Travel

Fantastic Fraser Island

October 24, 2011

Sunday morning my Australian tour guide and I hopped in our rented LandCruiser 4×4 with loads of food and wine and headed north to spend 6 days on Fraser Island. Fraser Island is approximately 75 miles long and 15 miles wide and considered to be the largest sand island in the world. It became a World Heritage site in 1992 and is the only sand island in the world containing a rainforest. And as if that’s not enough, it’s home to the last remaining pure dingoes in Eastern Australia.  Lucky me to have an Australian friend who owns a house there!

After a few hours of driving we arrived at Rainbow Beach and my Aussie mate quickly got to work reducing our tire pressure for optimum beach driving. I got my first taste of what we were in for as we ventured across the sand to catch the barge to the island.  It’s about a 10-min trip across the Great Sandy Strait to Fraser.

Driving across Rainbow Beach on our way to the Fraser Island barge

Driving across Rainbow Beach on our way to the Fraser Island barge

On the barge to Fraser, yahoo!

On the barge to Fraser with our trusty diesel 4×4, yahoo!

There are no roads on Fraser and once you’re there it’s strictly beach driving and deep, sandy, inland tracks. 4×4 rollover accidents and swampings are incredibly common here and it’s impossible and dangerous to travel during high tides.  To add to the stakes, our rented 4×4 from Britz comes with a $7500 excess, which means if we swamp it, crash it, or otherwise kill it, bye bye $7500. Rental companies may give you permission to drive on Fraser, but they sure as hell won’t insure you.

My friend told me we’d be racing against a rising tide on our 90km drive north to his house on Orchid Beach, so he was eager to get underway. Most of the drive was fairly tame until the last headland crossing where beach was quickly disappearing into a rising tide. Our LandCruiser slowed to a crawl and we spent a few nervous seconds getting bogged in the sand. My Aussie mate murmured “not good” under his breath and I got a little worried. Luckily our LandCruiser’s diesel engine combined with his experienced driving skills got us through it and out the other side.

Welcome to the Frasier sand highway!

Welcome to the Fraser sand highway!

We turned onto the inland tracks, which are nothing more than deep, rutted sand that bounces you around the car like a ping pong ball.  We were treated to a rare surprise when we rounded a corner and right there in front of us was a tiny wallaby stopped in the road. Before I could grab my camera he bounced off on his way. So awesome! We unpacked at the house and I couldn’t believe the wine bottles and the 2 dozen eggs we brought made it intact!

The fun, bone-jarring inland tracks

The fun, bone-jarring inland tracks

We got to work on dinner quickly so we could sit on the deck and enjoy the amazing ocean views. This place really is, literally is, heaven. Shortly after our arrival a humpback whale even passed by to say hello. The whales are commonly sighted off the coast on their 5,000km migration to the South Ocean.

A humpback whale shortly after arriving!

A humpback whale shortly after arriving!

Wild kingdom continued after dinner when two dingo pups wandered into the area to chase birds. It’s dingo whelping season, which is an important time for pups to learn hunting skills. There are a fair amount of warnings out about keeping your distance from Fraser Island’s dingoes and there are even more warnings during special times of the season like now. Pups and mothers can be a bit more aggressive than usual when learning to hunt. The pups were cute as buttons though. It’s hard to think of them as aggressive animals! They were stalking and terrorizing the local birds, so I was able to snap some photos from a safe distance.

Dingo pup stalking a bird

Dingo pup stalking a bird

The next morning we kept it pretty chill, lounging on the deck and then setting off for a fantastic beach run. I gotta tell you, I could wake up and run on the beach in a place like this every day of the year!  Our wildlife luck continued and we spotted a lone dingo on the beach. We kept a safe distance but he shortly seemed undeterred by us and started walking straight to the car, so we got back underway.

This dingo followed us while we were out on a run

This dingo followed us while we were out on a run

Afterwards we did a quick trip to Indian Head, a tall coastal headland on the island. The view from Indian Head is amazing and you can look straight down into the crystal clear waters and enjoy a panoramic view of the east beach of Fraser. Sadly we didn’t see any sharks, which are incredibly common here, but we did see a few manta rays floating around. Surprisingly, we even spied a swimmer spearfishing off Indian Head, which my Australian friend called “insane” because of the shark-infested waters. Better him than me, that’s for sure!

The view from Indian Head. Yes, there really is a swimmer down there. Spearfishing. In what's known as very shark-infested waters. To quote my Aussie friend: “Bloody hell!”

The view from Indian Head. Yes, there really is a swimmer down there. Spearfishing. In what’s known as very shark-infested waters. To quote my Aussie friend: “Bloody hell!”

I’m happy to even report that I did some beach and inland track driving today and didn’t crash, get bogged, or otherwise kill the LandCruiser. Fantastic! We’ll be setting out to do some more island sightseeing later this week. In the meantime, I’m off to enjoy the gorgeous views and upcoming sunset!

Looking down the beach from Indian Head

Looking down the beach from Indian Head

 

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