Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cool Dingo Tours: Brooke's Fraser Island Adventures

Why Go Australia's Blogger, Brooke, discovers Fraser Island with a Cool Dingo Two Day Tour. Brooke's story was posted on Australiablog.com September 2010.

From the time I arrived in my hostel in Sydney back in early 2009, I had heard, read and seen things about Cool Dingo Tours, so it was a big treat to be able to partake in one of their amazing tours on the great Cairns to Sydney road trip.

Cool Dingo is a Fraser Island tour company that is targeted to the younger traveller, specifically those aged 18-35. They provide 2 and 3 day fully-guided and fully-provided-for bus tours that are lead by an island guru.

What does that mean? It means that all transportation, food and accommodation is provided for as long as you are in their company. It that's not enough to say, "Where do I sign up?" then keep on reading for the summary of my 2 day tour.

DAY 1
Heather and I were picked up from the hostel in Hervey Bay at 0745 (there are also pick ups from Brisbane) and chartered to the mainland reception area to check-in. After that, we were dropped at the ferry to enjoy the 45 minute ride to the island. Upon arrival, we were met by our amazing tour guide, Dave, who on his one would be reason enough to visit Fraser.

We were acquainted with our 4WD bus that had a rather large supply of fresh fruit and muesli bars to snack on any time we wished. Dave made his introductions, letting us know that he had been in the business of giving tours here for over 20 years.

Basin Lake: We made a short hike to Basin Lake, the first stop on our day's itinerary and just one of the island's gorgeous hangouts. Basin Lake is not very big; it only takes about 10 minutes or so to walk around it. During the walk, I saw fresh dingo tracks on the beach, as well as some carnivorous red plants. These plants basically sit low to the ground and are covered in a sticky substance that actually makes them look like they've been rained on.

If you look hard enough, you may even see some fun little turtles in Basin Lake. I think I was more concerned/excited about the idea of seeing a dingo to even give the turtles a second thought. Sorry guys.

Central Station; Wanggoolba Creek; Pile Valley: The middle of the day involved some light hiking through the rainforest areas of Fraser Island. Our tour guide would meet us at various points along the way, while we were left on our own to follow the paths to the next.

The idea that this dense forest could grow on an island of sand is amazing, but I guess we weren't the first people to think of that. Years ago, people would experiment with planting different trees and plant-life to see what could actually grown on the island, the remnants of which can be see today in clusters of random tree species.

One plant that was not part of these experiments is the king fern, which is very rare and grows around Wanggoolba Creek. It is considered so special that they actually built wooden walkways to keep people from trampling on them. I must say that these ferns chose a lovely place as their home; the crystal clears waters of the creek.

The hiking that we did during this time was actually quite easy and peaceful (and shaded from the sun). Just keep in mind that it is best not to get off the paths here or do anything stupid, like stick your hand in random holes in the ground - as the island does have its fair share of snakes and spiders on location.

Buffet Lunch: Food on a Cool Dingo Tour is always served in buffet form, meaning you can eat as much as you want (hear that hungry backpackers). Our first lunch was served at the picnic area near Lake McKenzie (see above pic) and featured salads, lunch meats, chicken legs, cookies, coffee, juice and tea.

A rather large goanna decided to join the party as he sought the warm sunshine near our picnic. Even though he wasn't there to start anything, his presence alone was startling to most of us since he was just so large and lurking about under the tables. The goanna is just one of the many interesting creatures on Fraser Island, as your guide will explain.

Lunch lasts as long as everyone wants it to, and it's a great time to chat with the other members of the group if you haven't met them all yet. After we were stuffed and settled, we got ourselves ready for the big stop of the day: Lake McKenzie.

We made it a perfect time to visit Lake McKenzie as we practically had the ENTIRE beach to ourselves for the afternoon until the other tour groups arrived. I was happy to see that the stories of crystal clear waters and white sands were all true. This happens because metres of sand acts as a filtering system letting only the clean water to the surface. It's one of the reasons that Lake McKenzie is a favourite place of many that visit Australia.

We had just the right amount of time to lounge on the beach, go for a stroll and splash in the water before the shade started passing above us. Since we were there in winter, a lack of sun meant the temperature got quite chilly. However, the day time activities were at just the right level, and I'm almost happy that we didn't make it in the middle of summer.

The Dingo Bar: A gigantic buffet dinner is served at The Dingo Bar in the evening, which is where many of the different tour groups meet up. There's a hot food bar and a cold food (salad and fruit) bar, so there should be something to suit your appetite. Did I mention it is all pretty good?

After dinner, most people like to hang out and get some drinks, play pool and foosball or get jiggy on the dance floor. That's right! The Dingo Bar turns into a night club in the evening so you can have some fun with those on your tour, as well as others. The club is pretty sweet and you can feel free to leave your mark on the walls.

The club closed down at midnight, but since we had another early day coming up, no one was really complaining. After such a long day, bed was definitely calling my name!

The Wilderness Lodge at Kingfisher Bay Resort: I was rather impressed by the quality of accommodation provided to us at the Wilderness Lodge. It was pretty much like a nice hostel with around 4 rooms in each lodge, a large kitchen and comfy beds.

The options for the tour is to either stay in the double room or a quad room. The double rooms have one double bed and one single bed; whilst the quad rooms have two sets of bunk beds. The double rooms, of course, cost a few dollars more. The rooms even have a heater as it will get quite cold in the winter months on Fraser.

Another perk is the access to the reception area of Kingfisher Bay Resort. Here there is a pool, spa, internet access and more to keep you busy if the rest of your itinerary just isn't enough for you.

And so concludes my adventures on Day 1. If you're interested in booking a Cool Dingo Tour - visit their official website - http://www.cooldingotour.com/.


DAY 2
Day two of my Cool Dingo Tour started early and was packed full of some spectacular stops as we ventured up and down 75-Mile Beach.

Buffet Brekky: Breakfast was around 0730 at The Dingo Bar. Eggs, bacon, toast, cereal and fruit are on the menu, and like all the meals, you can eat as much as you want. I went for the coffee... lots of it. I knew we had a big day ahead of us, so I wasn't going to waste it being tired.

Eli Creek: Our first stop of the day was at the pristine Eli Creek, a place that gives you both a beach view and a creek experience in one. The water was a bit chilly for an early morning dip, but it is a definitely possibility if you are brave enough.

Eli Creek is known as the east coast's largest creek, and it pours litre upon litre of fresh water into the ocean. It's a great stop-off for swimming and having lunch, and there are even toilet facilities in the area. Besides that, the serene beauty of the creek makes it a favourite to many visiting Fraser Island.

Maheno Shipwreck: The remnants of a ship sit on the Fraser Island beach, slowly rotting and rusting, but adding an extra bit of character to make it so cool. It was brought to shore because of a cyclone in 1935 and it's an excellent photo stop on the tour. Up close you can see the barnacles that have taken over. Be careful though - as it is rusty metal. I'd recommend keeping a safe distance unless you've had a recent tetanus shot (plus there are signs from Qld Parks and Wildlife asking people to keep clear).

The Pinnacles Coloured Sands: The Pinnacles are like a painting. These sand cliffs and walls feature mainly the red, orange, yellow and white sands - striped and shaped from the blowing of the wind. It is a clear example of the natural forces that helped to shape Fraser Island itself.

Champagne Pools: The Champagne Pools are great because they give you the ability to sit in the sun-warmed pools that are protected from sharks and other unknowns of the ocean. A rocky wall helps to produce the pools, and they are also home to crabs and other interesting creatures if you take a look around. If lounging in the water isn't your thing, it is also fantastic to just sleep on the beach. Just remember to wear some foot protection when near the pools as the rocks are very, very sharp and slick.

Indian Head: The time spent atop of Indian Head was definitely my favourite part of the entire Fraser Island adventure. Already cool enough on its own, for the 45 minutes or so we spent at this location, Fraser Island turned into an episode of National Geographic. While gazing out over the ocean, we saw pods of humpback whales making a commotion, several groups of dolphins cruising about, sea turtles, sharks and sting rays doing somersaults. I almost had to pinch myself to believe it was all happening at the same time. The only thing that could really get us all to come down was the fact that lunch awaited us.

OUr buffet lunch was set on the beautiful beach right next to Indian Head. It featured pre-made containers of salad, fruit, veggies and chicken which we could eat as is or choose to make up a nice wrap. We washed it all down with some juice, tea and coffee and there was definitely an endless supply of cookies and muffins for dessert.

We had a bit of time to spare, so Ranger Dave took us to one of his favourite spots on the island - Kirrar Sandblow. It was a giant sand dune with areas of pure white, and others that were striped with yellows and reds.

Being there felt like we were walking on another planet. I chose to perch myself on top of a high dune while some of the more energetic members of the tour group decided to climb all the way up another (that was pure, loose sand) just to run down it. Some just ended up tumbling a bit in the process. I kind of think I had a win in that situation.

From the tops of the dunes, you can get a view of the ocean nearby. It's a peaceful setting, but not unlike that of every other place on Fraser Island.

Much of the day's activities involved using the Seventy-Five Mile Beach highway to get there. It is a place where we ran into dingos and saw plenty of fisherman hoping to get a giant catch.

Dinner and Goodbyes: Back at the Dingo Bar we indulged in our last buffet meal of the two-day Cool Dingo adventure. It was a good time to hang out with our tour group one last time and even have a nice chat with Ranger Dave. We were shuttled to the ferry and finally taken back to our accommodation in Hervey Bay.

The adventure was over. To book a Cool Dingo Tour visit their website - http://www.cooldingotour.com/.

To read more of Brooke's blogs and check out the photos visit www.australiablog.com/places-to-go/cool-dingo-tours-fraser-island-1.html.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cool Dingo Tours: Discover Fraser Island: A Hidden Paradise...

Lauren Looft writes about her experiences with Ranger Peter Meyer on a Cool Dingo Tour of Fraser Island. Excerpt taken from letstravelradio.com. Posted 6 September 2010.
The Outback, The Opera House and Bondi Beach: All iconic images associated with Australia. And although they are fabulous sights to be seen, after studing aboard in Australia for four months I've come to realise that there's more to Australia than what we may think.

One of my most memorable excursions was to Fraser Island, an island found along the southern coast of Queensland. Most notably, it is the largest sand island in the world, and the only place where an ancient yet thriving rainforest can be found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200m.

Getting around the island is difficult - four-wheel-drive vehicles are the primary means of transportation to navigate the sandy dunes, but the harsh trails are a piece of cake for the expert tour guides. We signed up for a http://www.cooldingotour.com/ where our guide Peter kept us on the edge of our seats as he literally twisted aroudn the tall trees and dangerous dunes.

After an exciting four-wheel-drive adventure, we walked through the forest to reach Basin Lake - an eight metre black water perched lake. The water was so warm and perfect for a quick dip, before taking off on a 2.5 hour nature walk. Another area of interest is Central Station - which used to be the island's centre of forestry operations in the 1960s.

After hiking in the rainforest for most of the day, our next stop was Lake McKenzie. Also a perched lake, Lake McKenzie is situated atop a sand dune 100 metres above sea level. The lake was absolutely picturesque, something from a travel brochure. Crystal-clear waters, with pure white sand. The sand is so fine that travellers can use it to clean jewellery with.

We spent the night in a shockingly nice hostel. The lodges were cute and clean and spacious. Only a few minutes away is a lookout point that is perfect to watch the sun set. Dinner was served at the Dingo Bar, where entertainment was provided afterwards; or you could spend a quiet night with friends having a few drinks and playing pool.

The next day we found ourselves taking a drive along what is known at 75-Mile Beach, an endless stretch of crashing waves and the occasional brave fisherman standing in the surf. Our guide took us to the Maheno Shipwreck - a ship that crashed on Fraser Island during a cyclone (see above pic). At this point tourists were offered the chance to take a plane ride that takes off from the beach, flying above the island for approximately 15 minutes, allowing visitors the chance to see sights not easily reachable from the ground. The most impressive was Butterfly Lake - a lake in the shape of a butterfly.

The most stunning place on Fraser Island is the Champagne Pools which are natural rock formations in the ocean that create a sort of lagoon on the coast. With the rocks protecting us from the many breeds of sharks swimming along the coast of Fraser Island, we could still experience the feelign of being in the ocean and enjoy the moment when waves crashed over the rocks, spilling in to the pools.

Next we climbed to Indian Head rock - a rock supposedly named by Captain James Cook when he sailed to Fraser Island in 1770 and saw the native aboriginals watching his ships approach. The rock, which juts out over the ocean, allows for an excellent view of marine life below. Shadows of sharks are easily discernible from above. I was content to just sit and appreciate the power of the ocean.

As we made our way to our final destination, we came across a wild dingo roaming along the beach. Our guide stopped the bus and allowed us to crowd around outside and observe. The dingo came surprisingly close to us, probably used to the presence of tourists on the beach.

After taking some pictures, we boarded the bus and drove to Eli Creek, a continuously flowing fresh-water creek that opens into the ocean. We walked to the top and ended our trip with a beautiful and relaxing float down the creek.

Getting to Fraser Island is simple - with several flights leaving Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane each day. After arriving at Hervey Bay, take a ferry ride to Fraser Island, and enjoy a part of Australia that few know about.

For more information on Fraser Island and possible tours visit: http://www.fraserisland.net/.