Resist the temptation to look up. Although if you do, and one of the hundreds of local feathered residents does indeed land a sticky surprise on your head, the tour guides insist you’ll win a million dollars.
This is Lady Musgrave Island, where wildlife reigns supreme and lucky human visitors will be blown away by an untamed island paradise.
According to Samantha Ephraims, who visited Lady Musgrave with her daughter Natalie, you’ll feel like you’ve hit nature’s jackpot even if the guide’s prediction proves false.
Impressive and abundant they may be, but the birds are not the only animal attraction on this famous coral cay.
Lady Musgrave Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef is haven for environmentally-minded and adventurous families. You can take day trips to the island and its surrounding lagoon with tour operators or book in for a remote and entirely self-sufficient camping trip. Samantha and Natalie travelled with The Lady Musgrave Experience.
“It’s an island full of coral and birds and turtles,” Samantha says. “It’s about as far from city life as you can possible get.”
Wedge-tailed shearwaters, mutton birds and black noddies come to roost in the thick vegetation. In the right season, baby green and loggerhead turtles burst clumsily from the sand and scuttle to the water. More than 1500 fish species flutter and float in the nooks and crannies of staghorn, plate and boulder corals.
“We went snorkelling and saw all the different corals,” Natalie, 11, says.
Natalie is a Reef Guardian at her school and says snorkelling with wild sea turtles was the highlight of her trip to the reef and Brisbane.
“We also went on a glass-bottomed boat, where a marine biologist taught us about all the different sea creatures, including anemones and sea cucumbers. I learnt a lot about the reef and how they take care of the reef.”
Both Samantha and Natalie were impressed by the history of the island, which was once a resort for elite families in the 1930’s.
“After a series of shipwrecks, goats were loosed on the island eventually leaving it barren,” Samantha says. “They were removed in the late 1960s. The island regenerated really quickly and is now lush, green, dense and overgrown. If you’re interested in ecology, it would be a really cool spot to visit.”
It’s no surprise that eco-tourism has blossomed at Lady Musgrave and its sister islands, on the Capricornia Cays of the southern Barrier Reef.
A maximum of 40 people are allowed to camp on the island at any one time, bringing water, stoves and all their own provisions. Most visit on boats for day trips with tour operators.
For families hoping to ease more slowly into eco-warriordom, the adjacent mainland region of Bundaberg has much to offer.
Samantha and Natalie recommend Mon Repos for baby turtle encounters. On this trip, they stayed in nearby Kelly’s Beach eco-resort.
“When we arrived, they were celebrating Earth Hour so we ate by candlelight,” says Samantha, of their unique stay. “The grounds were beautiful and right on the beach. It would be ideal for anyone coming interstate or from the city.”
Samantha and Natalie were hosted by Tourism and Events Queensland. They travelled with The Lady Musgrave Experience tours, which includes a tour of the island, glass bottom boat trip, snorkelling and lunch on the boat.
To hear more about their turtle encounters on Lady Musgrave, read up on Natalie’s perspective, A Kids View.