It’s early Monday morning. Even the sun isn’t awake yet and I’m only half way there. But I’m in good spirits because today I finally head off on a highly anticipated tour of Fraser Island with Drop Bear Adventures. After brief introductions with the rest of the group and meeting our guide for the next three days, Troy, it’s safe to say that we are all eager to get going. I nominate myself as driver for the first leg of the trip. Sunnies on, music blaring, good spirits, our 4WDs head off in convoy from Noosa to Rainbow Beach through the country roads to pick up the last remaining of the group. Not before long we are back out on the road and make our way down to the barge where we see dolphins and catch a first glimpse of the island. After just a fifteen minute crossing which felt like an eternity we finally touch down on the island and begin our first drive up 75 mile beach to our camp.
We are welcomed by the Drop Bear Team with refreshments and lunch, and we take a good look at our home” for the next three days. Troy tells us our plan for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily it involves swimming as we feel the midday heat beating down on us. Our first stop is Eli Creek, the largest of its kind on the east coast of the island. We take the inland boardwalk through the surrounding forestry to the top and after testing the water temperature, which was somewhat “fresh”, we push through and submerge ourselves in the crystal clear water and float down the creek taking in the scenery. We do this three times over, each time more enjoyable than the last. Our second stop for the afternoon is Lake Garawongera; fresh water and tea tree infused. Bliss. Our guide, Troy, explains that the lake is used a place of healing for the Butchulla people, the traditional inhabitants of K’gari. He puts the tea tee leaves up his nose. Naturally, we all laugh. But five minutes later we are all doing the same. It comes time for us to leave and we wonder where the time has gone! The sun has already started to set and we chase the last remaining light back to camp through the inland tracks.
Back at camp the Drop Bear team cook up a huge BBQ feast for us which we are thankful for after a big day of exploring the island. I’m already excited for tomorrow’s dinner! We crack open the drinks and all toast to an awesome first day and pay thanks to Troy and the Drop Bear team. And of course celebrate our camp mate, Dave’s birthday and are treated to chocolate brownies! We share our drinks and our travel stories, and not before long good friendships are made. One by one the group heads to bed with only a few of us remaining so we take off down to the beach, dingo sticks in hand. The stars are shining but are over shadowed by the almost full moon which lights the Pacific Ocean ahead of us. It’s almost midnight. We are told day two is non stop adventure and so we decide to head to bed for a good nights sleep. I get super cosy in my tent and after 10 seconds I’m fast asleep counting zzzs.
5:40am. My alarm is blaring and the birds are twittering above my tent. I could easily sleep for longer but I refuse to miss the sunrise. I come out of my tent and see the rest of my group. They look how I feel. But we all head down to the beach, cameras in hand, and get comfortable on the beach. All of a sudden I don’t feel so tired any more as the sky is illuminated pink and orange and the ocean creates a mirror image. What a start to the day!! The morning just keeps getting better as we arrive back to camp with eggs and toast ready on the BBQ by the Drop Bear team. 7:30am and we are all set and ready to leave camp. A group of us opt to take a 15 minute flight over the island and with K’gari being only one of two places in the world where you can take off and land on the beach, it would have been mad not to take such an opportunity. And what an incredible experience. The Pacific Ocean glistening from the morning sun to one side as far as the eye can see and the vast island wilderness to the other, with birds eye views of the many lakes on the island.
Back down on land and still buzzing from the flight, I cant wait to get on with the rest of the days adventures. We take off up 75 mile beach to our first stop, the Maheno shipwreck. Troy tells us about the history of the ship, initially used as a cruise liner and then as a hospital ship for the New Zealand Naval during the First World War until it was caught in a cyclone and shipwrecked on the Fraser coast in 1935. We continue up the coast to a place called Indian Head, or Tukke to the Butchulla people (meaning ‘large rock’). Before we make the climb to the top, Troy explains to us that Tukke is a place of judgement and a sacred to the Butchulla people, and though with permission to go to the top, we are asked to respect area. When we reach the top the top we are welcomed by the most breathtaking view we have ever seen. Troy uses this time to tell us about the history of the island, how it came to be known as Fraser Island, and why he believes it should be returned to its traditional name of K’gari. It’s a story I could try to re-tell, but it’s also a story you should hear for yourself properly.
Three laws of the Butchulla people:
Whatever is good for K’gari comes first.
Do not touch or take what does not belong to you.
If you have plenty you must share.
We say goodbye to the amazing views from Tukke and reluctantly make our way back down to the beach. With near empty bellies we find a good spot on the beach for some lunch and those of us who aren’t too full enjoy a quick dip in the sea before getting back in the cars for a short drive to Champagne Pools, natural saltwater rock pools which create a champagne flowing effect when the waves from the ocean hit the rocks. As well as the beautiful crystal clear water, the pools have an abundance of sea life with colourful fish and crabs. It comes time for us to head back to camp for the evening but not before a quick swim at Eli Creek to wash away the salt water. Yup. Still fresh.
Back at camp we take advantage of the last remaining sunlight and Troy gives us all a lesson in boomerang throwing down on the beach. Naturally I’m really good at it…. Okay, I definitely have a lot of room for improvement. How do people make it look so effortless?! Dinner time comes and we tuck in to a super yummy chicken stir fry cooked by the awesome Drop Bear team and once again we head down to the beach, this time as a group all together. Settled on the sand Troy gives us a lesson in astronomy pointing out star formations in the sky and teaches us how to find south using the Southern Cross. Later that night myself and a few others decide to pull our mattresses and sleeping bags from our tents and sleep under the stars. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end a perfect day.
We rise early again the following morning for the sunrise, though due to cloud covering the colours aren’t as spectacular as the previous day. This doesn’t dampen our spirits though as we know that day three is another huge day. We indulge again on eggs and numerous cups of tea and after gathering all our things say goodbye to camp for the last time. Clouds have made an appearance in the sky but we see the morning sun fighting its way through them. We take the inland track to our first destination. The highly anticipated Lake McKenzie (or Boorangoora). The music is playing and everyone is smiling. We finally arrive at our destination and we can’t get out of the cars quick enough. We make our way down to the lake and are completely awestruck at how beautiful it is. White pure silica sand, teamed with the clearest turquoise water and surrounding green forestry. I’ve honestly never seen anything so beautiful. We are thankful that we woke early and left in good time because we almost have the whole place to ourselves. The sun peaks through the clouds changing the colours in the water and lighting up the sand. We eagerly take off into the water for a swim and take in our surroundings. What an incredible place. We spend nearly two hours at the lake before we have to head to our next stop, and though we could easily stay here all day, more tour groups and visitors have arrived and descended on to the beach. Again we are thankful that we arrived early enough to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Back in the cars and feeling super chilled we head to our final destination on the trip. Central Station. We tuck in to lunch before Troy takes us on a walk through the rainforest, the only one of its kind grown completely in sand. Troy fills us with information about the area and its history, both traditional and following the European colonisation. He also points out tree species completely unique to the island and also his favourite tree which he waters himself every visit he makes. Back in the cars, though still in good spirits, we are sad that the trip is near a close, but not before heading to the Beach Camp Retreat where we are greeted once again by the Drop Bear team with ice pops. After saying our many thanks it’s finally time to get back in the cars and start the long journey back to the mainland. But first I need one last photo with Troy before leaving the beautiful island! But luckily the fun doesn’t end there because due to the low tide we are able to take the beach route all the way from Rainbow Beach back down to Noosa. A fantastic end to an incredible three days.
“Take only photographs. Leave only footprints.”
Drop Bear Adventures, I can’t thank you all enough for giving me the most amazing memories. And thank you to my absolutely incredible guide and new friend, Troy, for sharing your knowledge and stories, and for teaching me about K’gari, as it should be.