We actually debated for a bit before booking a trip to UNESCO World Heritage site Fraser Island because we had really wanted to go to the Whitsunday Islands and we didn’t think we could afford both. However, after much deliberation, we ended up booking an overnight trip to Fraser. It seemed too amazing to pass up, especially after learning that Fraser is incredibly unique in the aspect that it’s capable of growing rainforest, in sand! No wonder it’s one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
After arriving on the island, we had a 40 minute drive through very dense forest, along a very rough sandy “road”. Along the way, our tour guide Warren (who told us to call him whatever we like, including but not limited to: Walter, Wazzy, Wazbeen) kindly entertained us with stories of Australia’s poisonous creatures. Fraser has 49 different types of reptiles, 19 different species of snakes, and a plethora of spiders and other creepy crawlies. He told us not to worry though, because only half of the snakes were poisonous. Oh, is that all??? I’ve found this charming aspect among Australians; they have this way of being very nonchalant about their lethal creatures. “Don’t worry, my
cousin Barry was bitten by a red bellied black snake, but three months later regained the use of his lower half.” Perhaps it’s because Australians have just gotten so used to dealing with danger. In fact, Fraser is home to the Taipan, which is the world’s most deadliest snake. Warren then went on to explain how to deal with spider or snake bites, and was even so kind as to tell us stories of specific snake attacks. A wonderful way to begin the trip. Give me dingoes any day! In fact, I was pretty excited to see some dingoes on the island. Australia has a very interesting past with their beloved wild dog, and has actually drastically reduced their populations on the island. From about 1971 until the early ‘90’s, the dingo population greatly increased to more than 1,000 because the newly built resorts on the island had feeding stations for the dogs, upon where they fed them the human food scraps from guests. But once the island became a World Heritage site in 1992, a crucial component of the status meant that the feeding stations were to cease, in order to force the dogs to use their natural hunting
skills. Understandably, the dogs continued to come to humans for food and, as a result, this led to an increase in aggression in the dogs. Sadly, in 2001, a little boy was mauled to death by some of the dogs, and the worldwide press of the attack led the Australian government to order a cull of the dogs. They reported that only 40 or so dogs were killed, but locals agree that numbers were about three times as high. Also, the majority of the dogs that were killed were the stronger, dominant males (as they were defending their territory). Numbers have never really jumped back up (estimates are that there are only about 200 dogs left on the island). Really, dingoes were the least of our worries in comparison to the other wonderful creatures on the island.
However, once we actually stepped foot in the wilderness of the island, my fears decreased (although I still vigilantly kept a look out for snakes on the paths). The rainforest on Fraser is absolutely beautiful, even more so because of its unique habitat. We passed by several trees that we were told were well over 1,000 years old! After about a 15
minute walk, the rainforest suddenly cleared and became a perfectly clear expanse of sand blows (aka dunes). You had the feeling of being in Egypt or the Sahara desert, surrounded by nothing but deep soft sand, rippling as far as the eye can see. After walking another 15 minutes through deep sand, the landscape opened up into a stunning emerald-green lake (Lake Wabby), which is surrounded by lush vegetation. Lake Wabby has actually been pushed smaller and smaller by blowing sand, which fills up the water hole.
After that, we headed to Lake Birabeen, a crystal clear lake in the middle of the forest. The lakes on Fraser are the only place where you can swim as the oceans are not only filled with man-eating sharks, but also have a ridiculously strong riptide that will take you under in half a second. Another comforting detail of the island. After spending some time at the lake, we hunkered down for the night, sleeping like babies after a very long day.
We started off our second day by cruising down the highway, otherwise known as the beach. Seriously. The beach is an actual highway, with speed limits and all. Although
beautiful, the 4WD vehicles all add a bit of a sci-fi feeling to the atmosphere, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the island would be like without all of the tourists coming each day. The environmental impact of al the vehicles was actually the main reason we decided on a guided tour, as opposed to a self-guided tours, where a company pairs up 6-8 people to do their own tours. The fewer the vehicles, the better. We were happy with our decision because we had an amazing guide, who actually took us to more spots than our itinerary planned for, and was a wealth of information on the history of the island, particularly on the original owners, the Aborigines (that’s a whole other blog on its own). The first site we visited on the second day was an old shipwreck, the Maheno. The boat sunk early in the 20th century, and in between the world wars, the Australian government used the boat for target practice. Now it sits half sunk in sand, riddled with bullet and cannon holes; a perfect photo opp. We then headed onwards to the Champagne Pools, warm pools of water collected from the ocean, that
are surrounded by rocks and are thus safe to swim in. The Champagne Pools were not on our itinerary, but Warren, being the amazing guide that he is, was determined to get us there in our 4WD bus. So, on the fifth attempt, after backing up a few hundred meters, he gunned our bus as fast and hard as he could, with all of us cheering him on, and slammed through the deep sand as fast as he could. We finally made it, and up the sandhill we went. The rest of the day was filled with other amazing sites: incredible views from Indian Heads, overlooking the eastern part of the island; beautiful sandstone cliffs containing 120 different colours; amazing Lake Mackenzie (the sister lake to Birabeen); and a dingo!
We're both really happy we went on this trip. Fraser contains so many different elements combined together and it was amazing to be able to see it. We arrived back in Hervey Bay early in the evening, and had one last night there before a brutally long 14-hour overnight bus ride to our next destination…Airlie Beach.
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