Serenity by Justin Bruhn - Pure Underwater Imaging

My Favourite Islands of the Southern Great Barrier Reef

If I were to list every single thing I love about the Great Barrier Reef, we would be here for weeks! This magical place provides a vast and magical ecosystem, boasting everything from intricate coral reefs to the most beautiful and rare sea creatures in the world.

For today, I’m just going to focus on some of my favourite islands on the coast, talk about some of the reasons why they are so dear to my heart, as well as provide a little history and must-sees for any ocean lovers who are planning a trip here in the near future.

So, without further ado, let’s explore some of my absolute favourite Southern Great Barrier Reef islands.

Lady Elliot Island

Located in the Coral Sea, Lady Elliot Island is 46 nautical miles north-east of Bundaberg and covers approximately 45 hectares. 

Particularly famous for its large population of turtles and manta rays, as well as its wonderfully untouched coral reef, the island lives within a ‘green zone’ which is highly protected and dedicated to preserving the wildlife that lives within its waters.

Lady Elliot Island has won awards for eco tourism, with the
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort being awarded a prize in the Queensland Tourism Industry Awards as the ‘Hall of Fame Winner’. 

The ethics of the island are also fully in alignment with my own, particularly when it comes to marine conservation and its strict ‘no plastic straws’ policy.

The history of Lady Elliot shows that it was previously popular for
guano mining (guano is a build up of bird poo, which becomes a valuable fertiliser and gunpowder). Unfortunately, this turned out to be highly destructive to the natural vegetation of this island.

However, there was a reversal of fortune with the introduction of an extensive revegetation project - which was spearheaded by Don Adams in
1969 - which focused on rejuvenating the on-land ecosystems, as well as the underwater ones.

Some of my favourite Lady Elliot Island photography includes
Ethereal, where during a late afternoon swim in the lagoon I had a beautiful encounter with a green turtle. Placid and incredibly gentle, the green turtle allowed me close enough to capture this beautiful image. 



Another piece which took my breath away was Majestic, which I captured when I was freediving at Lady Elliot Island. This stunning manta ray moved with such fluid grace, I was truly mesmerised. An unforgettable experience I will treasure forever. 



Lady Musgrave Island

The Lady Musgrave coral cay spans 19.45 hectares, making it small but mighty! 8 kilometres of extensive turquoise lagoon surrounds the island, and the lagoon itself is protected to ensure the safety and sanctity of the underwater ecosystem.

Loggerhead Turtles and Green Turtles have chosen Lady Musgrave Island as one of their favourite nesting sights, with high tides from November to January being prime time for turtle nesting. 

These nests of green turtles are protected fully by the law, as these amazing creatures are unfortunately endangered and in need of protection.

I captured my piece
Time Traveller whilst freediving in the Lady Musgrave Island lagoon. I particularly love the wonderfully elegant, almost metallic tones of the endangered green turtle, who is likely more than 30 years old.

Time Traveller

Time Traveller

Heron Island

A magical coral cay, the coral in question is truly magnificent and provides life for hundreds of sea creatures. Heron Island is home to the University of Queensland Research Station which dedicates its time to the research of aquatic life, as well as being a teaching centre to educate people about the ocean and its inhabitants. 

Tranquility, I captured this underwater photography of a calm green turtle during a morning dive off Heron Island. I continue to be extremely grateful to these beautiful islands and lagoons for providing a sanctuary for these precious yet threatened creatures.



I was reminded of the true magic of the underwater world whilst off Heron Island. To be more specific, it was as I was capturing another piece that would eventually be called Ocean Magic

The glittering shoal of fish, sparkling in the rays of sunlight that pierced the water, allowed me a moment of gratitude and calm to fully take in the grandeur of our oceans.

In the bustling, noisy hecticness of the modern world, the bubble of calm quiet that surrounded me on that dive was incredibly special.

Ocean Magic

Ocean Magic

I’ve had a lot of successful underwater photography trips to these locations over the years, with many images from my collections coming from the amazing islands of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. 

I hope this journal has conveyed even an essence of how incredible these underwater worlds are, and I would highly recommend visiting these islands for yourself one day.

And if you’ve already visited, why not commemorate those memories with a Pure Underwater Imaging print? A meaningful and personal way to remember those most unforgettable and magical underwater encounters.

Ethereal by Justin Bruhn - Pure Underwater Imaging

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