It’s apparently 21. According to our guide, you need 21 days to properly explore Fraser Island — to drive its tracks, walk its paths, and discover the many beautiful sites that exist, seemingly unnaturally, on the island. We had three. But we did our best.
The Aboriginal name for the island – the true name of the island – is K’gari. It means paradise. And it truly is. Towering rain forests, massive freshwater lakes, and crystal clear creeks live happily on this sandy bit of heaven. Fraser has extremely unique ecology. It is home to half (including the largest) of the perched lakes in the world — lakes that exist above the water table. The lakes and creeks have some of the cleanest water in the world, due to the natural filtration process of the sand. As air pollution gets worse globally, the water on Fraser is expected to be one of very few places that remains pristine. Dingoes (wild Australian dogs) also call the island home and, because of a lack of cross-breeding with domesticated dogs, they remain some of the few pure dingoes left in the country.
I visited the island on a tag-a-long safari. Essentially a guide (Geoff – legend) drives a lead car and three cars, packed with eight backpackers each, follow behind.
Because Fraser is a sand island, roads are virtually non-existent. Inexperienced backpackers attempting to make Land Cruisers scream through mountains of soft sand results in small amounts of terror, countless bogs and stalls, and even more laughs. I tackled some reasonably tough inland track driving, where the sand is at its softest, and also had an easy cruise along the main beach, which acts as the highway on the island. The best part is that those crazy cruises take you to some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. These places include:
The Champagne Pools:
And many, many more. The days were filled with cruising, trekking, and swimming. The nights were cooking, camping, drinking, and not sleeping. It may be sand, but hard-packed sand is not the most comfortable thing in the world to sleep on, especially when it appears to have formed a large bump directly underneath your spine. The first night I tried to navigate this awkwardly placed lump, and used my threadbare beach towel to pump up my pathetic mattress – a thin sleeping bag was all that I had between me and the ground. Preparation is not my strong suit, apparently. The second night I took advantage of being a pseudo Rainbow local and upgraded to sleeping guide-style on top of one of the vehicles (the one with guard rails) on a proper inflatable bed. Spending a night with nothing but a sleeping bag between you and the sky is truly excellent, as is rolling over and being able to watch the sun rise from said perch.
The best place on the island is Eli Creek. That water is fresh. You could be jumping into a creek in the mountains in Canada. A hangover cure and a shower, the best part about Eli Creek is the pure joy that you experience while floating down its lazy waters. Floating is right up there in the best things that anyone can do, ever. I’m not fussy on the form of floating; you can use inflatable rafts, you can use pieces of wooden door (as long as you share), or you can just use yourself. And that is what we did, our little pack of backpackers; we laid our heads back and floated in a little train all the way down Eli Creek. Perfection.
While well travelled, Fraser still manages to feel a little wild. It’s just rugged enough to bring you back to the simple joy of things. Missioning up a sand dune and running back down so fast that your legs can’t keep up. Being properly hungry and enjoying your unevenly cooked camping meal like it was a gourmet dinner. It also reminds you to appreciate your creature comforts at home. Showers (30 backpackers with no shower for three days does not a rose garden make). Cold beverages. Beds.
As beautiful and peaceful places tend to inspire and encourage contemplation, I did a good amount of thinking on the island. I’m beginning to firm up some plans, which is good. Content and excited is an excellent combination.