K’gari (pronounced as gari) is a word in the indigenous Butchulla language and it means paradise or beautiful place. It is the native name for Fraser Island, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list from 1992. Fraser comes from Eliza Fraser, who was stranded on the island and who wrote many stories about her experiences on the island. In later and more popular adaptations she painted a picture of aboriginals as cannibals, while we were told that in the very first version of the book there was no mention of this. There is a push to change the name of the island to its original name, similar to the change of Ayers Rock to Uluru, and we decided to honour this by using K’gari.
The world’s largest sand island is a popular backpacker destination along the East Coast. It has 120 km long ‘beach highway’, 100 lakes (considered to have one of the cleanest lakes in the world), creeks and tropical rainforest to explore. After being listed by UNESCO, all construction has stopped and a lot of the buildings have been taken down. It is now a holiday destination, with beaches, fishing and wild life spotting opportunities. During the ferry trip from the mainland to the island we saw many dolphins, which gave our trip a fitting start. K’gari is also known for its dingo population.
If you have a 4×4 car and courage to drive on your own in sometimes challenging roads, you can do the trip by yourself. Since we had neither, we decided to book a tour. After comparing different companies we chose Drop Bear Adventures. It was the Number 1 tour on TripAdvisor, even though it is the smallest tour operator on K’gari.
Our accommodation was simple yet effective. We slept in 2 person tents and were provided with sleeping bags and pillows. The kitchen area, our bags, shower and a simple toilet were all inside an electric dingo fence. We also had to carry ‘dingo sticks’ with us if we went outside the fence, to give us a way to scare away dingoes who might come too close. Few people saw dingoes near our camp, but I only saw one outside of our car. Sadly their numbers are diminishing.
Our groups were divided into three 4×4 cars, that we used for transportation. We had 8 people nicely crammed into one car. Everyone who wanted to drive had multiple opportunities to do so, since we switched drivers every 20 minutes. We were happy to be driven around. The cars have to handle some heavy use and rough terrain, and it sometimes felt like being in a roller coaster. It was fun though!
During our first day we dug out clams from the sand, later to be made into wongs which is an aboriginal delicacy.
We also visited Lake Boomanjin, which is the most unique lake we have ever seen. It is the largest perched lake in the world and filled with fresh water, that is coloured red by the tea trees along the shore.
Our tour guide told us a lot of stories of the places we visited, but also little details of the vegetation around us. For example you can open your stuffed nose with rubbing tea leaves in between your fingers and then sniffing it. It is almost like menthol. But when made into a tea, they give a fruity flavour that was nice during the cold nights at camp.
We had good timing to be on K’gari. Just the previous day it had been raining heavily, but we enjoyed good, sunny weather the whole time. Also during our first night we witnessed a beautiful moonrise.
The sunrise next morning was not too bad either.
During our second day we visited Indian Head, which was named by Captain Cook after seeing indigenous people the first time in the mainland. It is a popular lookout to spot whales, dolphins, sharks, fish and turtles.
We were also told about the dark history of the place, since aboriginal men, woman and children were forced off the cliff in the 19th Century. There were not many survivors of the Butchulla people and a lot of evidence of their existence on the island was destroyed intentionally or due to ignorance.
During the second day we had the opportunity to swim twice. First was at the Champagne Pools, which are nature rock pools near the top of the island. The water was salty and cold, but we took a dip in it nevertheless.
Second time was in Eli Creek, which was maybe my favourite place to have swim. It is a creek of natural spring water. Filtered through the sand it is straightaway drinkable. The fun thing about the creek is its gentle stream, that lets you float and be carried away by the water. Nature’s own Lazy River, a popular pool in water parks.
Before returning to the camp we also had a look at SS Maheno, a shipwreck on the beach ever since 1935. Maybe in ten years the last of the remains will be gone by erosion.
Our last evening in the camp was a fun night. We were given opportunity to practice throwing boomerangs, play didgeridoo and eat fish cooked fresh out of sea. We played games and had a few drinks while at it.
The sunset was gorgeous.
After packing up we drove to Lake McKenzie. To have lakes like this back home! Fresh, clear water and nearly pure silica sand. Needless to say it is one of the most popular places to visit on K’gari. “Bondi Beach of Fraser”, someone described. One bus after another unloaded people to the shore, but we were happy to notice that our group stayed there the longest. No complaints.
After lunch we made our last stop to a different part of the rainforest. Beautiful, massive trees, clear sandy creek and a sacred place for aboriginal women to give birth.
Then it was time to make our last stop to Drop Bear’s own Beach House Retreat before heading home. During this short stop Matte found his favourite place and fell asleep in the hammock, while everyone else were enjoying coconuts provided us by nearby palm trees.
We almost chose not to do K’gari, since it is expensive and we are not camp-loving people. But we definitely felt a return to our money and it turned out to be our favourite tour of the five we have done so far. We opted to do 3 days / 2 nights tour over the shorter one, since we wanted to see as much as possible. I am glad we did, since we were able to spend enough time in each location and not feel rushed.
Last but not least, we had an amazing group and felt lucky to meet them. The average age was probably a bit higher than with the other groups we saw, and that might have something to do with our tour being a bit more expensive.
Some other tours are more known to be party tours, something we were not looking for. We enjoyed spending time with our new friends on K’gari and after the tour in Noosa and are still happily in touch (hi guys!). They made the tour for us to be as fun as it was. Until we meet again!