Archive for October 2014
The Whitsunday Islands are one of the picture postcard sights of NE Queensland. Dramatic green forested island mountains rising from an azure sea, fringed by coral reefs and white sand beaches. We arrived in Airlie Beach, the main tourist hub under heavy, leaden skies that promised rain.
Our apartment at the splendid SeaStar Apartments (review here) made up for the weather, a stunning place with a wide balcony with sea views. We had a couple of full day tours booked so we hoped that perhaps things would be better in the morning.
They weren’t. The weather was awful. After some glorious weather to start or trip our luck had run out. Blue skies were replaced with heavy driving rain and wind. We were booked on a trip with Ocean Rafting (review here) in one of their fast and very bouncy looking craft for a day of snorkelling and sunbathing on the world famous Whitehaven Beach. The weather just looked awful as we waited on the pier. To their eternal credit they offered us the chance to bail out of the trip with a full refund as the forecast was for no improvement through the day. We thought that we would only end up sitting listlessly around the apartment all day feeling miserable if we did so we thought we may as well go for it as did everyone else.
As you can imagine from a trip on a fast boat its run by, and patronised by a youngish crowd. Me and TBF felt a little out of place. The enthusiastic crew soon put everyone at ease, and then skipper opened the throttle and we were off.
Well all I can say is you don’t need theme parks to get a real life thrill ride – in fact our vessel was called “Thrilla”. It was tremendous fun as we bounced, twisted and turned amongst the fairly big waves and heavy seas thrown up by the storms. The kids and TJF in particular were really enjoying themselves despite the weather. Well, TJF did, not sure about TJS, he looked terminally wet and cold all day
With the rain and the spray we were all pretty much soaked after 20 minutes. After a narrow gap between islands we were out in the open sea and the waves were huge. The boat would skip across the waves and then suddenly drop like a stone or hit a wall of water with soaking spray. It became more apparent that spending the day out on the waves was the best way possible to spend a wet day. If your gonna get wet it may as well be fun 🙂
We pulled up into a sheltered bay at Border Island and took and hour out for some snorkelling.
Most of the islands have fringing reefs and despite the fact that the wind and waves had stirred up the water a bit the snorkelling was still amazing, loads of coral and in particular large green parrot fish. Only me and TBF ventured in (kids preferred the very relative dry of the boat) – of course in the water it doesn’t matter if its raining and I was having a ball. Here’s a picture of me enjoying myself in the warm waters – trust me, it wasn’t as cold as it looked
The boat headed off across a wild sea and through a torrential downpour with me and TJF at the front of the boat, towards Hill inlet on Whitsunday Island, the largest in the group. I can only imagine what a stunning spot this must be under a blue sky.
We took a stroll through the bush to the viewpoint and tried to imagine the scene. In good weather and the right tide, Hill Inlet is a swirl of silica and turqouise shaded water. Today it was just a grey swirl but I loved it any way. This is what it’s supposed to look like….
And this was our view.
Sometimes I feel a little regretful that we didn’t see it at its best but mostly I’m chuffed to have been there at all. Even on this day it’s a majestic spot
We headed back down and had a lunch on the white silica beach in the drizzle.
I took a paddle in the shallows and saw huge Stingrays just a few feet from where I stood. There were dozens of them all hunting in the shallows for crabs in the sand. Nervous of these gentle yet dangerous creatures I clambered up amongst the tree roots to see them from a safer perch. Amazing stuff.
We took an actually pretty splendid stroll along the sand spit and paddled in the warm water. It stopped raining for the occasional minute and found ourselves smiling through the grim conditions. It was almost a disappointment to head back to port.
After another wild ride we were back at Airlie Beach.
We were absolutely drenched and standing in the lobby, dripping water, waiting for our lift we must have looked a sight. A worthy day out indeed and one to file under “making the best of things”.
Proof reading it, seems like I’m making a statement about what a good day it was despite weather. I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince myself or people reading this to be honest. It was deeply disappointing to hit such a bad spell of weather in such a an amazing place but in 4 weeks we were never going to have it all our own way. I’m probably overplaying the sentiment but it was a genuinely great day out that I look back on with fondness. Just reading it all through again though I should say that there were one or two moments when it really was utterly miserable!
Big thanks to the Ocean Rafting guys and gals for making it a such a memorable day. But in the sunshine next time 🙂
We left Eungella National Park for the relatively short drive to Airlie Beach, our base for the Whitsundays. We had some time to explore and had planned to do some wild swimming at the nearby Finch Hatton Gorge. The weather however was cool and cloudy and not exactly inviting us into the water. We figured the coast gave us a better chance of sunshine so we took a drive out to Cape Hillsborough.
As you can see it was an inspired idea.
The sun came out and despite the wind it was hot and humid. The beach was simply superb and we had the whole place to ourselves. We’d read that you can often find Kangeroos lazing on the beach but we were out of luck.
We took a stroll, well a steep climb actually, through the woods to the view points overlooking the beach and headlands. The views were magnificent although the billowing clouds seemed to be announcing a change in the weather and so it proved.
The woods were alive with huge blue butterflies and I managed to catch a couple of really good close ups.
We took another wander across the wide and empty expanse of sand. Like pretty much every beach we visited we shared the thought that if this was in Europe it would be absolutely mobbed with people. It was one of the over-riding impressions we took home just how uncrowded this part of the world is
We enjoyed another great picnic lunch in the really rather lovely parkland that sits behind the beach. The Australians do picnic areas really well, loads of shady tables, free BBQ to use, water and acres of spotlessly clean landscaped space.
It was a very fine half day stop off, finished off with a Mangrove Boardwalk amble that was equally fine
We left LEI and had another stunning flight back to the mainland including a bonus bumpy landing at Bundaberg
Now we had to get some miles under our belt. One of the hotel owners told us that there was loads of great stuff to see in Queensland but that there was an awful lot of nothing in between. There is nothing much to see in central coastal Queensland so we had a 500 mile drive north to our next adventure. We spread this long drive over 2 days and stopped off at the Rosslyn Bay Resort near the very nice coastal town of Yeppoon. There is a TripAdvisor review here if you’re interested.
It was a brief stay in a very nice apartment and as with all the places we stayed we awoke to birdsong. Here the laughter of the Kookaburra was loudest
Not only was it a rather fine hotel and apartment but a rather fine area as well. We took time out from endless driving for a walk on the beach and a wander to the top of the local headland
The views out to Great Keppel Island were very fine. We’d thought about a visit there but ferries are infrequent and it was one of those places we had to drop from the itinerary. Shame as the photos looked nice!
Feeling satisfied with a couple of hours of respite we hit the road again and headed north to Mackay. The scenery changed and Sugar Cane was king in these parts. Vast acres of them paralleled by miles of narrow gauge tracks for the cane trains. Huge sugar factories billowing plumes of steam. Many people told us how boring the drive through Queensland was. In truth there was not much to see, particularly as the main road, the Bruce Highway, runs several miles inland. But I enjoyed the drive. the roads are largely empty, traffic flows freely and that empty blankness was at least Australian empty blankness. We just cruised and enjoyed the fact we were in Australia seeing things and places perhaps we never thought we’d see.
Our destination was the Broken River Mountain Resort in Eungella National Park. An area of mountainous rainforest about 50 miles inland. The approach is through the wide Sugar Cane rich Pioneer Valley and we cruised along its mostly deserted roads. Suddenly the road pitched upwards in a series of sharp hairpins up into the forest to the resort at about 700m.
It was pretty much dark when we got there but the resort is gorgeous. A small collection of timber chalets in the forest with a rustic lodge at its heart. We had our own private cabin down by the river. You can read my TripAdvisor Review here
The restaurant was excellent and the waitress looked after us royally for all our meals and arranged our packed picnic lunches – I only wished we’d have got her name (I’m terrible for such things). We ate like kings and were treated to the nightly show out the back of the restaurant. They put food out and a family of Possums comes down for their evening meal.
They are rather cute in a wide, staring-eyed sort of way and we sat outside in the cold for many minutes watching them – a rare treat
The resort organised a free night-walk which was excellent and informative. We caught glimpses of wallabies, bandicoots and frog-mouth birds but alas too dark for photography
Next morning we were up early to see what the area is famous for – Platypus
Small, shy and endangered they are the weirdest of creatures. Fur like an otter, tail like a beaver, beak like a duck and a venomous claw on its hind legs. I’m told that when the first stuffed specimen was brought to the UK everyone thought it a hoax. They are actually mammals rather than marsupials although they don’t breast feed their young as such, they secrete milk through the skin and the young drink the milk off the fur. I couldn’t wait to see them
We had been told that they were incredibly shy and needed considerable patience to catch a glimpse. We must have been lucky as we saw them pretty much every time we went down to the river. They really are quite wonderful little – things! Cute in their own way and much smaller than you think. We were even lucky enough to see a couple of them engaged in courtship – fighting basically – so pretty much like Hereford on a Saturday night.
Considering the photos were taken with a 500mm telephoto lens, handheld, of dark brown creatures, in a dark brown river, in a forest, under a grey sky, in fading light, well I’m quite pleased with the outcome.
To fill our day we packed up a picnic and after being dropped at the trailhead took a long walk along the river through the rainforest. Not a typically tropical rainforest, this one is created by the moist coastal air being pushed upwards by the mountains, condensing into clouds and mist that cloak the forest most of the time. This allows the luxuriant growth of ferns palms and the towering trees.
The walk was magnificent with the sights and the sounds of the forest surrounding and enveloping us. We saw all kinds colourful birds but they were too fleeting to photograph or identify. I was keeping a watchful eye for snakes and leeches but were unlucky (or is that lucky).
We stopped to admire a stunning deep pool and were rewarded with another glimpse of Platypus. Incidentally the plural of Platypus is Platypus or Platypuses. The tendency to stick an “i” on such words is apparently the height of grammatical laziness!
We found a lovely spot down next to the river for our lunch
We finally found a place where we could sit right down on the rocks amongst the river itself and spent a happy hour just watching the forest world and river pass us by.
We finished off with a stroll around the dramatic and precipitous viewpoints that overlook the Pioneer Valley
A final Platypus watching session before dark.
This time peace was shattered by an almighty screeching noise. At first I thought it was pigs on the farm next door such was the volume but then I realised it was a huge flock of Cockatoos in the trees. It’s rather surreal to look up and see flocks of these birds that you normally see in bird houses or zoos and yet here they are numerous and flying free – something of a pest in fruit-growing areas we heard. I had no idea that they “flock” (if that’s the right word) in such numbers. The din they make is on account of the one’s in the tree-tops watching and alerting for danger while the others feed and drink by the water
There were also Turtles aplenty and in the end I felt a bit sorry for them. Everyone is looking at the Platypus and admiring them. The Turtles swim up close and clamber on logs as if to say “Hey, look at us, we’re interesting as well” but still, attention passes them by and no-one gives them a second glance. Covered in green slimy algae they look a little sad and pathetic. I took some photos and gave them some encouragement. Turtles have feelings too!
After a long day out we returned to our cottage and chilled, making use of the log burning stove. May as well we thought. Rather too enthusiastically it turns out. I had to open the windows when we got back from eating as the place was like a sauna 🙂
A short stay but a great one. Memorable for the amazing wildlife but also because it was a complete contrast to everywhere else we went. The rest of the trip was mostly islands and coast so a trip inland gave us some real contrast
“But Lady Elliot Island is on the Great Barrier Reef! Where were the photos of the reef and and all it’s treasures” I hear you cry! Patience patience!
The previous post highlighted just what an amazing place Lady Elliot Island is to chill out, take strolls on the beach, watch the sunrise and sunset and admire the birdlife. Of course the main reason people visit the island is that it sits on the southern fringe of the Great Barrier Reef with all its treasures. There are so many facts and figures about it that its never quite clear which are right or wrong. Longest, biggest living organism on the planet is it’s claim although the second part it depends whether you see a coral ecosystem as one creature or millions. Doesn’t matter. What is clear from our three trips to see it up close (this is just the first) is that it is magnificent.
The common misconception is that the GBR (I can’t be bothered to keep typing it out and when you’ve been there you are allowed to shorten it like a nickname for an old friend!) sits but a short boat ride from the coast. It doesn’t. In most cases it’s around 30-50 miles out requiring a 1-2 hour boat trip across the coral sea to get to it. There are a few islands that sit right on it where you have the chance to see it without such a day trip and LEI (again I’m allowed to call it that) is one. Here you can walk a few meters from your beach hut, slip on a mask, snorkel and fins and away you go.
The photos while pretty good really don’t do it justice especially the fish which are impossible to capture in any detail. It also doesn’t really convey just how much life there is. There are a myriad of tiny colourful fish, crabs, molluscs, shrimps and the like which you just can’t capture with a compact camera. Hopefully they will convey a small part of the beauty but it is one of those things where you just need to see it for yourself. I count myself very, very fortunate to have been able to see it
The first thing that strikes you is the clarity of the water, it’s crystal clear. And then you notice the second thing, it is of course teeming with fish and coral. When I snorkelled in the Maldives the coral had been severely damaged by the effects of Coral Bleaching and the reef was a lifeless grey colour although the fish were still abundant and colourful. The GBR was not affected and it’s coral is still thriving so this was my first time up close.
The lagoon on the southern side of the island has it’s own reef flat and the water is only about 6-8 feet deep. This means you can just float right over the top of the coral and see it up close. The number and variety of fish is amazing but it was the coral I was pleased to see. Seeing the polyps waving about in the current was truly amazing.
Each time all you had to do was swim out against the current and then turn and drift easily back across the reef before getting out and doing it again. It’s absolutely perfect for nervous beginners as the water is shallow with plenty of sandy spots to stand and take a rest and you are never very far from the shore with a current that pushes you that way.
Whilst the coral and the fish are amazing, LEI has something else. Turtles
I was lucky enough to see one a couple of times in the Maldives but at LEI they are abundant. You were pretty much guaranteed to see several each time you got in the water and they are the most wonderful graceful and gentle creatures. Most of them are completely oblivious to your presence and you can swim right next to them while they glide through the water. You never tire of seeing them and every sighting and encounter was as amazing as the last. Like the whales its rare to get up so very close and personal to these animals and they are moments to treasure.
The only downside with the beach snorkelling at LEI is the tide. When it recedes the reef is exposed to the air so you can’t snorkel over it. You can only snorkel for about 4 hours spanning high tide and we were a little unlucky in our timing as this meant we could only snorkel first thing in the morning and at the end of the afternoon when it’s not quite as warm when you get out the water especially as it was so windy. It’s fine when you’re in the water as its pretty warm.
The flip-side benefit to this is that you can go out and walk amongst the reef. This gives you a chance to get right up close to all that same magnificent life you saw while in the water, and in fact more, without the need to swim or snorkel. Just slip on some reef shoes and pick up a stick to help keep your balance and you’re free to poke about as long as you don’t pick stuff up. This is after all a World Heritage Site and a very delicate and fragile environment. We took a little guided walk the first time and it was well worth it. The guide showed us where to look and we saw some great stuff.
The is a sea cucumber.
One variety, a leopard sea cucumber has the unfortunate distinction of having a fish that lives up its butt. The fish gets protection and some free food and the Sea Cucumber gets a rectal clean up. Isn’t nature wonderful 🙂
A Sea Hare (named for its two horns that look like ears). This fella squirts purple ink at you when he gets annoyed, very gross
A New Caledonian Starfish
A Clam. These are numerous and come in a huge variety of colours, all stunning
On our second trip out we saw more stuff. A Sea Urchin
A Conger Eel
More coral and clams
And a mutant New Caledonian Starfish with 7 legs!
We had another look at the fish feeding so I stuck my camera in the water for a closer look
We also had a visit from a large conger eel that stuck it’s head out of the water looking for food – they have quite a chilling scary face but alas I didn’t get a photo. TBF also spotted water squirting from a crevice in the coral that turned out to be an octopus but he was well hidden although you just make out a curled tentacle and some suckers
We also took a couple of short boat trips in the resorts glass bottom boat. The daytime trip was in very rough water which the kids found a little trying but we did get chance to try out deeper water which they didn’t seem to mind. Photos from this little excursion were marred from my waterproof cameras propensity to fog up so no photos from under the water
We also took a nightime glass bottom boat trip which was also amazing, seeing the the different creatures that come out. They also turn on the UV lighting causing some of the algae within the coral to glow with an unearthly blue light which is surreal and exciting in equal measure. Alas nightime photos from a moving boat over moving water of moving objects is much harder than it sounds 😦
We managed to squeeze in one last snorkel on our final morning
You might be asking where is all the colourful coral you hear so much about as it looks very green and brown here. Well, these greens and browns are an indication of very healthy and happy coral. Coral live in a symbiotic relationship with algae that live in it’s tissue. Coral is an animal that lives on passing detritus in the ocean but it needs energy from the sun to survive. The algae, being a plant, can photosynthesise and passes that to coral. This algae is normally green or brown hence the colour of the coral which would be primarily translucent without it.
Global warming means the algae produces too much oxygen and causing the red/orange colours of oxidisation you often see in photographs and the coral doesn’t like it much. Rather than seeing this as a display of healthy colour, these reds and oranges are a sign of very stressed coral. When the oxygen enrichment becomes too much the coral rejects the algae and it loses all of its colour and eventually will die without it. This is coral bleaching. The primary greens and blues at LEI show that the reef here is happy and stable
So there you have it, the wonderful underwater world of the GBR at LEI. Much more GBR to come later in the trip but to be able to see it whenever you want and to get up so close and personal is LEI trump card
Back on the mainland but for a few short hours. We were heading into Hervey Bay for breakfast but not after a comedy episode with our first sight of creatures that bounce across the landscape. So excited was I to see my first kangaroo that I grabbed the camera from the boot. Unfortunately, not only had they bounced away by then I also drove away without closing the boot and some of our luggage fell out the back and onto the road – most embarrassing!
Nothing damaged other than my poise and calm persona and after a feast of food and a bit more roadside packing we were back at Fraser Coast airport for our flight to Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
No airliners here, just a small plane for the 40 minute hop across to the reef.
The flight was amazing, over the edge of Platypus Bay where we’d seen the whales a few days before, with Fraser Island in the distance. I was lucky enough to sit up front next to the pilot. I faithfully promised not to touch anything, just as well it wasn’t my mate GM who just loves pushing buttons in someone else’s vehicle the little tinker
And then we saw our destination in the distance, a small tree covered island with the airstrip down the middle surrounded by its own reef. It looked stunning from above. The pilot takes the plane on a full circuit of the island to maximise the views
Then it’s time line up with runway and bounce down onto the grass. What a way to arrive at your destination.
After a brief guided tour and lunch we were shown to our little beach cabin. The island is an eco-resort where the emphasis is on nature and simplicity rather than luxury. The rooms are simple and basic but clean and have everything you need (you can read my TripAdvisor review here).
But its outside where the real pleasures lie. A few steps from our verandah was the coral beach and the islands lagoon reef and it’s just stunning. Crystal clear water just teeming with fish.
We watched the daily fish feeding session at the fish pool, a large gap in the coral where the fish gather and you can paddle right amongst them while they brush against your feet and swim between your legs.
The island is so laid back and easy-going that you just slip into a happy routine of beach strolls, bird watching, reef walking and snorkelling.
The beach is not sand but rough coral and sharp on the feet. This is how a coral island should be I’m told rather than pure sand. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Maldives with its talcum powder sand and I was left wondering how “manufactured” the beaches might be. Doesn’t matter as the feeling of isolation in the middle of a vast ocean is the same and walking around the island is just heaven, watching the waves crash around the reef edge, birds soaring overhead and trees waving in the breeze
Day trippers as well as overnight visitors ensure a regular to and fro of planes
The island is known for its birdlife and they were everywhere. They seem to be completely oblivious to our presence and you can pretty much reach out and touch them while they are roosting. They make a hell of a lot of noise and often swoop right in front of your face. There must have been several thousand on the island but this is the bird low season. In summer they number almost 100,000 which is astonishing. Apparently every single branch and twig that can support a bird has one. The resort provides ear plugs to cope with the night-time chatter. What they can’t prevent is the smell which is pretty bad so I’ve heard and Lady Elliot Island “Tattoos” are common 🙂
This is a White Cap Noddy
And this is Brown Noddy
They get their name from the way they nod their heads to drain the saltwater out of their beaks
I’m not sure what this one was but it was nesting a few inches from the path right next to someones verandah
This is a Common Rail, often seen in the dining room scrounging for food and stealing toast from the table while you pop off to get a cup of tea (with the kids watching no less!)
There are also a wide variety of Gulls and Oyster Catchers. In short the Island is teeming with life both above and below the water.
Being on an island you get the benefit of superb sunsets and sunrises. I got up at 6am each morning to see the sunrise and they are majestic.
Even TBF who loves her bed in the morning was persuaded to join me once although she did a great job of looking very cold, which in truth it was (it was windy for most of the time we were there).
For me, life is pretty good when you can draw back the curtains of your cosy little room and see the sun rising through the palm trees over a warm tropical reef and ocean. Wandering aimlessly around the island before most other people are about and just savoring the solitude and beauty is a memory I will treasure forever.
The sunsets weren’t too shabby either. On our last evening we spent a couple of hours just sat on the beach watching the colours change as the sun descended.
Just as the sun sets the birds fly out and swarm and swoop over your head. I’m pretty pleased with some of the shots of the sun with the birds silhouetted against.
As the sun went down the moon came up, lighting up the sky once more and laying its silvery trail across the lagoon. I even managed some pretty good close-up shots of the moon – not bad for a handheld telephoto shot
We only spent two full days on the island but the place really gets under your skin. Almost immediately it feels like home and everything feels so familiar and comfortable. The staff of the island are warm, friendly and knowledgeable. It has the feel of a research station that allows guests in. I wonder if they have any jobs?
It was a sad moment when we realised we had to pack up and leave and continue our journey. It was a common feeling we had everywhere we went on the trip, the consolation that there was another great place to come but it never helped that sense that you needed more time. Even though the island is small there is so much to do and even doing nothing is a delight. It must be a wonder to see the island in the summer when the turtles come ashore and lay eggs and thatch their young or when the birds arrive in their thousands to breed.
A little slice of tropical paradise and yet another to add to the “I must go back and stay longer” category. This one was one gorgeous lady!
Time to relax, have a lie in, take it easy? Hell no! There was more, a lot more of Fraser Island to see. The bugle was sounded at 6:30am and the troops roused from their beds. Bags packed, breakfast forced down and off out into the wilds again
I like to make my own way around on holiday and visit the places I want in my own time at my own pace (when I say “my” I do of course mean “our”, hate anyone to think I drag the family around on my whims, hell no!). Not really an option on Fraser due to the driving skills needed. I struggle with urban roads let alone driving around in a sand pit. So, reluctantly, we took a guided tour along with the rest of the masses in a large 4WD bus. Amazing to watch these coach sized vehicles bouncing around the sand tracks. Our host and driver was again Gary and he welcomed us on board and pointed us at the empty bus so we could get a decent seat. Off we bounced and rolled along the same track as before to the western coast and 75 mile beach. We were old hands at this now, affording a wry smile as the newbies looked rather uncertain at the rough ride. The kids were grinning from ear to ear – or were they just grimacing from lack of sleep. Who knows (who cares)
We rolled out onto the beach and headed north. The weather was much better now. Still showers around but plenty of blue sky and warm sunshine. Less driving today so hopefully we could spend a little more time out of doors.
First stop was at a pair of Cessna light aircraft parked on the beach. They take off and land on the beach, the only one of two places in the World where this is done (the other is Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland). Gary plugged the fact that they run 15 minute flights over the island for $300AUD. Not something I’d planned but I was feeling in a particularly chipper mood, dangerous for a man with very little wallet control. The kids looked stunned as I got off the bus and handed over a credit card. Life’s too short and you never know when you might get a chance to fly over the worlds largest sand island on a glorious sunny day.
What can I say, it was an amazing 15 minutes. The views were breathtaking. You really get a sense of the scale of the island from above and especially the length and arrow-straightness of the beach.
We flew over the forests, graced by a rainbow.
We flew over the perched Butterfly Lake.
We flew over the Maheno Shipwreck, stunning from above.
Out over the sea looking for sharks and whales (none seen!). One more turn and we bounced back onto the beach. Over in a flash but memories to last a lifetime.
The pilot took a really nice family shot for us and we wound down with a wander about the rainbow cliffs and watched the next batch of people take their flights. Not a bad start to the day and it got better.
Next stop the Maheno Shipwreck. You can read about the history here, safe to say it’s a big attraction on Fraser. Under a dazzling blue sky it really is an evocative and impressive sight. I loved the contrast of colours between the sand the dark red of the rusting hulk and the blue sky. Having done my research it somehow looked different to how I imagined it. I realised that there was now much more of it submerged in the sand than on most promotional photos. The first shot below is mine from this year. The second one from a few years back
It’s a fascinating place to wander around with plenty of artistic photo opportunities, but other events were unfolding.
There were a couple of dingos wandering on the periphery of the numerous tour bus groups, not really bothering anyone and the majority of people just being “dingo safe”. A couple of dumb tourists decided to approach them, like you are warned not to do and when the dingos moved towards them they panicked, as you are warned not to do, and ran away screaming, as you are warned not to do. The Dingos decided that they were fair game and started to chase them for a few seconds until they thought better of it and returned to idly looking for fish carcasses. All over in a few seconds but just a handy warning about treating these wonderful and wild animals with the respect they deserve.
Having satisfied our appetite for shipwrecks and near savaged tourists it was time for a swim. Off to Eli Creek
There’s a lot of water on Fraser! Numerous perched lakes (more later) and hundreds of creeks draining the forests. Eli Creek is one of the better known ones. In the wet season it drains 80 million litres per hour of perfectly clear, clean drinkable water out onto the beach. There is a boardwalk that follows it’s course inland for a few hundred metres and it’s stunning. A ribbon of clear water overhung with green and lush vegetation.
It is very popular with the tours but the boardwalk was relatively quiet. Most people seemed content to admire the creek from the beach. Not us! We like to get wet
There are steps down into the water at the far end of the boardwalk and we were in the water without hesitation. It’s only a couple of feet deep so you can either wade down or swim/float down in the current. It’s a cold but fantastic place to take a swim amongst the fish.
Here’s one of yours truly enjoying a float
TBF in particular has a very special fondness for this spot and it’s hard not to agree. The mix of dense green foliage, crystal clear water and blue sky was beguiling. Alas, the restrictions of being on a timetabled tour meant less time than we’d have liked. TBF waded the first run but was then persuaded to swim it and was very glad she did.
This did mean that everyone was back on the bus and waiting for us by the time we got changed. A common theme throughout the day as we like to extract maximum value from everything and were always last back on the bus 🙂
Onward (via lunch at Eurong) to our next stop and yet another of Fraser’s unique experiences. The forests of Fraser Island were heavily harvested for their high quality timber and Central Station in the middle of the island was the hub of the industry. Now it’s the heart of the what is the only place in the world where rainforest grows on sand.
We took one of what would become many rainforest walks on our trip and they are a real highlight, like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Dark and exotic with huge towering trees, fan palms, epiphytes and strangler figs they are a world apart, all the more amazing here in that they grow on an island without any topsoil. It’s truly astounding to take in all the biodiversity just growing on a sand dune.
Problem is its so hard to capture this in a photograph. I guess I need more practice as most of the photos simply can’t do it justice. It’s one of those places you just have to experience for yourself.
I was still hobbling on crutches and combined with attempts to photograph the foliage and the birds I ended up a long way behind everyone else. We caught a glimpse of the stunning Azure Kingfisher but it was just took dark to get a photo. The bus engine was humming when I got back, just time for a very swift cuppa and high quality homemade cookie (my, they were good cookies!) before we were off yet again for our final stop
I mentioned the perched lakes we flew over earlier in the day and it was time to visit one close up. I’ve read a couple of reasons why they form. One was that the crumbling brown rock found on the island – called coffee rock- in places forms an impenetrable layer that allows the water to collect. The other was that it’s the dead and decaying leaf litter that does the job. Either way Lake Mckenzie is an absolutely sensational spot.
Dark blue and turqouise water, surrounded by a white silica beach, perched amongst the green forest under a sunny blue sky. It was gorgeous and the water is astonishingly clear, just begs to be swum in.
I stripped off and dived straight in. Man, was the water cold. All the other positive spins were in use. “refreshing”, “invigorating” and the like but “cold” did it for me! Still amazing to swim in such clear cold water in such an idyllic spot. The common wild swimming theme that continued for the trip was repeated here. By the time the rest of the family had dithered and dallied and slowly worked their way into the water over a good 10-15 minute acclimatisation period, I’d had enough and wanted to get out. At least a chance for me to capture the atmosphere in photos.
This remains one of MY special places from the trip.
Refreshed and chilled in equal measure we were again last back on the bus and heading back to the resort. They day wasn’t done though. We went straight back down to the resort beach and after a warming brew (and cold beer in my case) we sat on the beach and watched the sunset.
Despite the huge size of the resort we were one of only a handful people there. The sand and the trees glowed with the setting sun and provided a calm and reflective finish to a truly memorable day.
Having sat down and written the post I’m still in wonder at how much we managed to cram into the day. It was the ongoing theme for the trip. We didn’t relax all that much but boy did we see and do some terrific stuff.
Sadly that was the end of our whistle stop trip to Fraser Island and the next morning we were again up early for the ferry back to mainland, in itself a pretty fine journey across the Great Sandy Strait.
Fraser Island had promised and delivered a unique experience. I’d love to learn how to drive in the sand and go back with a tent and stay wild in some of the more remote spots. One of the frustrations and delights of the island is how much effort you have to make to see it but how rewarding it is when you do. There is so much more to experience that we will just have to go back. For now we had new adventures to look forward to and another island to visit