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Cool Dingo’s Tour of Fraser Island, Australia
Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th March 2011 – Fraser Island, Australia
Simply put, the three days spent on Fraser Island are among the best three days I can remember to date. For me, it was great fun spent with a group of excellent people. Apart from the all too frequent bad weather, it could not have been better, and now that it is over, I miss it.
I was awake early on the Thursday to put my things into storage before boarding the Fraser Island transport bus. I was the only person on this bus, and another tour bus for a different tour company was picking up a number of guests from the hostel over the road from us. It wasn’t a good sign, and I asked the driver if there were more people. He said I was the only person from this area, which didn’t sound too good.
Later on we picked up a couple of guests from Nomads Backpackers and I began to feel a lot better. As we carried on, stopping at numerous hostels, more and more people boarded and we soon had a fairly full bus. Everybody seemed to be getting along well at this early stage, and I felt very positive about the tour ahead. Already I could see I was in the company of some cool people, worthy of a Cool Dingo Tour.
Our bus journey ended once we reached the café, and we waited here until the ferry arrived. I sat with a few people in the café and was quickly told by the masculine waitress to leave the café if I wasn’t going to buy anything. I wasn’t going to buy anything after this, so I walked off to go and sit with some others. As I left, the waitress pushed my seat in and wiped it down, muttering something under her breath. I looked back into the deserted café, rows of disused tables and chairs, and couldn’t help but laugh at the seemingly pointlessness of chucking me out. The other guys were allowed to stay seeing as they had bought a coffee.
The ferry arrived and we all hopped on, destination Fraser Island. The waters around this area are populated by sharks, and we are told constantly not to go near the water, or to enter at your own risk. I looked closely at the water all around as we moved ever nearer to the Island, but no shark did I see, especially not through the chaotic swirls of water and foam, kicked up by the bowls of the ferry as we carved our way through the sea. Looking back at Hervey Bay you could see the clouds gathering, and it looked as though a storm was brewing.
It was a good opportunity on the ferry to chat with the guys and to get to know one another, and it wasn’t long before we arrived on Fraser Island and waited for our tour guide to arrive. The bus pulled up and we met our guide, Fab. He looked like a cool guy and gave a quick introduction to the tour. With that out the way, we began our off road adventure. As the bus stopped at the base of the hill, we looked up at the road ahead, and all we saw was sand, lots of it. Fab switched on the 4 wheel drive and we braced ourselves. It’s amazing how quickly a group of adults can turn into little children, all with excited looks on our faces.
The bus bounced along the road up the hill and through the gate, and we were officially off-roading. We all squealed and laughed as the movement of the bus sent us one way, then the other. The guide told us this was what we had to look forward to for the entire tour, which sounded great to me. I put my hands up in the air as if on a roller coaster, and the people around me did the same.
Fab was clearly an experienced driver, and drove at speed along the bumpy tracks, winding through the trees and around tight corners. Everybody uses these tracks, and occasionally one party has to let the other through, which often leads to vehicles getting stuck in the sand, or so we are told. The driving looked immensely fun, and I felt like I wanted to give it a go. Our first stop on tour was for a quick look at Basin Lake. They used to stop here for a swim, but the water is far too polluted now to get in, mostly down to people urinating in the water, or the chemicals from the sunscreen that people wear in the water.
Next stop was central station, a place formed as a central forestry department years ago, but is disused now. The site remains as a reminder of the past, detailed on storyboards in the area. We stopped here for lunch, then took a walk through the thick rainforest, and the valley formed by Wanggoolba Creek. The trees here are so dense in parts that the sun cannot penetrate, and the air all around feels cool and moist. The creek is home to a number of large eels, easily visible from the raised walkway. The huge Kauri trees and palms scatter their leaves along the forest floor, making the walk diverse and interesting. Kookaburras sit on their branches all around, crying out their distinctive calls through the thick brush.
We boarded the bus again and moved onto our next stop, this time it was Lake Mckenzie, where the water is both warm and crystal clear. This is seen as the main tourist attraction on Fraser Island, and as time went on we began to realise this, as tour bus after tour bus arrived, spilling its guests onto the small beach area. We were lucky to get there early and spend a little while with the place to ourselves. After this it became crowded with the hordes of youngsters screaming and shouting, spoiling the tranquil atmosphere. This aside, the place is lovely, and the sand pure white, and very fine. It is said the sand is so fine you can gently exfoliate with it, so I did. The water is fresh and feels different to swim in, and all in all it is the perfect place to relax.
We stayed in the lake for a while, playing games, building a human pyramid, but our guide was anxious for us to beat the crowds and to head off before the other tours, so as to maximise our enjoyment of the Island. We all appreciated this and got back to our bus in good time. The weather today was perfect, and made the whole experience flawless up until now. We had afternoon tea and biscuits before getting back on the road and back to the main area of the island, and to our accommodation.
The hut that we had all to ourselves was lovely, and quite spacious. If felt like a holiday apartment. The four sleeping rooms split the group up, and we shared a communal kitchen and dining area. It was perfect. We all showered and got ourselves ready for our evening at the Dingo Bar. Here, we ate under the shelter of the bar in the outdoor area, stuffing our faces with as much food as we could eat. It was all included, and very nice indeed. Fab bought us drinks during happy hour, and stayed with us a short while before heading off. With 10 dollar beer and cocktail jugs, we managed to keep ourselves entertained throughout the evening.
People started to disappear back to the lodge one by one, and I was surprised to see this, as I thought most would be up until the early hours. I was one of the last to go back, and it was only around 10:30pm, but I guessed most people were tired after the long day. I got back to a cool lodge and went to sleep.
Friday arrived and I hadn’t slept well to be honest, but well enough. We had all-you-could-eat breakfast at the Dingo Bar and set off for day two. We got back onto the 4 x 4 coach and headed up the hill and onto the sandy tracks again. The entire Island is made of sand, and is constantly changing by the day. The guide said that each day was different, and after heavy rain some roads become un-passable. The Island is inhabited by Dingos and other wildlife. Funnel Web spiders were common here, and the seas are the hunting grounds for the deadly sharks. I liked the idea of an island made of sand, but I didn’t much fancy the thought of being at the mercy of a collection of potential killers.
The weather was slightly wet today, and the first stop at Sand Blow Lookout was when the rain started. We could see the ever-moving sand dune from our lookout point some distance away, and it was evident that the sand was moving quickly, although not visibly so. You could see where the sand was, and where it was headed. The constant wind was ever changing the shape of the sand, and forever sculpting the terrain. We set off again, this time to the Wreck of Maheno.
The Maheno ran aground here years ago whilst being towed to Japan for scrap metal. It had served as a hospital ship during the war and a cruise liner later on in its time, but was declared retired, and was on its last voyage before being caught in a storm. The ship was used as bomb target practice after it ran aground, and over the years the ship has rusted and disintegrated as a result of constant battering from the ocean. There is not a lot left of the wreck these days, but it still pulls in the tourists and is a main stop on any tour of Fraser Island. It is sad to see in a way, and clear to see that in a short time the Maheno will no longer be visible.
As we drove on, two Dingos walked by our tour bus and we all scrambled for a picture. I half expected the bus to topple as the weight shifted to one side in a matter of seconds. I think we were all successful in getting a snap of the animals, and then carried on our journey. I was glad to be able to tick the Dingos off my list of things I wanted to see in Australia.
Next stop was Pinnacles, and the coloured sands. Here the sand is a variety of different colours as a result of rain and corrosion. We travelled on to Indian Head, a lookout point above the ocean. A steep walk took us to the lookout, which was hard in flip flops (thongs), especially as the ground was wet and muddy from the rain. On a clear day you are supposed to be able to see sharks and rays from the lookout, but it was not a clear day, and whilst at the lookout the rain began to fall. Fab knew a good place to see out the rain and we ended up under a large bush, huddled together like sardines, completely sheltered from the rain under the vast canopy. It was good fun. Coming back down the hill was hard in my inappropriate footwear, and others shared the same problem.
Champagne Pools was the next stop. Here you can swim in large pools of salty water by the ocean’s edge, being the only place on the Island where you can safely swim in salty water. We stayed here for a while relaxing in the water and soaking up the sun during the cloud breaks, and watching as the waves crashed over the rocks behind us. As we left I managed to leave my shoes behind, and had to run back to get them. A quick bite to eat back at the coach was all we had time for before setting off again.
En route to our next stop we saw a dead fish on the sand. I don’t know what it was, whether it was a breed of shark or not, but it was definitely dead, and when somebody lifted the fish up, maggots dropped from the underside and scattered across the sand to a shriek from the feint-hearted guests among us. We took some snaps and continued to Eli Creek, a fresh water stream winding to the ocean. All about the floor in Fraser Island – and indeed in a lot of places across Australia – huge numbers of Cane Toad can be seen jumping about in all directions. These are all babies as the grownups are harder to see. The guide said to kill any that are in your line of walking, as they are pests, and are killing off all the wildlife. I know this to be true, but it is hard to step on these little things, as ugly and as destructive as they are.
At Eli Creek, you can float all the way down the stream until you reach the end, and it takes you through the trees, winding left and right for a short distance. It is nice to just lay back and relax in the very cool water, and to be alone for a few minutes. Most of the group opted for just one float down stream, and some decided against it altogether. I didn’t understand why as I just wanted to keep going again and again, and ended up going along the stream three times. It was so peaceful. All around here, and again in large parts of Australia, these particular spiders can be seen in all the trees around you, casting their sizeable webs across from branch to branch, some across the walkways. One particular spider outside the toilets was as big as my hand with its legs out-stretched. It was fat and ugly-looking.
We had our afternoon tea by the bus and I opted for a quick paddle in the ocean as my curiosity got the better of me. Myself and one other guy waded out into the warm ocean, but didn’t go very far. Sharks have been sighted in 2ft of water here, so we didn’t want to become a statistic. We came back and set off again in the bus, this time back to the lodge.
It began to rain heavily tonight, and we had to run to the Dingo Bar this evening. The rain continued throughout the night. We had a great meal and had more fun this evening. After food and drinks we went into the bar for some Samba lessons from a cool Brazilian Guy called Diego, and had a bit of a dance in the bar. There were few people around, but we had fun nonetheless. We came back to the lodge for a drink and a chat before bed.
After a much better night sleep we set off for our last day on the Island. Lake Wabby was first, an emerald green lake at the end of the sand bar we saw on day 2. I took a walk to the lookout with Irish Mike and English Michelle whilst the others stayed at the lake. It was raining heavily today which spoilt things a little, and the views were not as spectacular as they could have been over the lake, but good enough. The lake is 17 meters deep, and the sand is slowly encroaching on the lake day after day. Soon the lake will vanish, engulfed by the sand that eats away at the lakes boundaries.
After our walk, myself and Mike swam out to meet the others at the opposite end of the lake. It was quite a swim across a large lake, black underneath for the depth of water, and very warm. No sooner had we made it to the group, but we had to swim back again. The others laughed at us for our wasted effort. Somehow Mike and I had to find the energy to go straight back again, and it was hard work. I was exhausted once we had reached the other side. Catfish are found all about this lake, and you could see them in the shallow areas around the edge of the lake. There are also a lot of big March Flies about, biting you if they manage to land on you. The idea is to squat them – which isn’t hard – then feed them to the fish. We did this a few times for a little amusement.
We had lunch at Eurong Beach Resort which was very nice, and had a quick look around the shops before getting back onto the coach. The rain was still falling and we had to run between buildings, but it all added to the fun. Our last stop was Lake Birrabeen, and had it been warm we would have gone for a swim, but the rain was heavy and it felt cool. We opted to come back to the coach after too long.
Our drive back to the Sand Bar – back to the place where the tour started – was great fun. We put music on and took turns at the front of the coach with Fab for a great view. We all acted crazily, dancing about and enjoying the ride. I sat on the back row of seats for a while to get a better feel for the bumps, and we all laughed about and had a really good time.
We put our money together to get Fab a crate of beer and handed it to him once on the ferry back to the mainland. I presented Fab the beer and a card we had written for him, and gave a short, pathetic speech which didn’t do the guy justice, but he seemed genuinely touched. After a round of applause he gave a short speech back and we settled in for the journey back. Other tour guides on the ferry looked on in envy, and I knew we had been lucky enough to be on the best tour, with the best guide and best people. I get the impression Fab goes out of his way to make the tours as enjoyable as possible, and really makes every effort, often going above the call of duty. I understand a lot of it is at his own expense as well, which other tour guides don’t do. It makes Fab an incredible guide, and a kind, genuine guy. I think I speak for everyone on our tour when I say we could not have had a better guide.
We said our goodbyes to Fab back in Hervey Bay, and got onto the coach to take us back to our accommodations. One by one people left the coach, and it was quite sad to say goodbye. I was last off and walked back into Woolshed Backpackers feeling drained and sad, yet feeling as though I have had three of the best days I can ever remember having. I only hope I can meet up with some of these people again at some point.
Some people left after day one, others after day two, but ten stayed the full three days. It depends on the tour you booked initially. But I shall miss each and every person on the tour.
If any of these guys ever read this post, let me say a big thank you for making it a special trip, and huge amounts of fun.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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