't get over how iridescent the ocean can get up there!

Azure :: Details/Buy

Surreal subsurface textures from above the reef. Have you ever seen anything as blue?

My wife, Michelle, got up close and personal with some of the reef's aquatic inhabitants, including this giant green sea turtle which was happy to hang around for a few pics. One of the many highlights snorkeling the reef fringes and deep blue drop-offs surrounding Lady Elliot Island.

November 24, 2015 by Warren Keelan