Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dingoes, Dunes And Desolation - A Two Day Adventure on Fraser Island

GUEST BLOG:  Originally from Toronto, Canada, freelance travel journalist, photographer and blogger, Cindy Fan, has - in her own words - spent the last seven years globetrotting to thirty countries, hiking, cycling and paddling through some of the world’s great landscapes (and pigging out on a lot of great food).   Cindy is currently making her way along the east coast of Australia and called in to spend time with us on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island - an absolute must-do on any Queensland itinerary. Here's her story (Nov 2012).

Eli Creek on a gorgeous spring day - (c) Cindy Fan
Steve Salter remembers scrambling up and across Hammerstone Sandblow on Fraser Island as a young lad on a Boy Scouts’ camping trip.  It was hard work for his ten-year old legs but he’ll never forget the sight. The sand seemed to go on and then plunged down to emerald green Lake Wabby nestled below; he was awestruck. That was the moment he fell in love with Fraser Island.

Steve, 52, is now a guide with Fraser Explorer Tours and has been guiding for eight and a half years. He remains in awe of the island, declared a World Heritage site in 1992.

“The rawness of it. Most people that we talk to are fascinated that we can drive all over a national park. I think the rawness of it – it’ll never change. You can come back with your children’s children and it’ll be exactly the same.”

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and it is easy to understand why the Butchulla people, the Traditional Owners of the island, called it 'K’Gari' – paradise. It has surprising features such as rainforest, multi-coloured sand cliffs, spring fed lakes and crystal clear freshwater creeks. After years of logging and mining, it has been given back to nature and is now protected land. There are no sealed roads, just sand tracks, and the only way you can get around is by hardy 4WD. Bouncing around in the forest, down beaches and through water is all part of the adventure.

Leave the driving to the experts - (c) Cindy Fan
Steve was born and bred in Hervey Bay, the mainland gateway to Fraser Island, and was a commercial fisherman for 25 years before retiring. It doesn’t seem like a natural fit – going from a life of isolation as a fisherman, with months spent at sea, to being a guide – but Steve took to the role like fish to water, relishing in the experience of meeting new people from all over the world.

“Every passenger has different personalities. I enjoy the group dynamics. That’s what makes the job – the people…you get to meet so many different people and they have their stories to tell me.”

Steve also points out that group tours like Fraser Explorer Tours lessen the environmental impact compared with hiring your own 4WD as it removes individual vehicles driving around. Fraser Island sees over 350,000 visitors each year and for good reason.

Here are some of the highlights:
Seventy-Five Mile Beach
True to its name, Seventy-Five Mile Beach runs the length of the east coast and it is the island’s “super-highway.” There’s nothing quite like the feeling of racing along, tires in the water, with that beach endlessly stretching out before you.

(c) Cindy Fan
Dingoes
It’s a good thing Steve emphatically told us that there are no pets on the island. From afar, the dingo I saw playfully running on the beach looked like a regular ol’ Fido. Fraser Island is home to approximately 300 dingoes (wild dogs) and due to the island’s isolation, they are the purest strain of dingo in Eastern Australia. Keep your eyes peeled on your drives. It is an amazing opportunity to observe these wild animals in their natural habitat.

Dingoes aren’t to be taken lightly. Not only is it illegal to feed them, it can be dangerous. They are keen opportunists and have been known to snatch backpacks with food. Keep your distance. If they approach, don’t run. Stand your ground, then slowly back away.

Central Station
Once the central forestry camp and hub, now given back to nature and the starting point for many trails. Fraser Island is the only place where rainforest grows on sand.  “The rainforests are just brilliant. You can stay for days in there,” says Steve.

You can take a short walk through the rainforest on a boardwalk that runs along a crystal clear creek or tackle the 90 km Fraser Island Great Walk.

The Champagne Pools
This is not listed as part of Fraser Explorer Tours’ advertised itinerary because the area is not always accessible due to tides and conditions. Keep your fingers crossed that you get to go there. It is a stunning view and a fun spot – definitely one of my favourite highlights.

Natural barriers create protected pools of frothy sea water, allowing you take a refreshing dunk (you normally can’t swim off the coast because of that small pesky issue with sharks in the ocean).

Lake Wabby
A spring-fed emerald green lake surrounded by giant dunes. Walk across Hammerstone Sandblow which is actually slowly taking over the lake.

Lake McKenzie
Lake McKenzie is a rainwater lake and is famous for its fine white sand and vivid turquoise blue appearance under the sun.

Eli Creek
Cold spring water, “as clear as gin” as Steve would say. A perfect swimming pool on a hot day.

The SS Maheno
In its heyday, it was a luxury liner, then a hospital ship in World War I. In 1935, it was being towed to Japan for scrap metal when it was caught in a storm and wrecked on the island’s eastern shore. The sight of the rusted, disintegrating remnants is both beautiful and eerie.

Indian Head offers sweeping views of Fraser (c) Cindy Fan
Indian Head lookout
No words required.

THE FACTS
Fraser Explorer Tours offers 1-day and 2-day/1-night tours ex Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach with connections from Brisbane and other major centres.  The 2-day tour allows you more time to explore Fraser Island (and increases your chances of seeing wildlife) and includes Indian Head, a stunning lookout point on the eastern shore.

The tour includes: Courtesy pickup from your accommodation in Hervey Bay, ferry, 2 days of touring on Fraser Island:
  • Indian Head
  • Lake McKenzie and Lake Wabby
  • The Pinnacles coloured sands
  • The SS Maheno Shipwreck
  • Eli Creek
  • All meals and accommodation at Eurong Beach Resort, drop off to your accommodation.

Visit Fraser Explorer Tours' website or our Facebook page for up to date info or So Many Miles to read more of Cindy's adventures! Photos/content in this blog has been reproduced with Cindy's permission.