K’Gari, more commonly know by us English folk as Fraser Island, sits just off the East Coast of Australia and is the largest sand island in the world. It’s quite rightly an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most beautiful and unique places in this world. That’s quite a statement, I know, but I honestly believe it.
It’s almost been a year since we went to Australia and I’m feeling a little bit of shame that it has taken me so long to write at least part of it up. Quite frankly, in a way I’m trying really hard not to think about it too much because all I want to do is to pack everything in and go exploring again – like on this trip. So, rather than start with an all out blog post on our whole Australia trip I thought I’d start with one of my favourite parts – K’Gari.
Before we even left the UK there were a few things that we booked to be sure that we’d get to do them and to keep us moving up the coast. The K’Gari tour was one of those trips. After thoroughly re-searching the tour company we finally found Drop Bear Adventures. These guys seemed to fit with what we were looking for – a thorough cultural tour, environmentally and ethically friendly. They had an insane score on Trip Advisor, too.
The alarm sounded far too early – it was pitch black outside – but it didn’t take long to get up and going because this was day our first day of heading over to World Heritage Site, K’Gari (listed as Fraser Island on UNESCO – but I promise you when you learn the story behind the name Fraser you won’t want to use that name anymore).
After a couple of hours of safety talks and so forth at the Dropbear HQs and a few hours of driving, we finally made the island. This prep is essential and so a really good reason to book onto the three and not two day tour. We headed straight for camp, where we met our camp team, had a spot of lunch and unloaded our belongings. In no time at all we were heading for our first beauty spot, Lake Wabby.
This lake can only be reached by a two kilometre walk through the jungle. We emerged onto an enormous sand blow – a huge moving plateau of sand – spreading out before us, rising and disappearing into the jungle beyond. It’s an everlasting race between the sand and the jungle. As the sand moves up, the jungle grows to keep on top of it – to stop itself being swallowed by this force of nature – and as a consequence we were a long way from sea level. A short walk down to the left sits Lake Wabby, a deep fresh water lake which is stained a dull murky colour by the Tea Trees that grow around it. You’ll be familiar with tea tree products here in the UK but there’s nothing quite like seeing and smelling them for real. These wonderfully smelling trees are so named for the colour they stain the water, which typically varies from a murky green to a deep coppery red. Despite being a warm day (their winter, our summer) we could only manage a short dip in the bone chillingly cold lake.
We soon learnt just what a leathal weapon the boomerang could be! Troy, our guide for the trip, had brought with him some genuine flying boomerangs. The whole group got involved, having a go to see who could make theirs come back. There’s some definite technique behind the throw and you need to have a blooming stong arm to get it to return, too! I managed to get it to come full circuit but it stopped a fair way short of me – I just didn’t quite have enough power to bring it all the way home.
As the light started to draw in we packed our bags and returned to camp where a meal of steak and veg awaiting us (after a chilled drink on the beach and a red moon rising). All in all, we’d met some awesome people and had a top day. We felt more confident than ever that we’d made a really good choice of tour guide as we’d seen the respect that Troy and camp team showed to the island and from the culture he’d already told us of.
It was an early start – although not as early as we’d have liked. We’d planned on getting up for the sunrise but our phones had died and so alarms didn’t go off. It was a cloudy morning through and so we hadn’t missed anything. You may think that, like we did, we weren’t going to get much out of today as the weather was a bit pants. Here, once again, is where our faith in Troy and the Drop Bear Adventure team really paid off. Troy knew the island almost like the back of his hand and as we drove up the beach to where he’d originally said we’d go, we heard the radio crackle and he announced he had an inkling that the northern part of the island might be out of the cloud, so he was switching up our plans. Only stopping to change drivers along the way (so everyone had a chance driving the 4x4s) we set out with a new plan.
We reached the champagne pools by 9.30am and what a treat they were! Troy had been 100% right and there were no clouds in the sky up here. This pool is a natural indent in the rock, with a natural barrier protecting swimmers from the outside sea, where sharks, strong currants and all sorts were lurking – check out the picture below to see how wild the waves were compared to in the pools. With high enough walls to protect you as you swam, but low enough to let the wave tops over, there was a fizz to the water, which is what gives these pools their name. Although the water was cold, it was far from as icy as Lake Wabbi had been and we were soon having a game of catch with the rest of the group. It was pure bliss. After an hour here we set off back to the 4x4s for the next part of the trip. As we were all climbing in, one of the most popular tour operators pulled up. It had taken him a long time to get his group out of bed due some over indulgence the night before and so they were only just reaching the pools at 10.30-11am – that’s most of the day gone!
Side note: we were surprised by the age range of our group. At 26 we were some of the youngest, with many being early 30s having given up their life at home to travel. We’d been scared of being stuck with a party group – because that’s just not what we’re about and had a friend who’d hated every moment of her journey due to having a party group – but it seems like we’d struck lucky. Maybe it was because we’d paid ever so slightly more …? It was worth it anyway.
So, as they were just heading out to the pools, we were already on to the next point. It wasn’t far. Stopping at the next headland we were out again and climbing up to the cliff we’d just pulled up by. This headland is called Indian Head. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, it’s where Captain Cook sailed past in the 1770s and where he first saw people. These people were the local Batchala aboriginals and due to their dark skin Cook caked them ‘indians’. Having never seen a ship such as Cook’s before they must have wondered what on earth was coming toward them. From these cliffs we saw humpbacked whales breaching in the distance and stingrays and dolphins in the surf below. Troy pointed out that he’d seen the biggest shark of his life from this point only the week before. While it was a truly beautiful spot, it’s tinged with tragedy. Colonists, armed with guns, drove hundreds of Butchala into the sea from these cliffs – apparently these vile men didn’t want to waste their bullets.
By now it was lunchtime and as we unpacked the food and settled down to eat, Troy told us of the story behind K’Gari. From the very start of the trip Troy had called the island K’Gari and naturally, we wanted to know why. The story is one that’s full of treachery and it breaks my heart to think that past generations of English people did such terrible things.
After lunch, we headed back to Eli creek. This was meant to be our first stop and now, later in the day, the cloud had completely disappeared and sun shone down. Eli Creek is a fresh water stream running down through the jungle and out to sea. It’s slow moving and ideal for floating down. As we all piled out of the 4x4s Troy pulled out a range of inflatables. The group took it in turns heading up the boardwalk to get higher up stream, before floating back down it. Had it not been for the hoards of tourists and daytrip buses which didn’t cut their engines (most people didn’t even get out so of course they needed air con…) , it would have been a lovely place to stop. I am glad that we went to the champagne pools first though as nice as Eli Creek is, Champagne pools were nicer and so to enjoy those without the crowds was a real treat.
We chilled at Eli for a while and had the chance for an extra $60 each to head up in a plane to see K’Gari from the air. Most of K’Gari is inaccessible and so we didn’t want to pass up the chance to see it from such a unique angle. Check out the video below to see what it was like!
The evening was filled with beer on the beach, another top meal from the camp team (we never went hungry) and games and chat. We whacked out Dobble (if you haven’t played this game, it’s a must) and spent ages playing with the group along with UNO – you know – the universal games that just everybody knows.
Our last day. It was with huge sadness that we left this intriguing island. Before we did though, there were a couple of other stops to be made. Loading everything into the car we set out for some really fun driving through the jungle to get to Lake McKenzie. Now, the weather had taken a turn for the worse by now, which was super sad, as this place was incredible. A white sandy beach led into blue water and it really wasn’t that cold to swim. We had a great time splashing around, using the sand to scrub ourselves clean and give our hair a rinse. Unlike all the other lakes on the island, Lake McKenzie’s water is so clear and this is due to aluminium present in the water. It’s so pure in fact that only two species of fish and a small turtle variety live in it. As the rain started to close in we made for our next stop: Central Station. This old logging village, which is now a picnic area, is in the middle of the rain forest. We learnt about the logging and sand-mining that took place here for years. It was stopped in the 1990s when they realised what irreplaceable damage they were doing for the logged trees didn’t come back. By mining the sand, they’d removed the precious life giving fungus that makes K’Gari such a prosperous place. This fungus is alive! It holds moisture and nutrients in the sand and is the secret to the lush forest all about us, making K’Gari one of the most unique places on earth.
Our last stop was to a sacred place – a stream that was so clear that you could hardly tell it was there at all. It was a sacred place to Butchala women, who used this place to give birth. From here, it was back to Dropbear HQ is Noosa. Driving onto the ferry was a really sad moment – we simply did not want to go. What did make us feel slightly better about the return trip was that, rather than go by road, we went along rainbow beach. This beach led us almost all the way back to HQ, with some incredible sand cliffs to the one side.
Quite honestly, I cannot express how simply incredible this trip was. If you’re thinking of it, I would 100% go for it and go with Dropbear adventures. These guys know their shit and you get a fantastic trip for your money, full of adventures, history and culture (plus good laughs and food!). Oh, and camp is basically on the beach – they’re just about the only tour company that’s allowed to do that.
Thing to remember with traveling to K’Gari
- Be prepared for taking your own booze – lots of it – and find something you like that’s not in glass.
- There are so many dangerous creatures living there – we only saw a couple and were in no danger but keep your eyes out.
- Respect the environment – it’s home to many people as well as a World Hertiage Site.
Ps, I wish I had more photos but all I took were videos and I’ve never got round to sorting them out – soon!