K’gari (kinda pronounced like the name Gary!) aka Fraser Island was one of the most special places that we visited during our whole time in Australia. There are many ways to see the world’s largest sand island – day tours on a bus; 1/2/3 night camping or hostel trips; party tours; tag along tours; and self-driving (in 4 wheel drives only). We opted for Dropbear Adventures and their tag along 2 night camping tour. I’ll explain a little bit more about the reason for this as you read on!
I’ll start with a teeny tiny bit of info into the background of K’gari and why I’m opting to call it this instead of Fraser Island! The Butchella people are the native Aboriginal people who lived on the island and knew it as K’gari. They believed that a female spirit was turned into the sand that makes the island. When Captain Cook discovered Australia he didn’t actually realise that K’gari was an island and he named it ‘Great Sandy Peninsula’. It was later discovered to be an island by Matthew Flinders in 1799. In May 1836 Captain James Fraser’s ship became shipwrecked just north of the island. A life boat took the people south where they ended up on K’gari. He and his wife Eliza were taken in by the Butchella people. James died reportedly of starvation but Eliza was nursed by the Butchella people. She was eventually rescued but when she tried to tell her story on the Australian mainland no one wanted to know. Good stories regarding Aboriginal people would not make good news at this time. When Eliza got back to her home in the UK her story changed and she made her fortune by reporting that the Butchella people had murdered her husband and were cannibalistic etc. Fraser Island was subsequently named after her. In more modern times the island was used for logging, however this no longer takes place as the island is now a World Heritage Site. The name K’gari is now officially recognised as another name for Fraser and I think it’s much more appropriate as K’gari means ‘paradise’ and that is exactly what this island is!
Our K’gari experience started back in 1770 (the place…not the year haha!) when we started to research which tour we wanted to do. When we came across Dropbear Adventures on Trip Advisor we knew we’d found ‘the one’! They were sold out for the day we had planned to go but we wanted to go with them so badly we changed our plans completely. And we didn’t regret it! We chose the 3 day camping safari trip.
We had an early start (5.45am to be precise) to make our way to the Dropbear office in Noosa. We got checked in and settled to watch a video with some hilarious acting about driving on K’gari and then one on dingo danger on the island.
Then it was time to go. Dropbear is a ‘tag along’ tour which means that a tour guide drives one car and the rest are driven by us – for someone who drives a little VW Polo these Toyota 4WD Landcruiser’s were MONSTERS! I had no plans to get behind the wheel! Mark, the owner of Dropbear, was looking for people who had driven in Oz before to drive first and of course Jonny put up his hand! I was terrified that he was going to be responsible for a car load of people driving over sand for the first time ever.
Our car buddies were a group of Swiss girls who were at school in Australia to improve their English; and a French girl. Total girl power! Sorry Jonny. We set off on our adventure from Noosa to Rainbow Beach. The majority of this “road” is along the sand which was an amazing experience. It was one of the prettiest drives I have ever been on. Coloured sands on one side & the sea on the other and to top it all off we had some whales come jumping out of the water to say hello!
We picked a few people up in Rainbow Beach then the journey to K’gari began. We had to get the ferry across and were able to watch dolphins jumping out of the water on the way. And then the super sandy driving began!
Jonny did a great job getting us all to camp safely! We had lunch and got introduced to the awesome crew of Dropbear camp staff.
We got another rundown about dingo danger on the island. It’s taken pretty seriously – I hadn’t realised just how dangerous these cute looking “dogs” could be! Our camp kitchen/ living area was surrounded by an electric fence to keep them out; and if we needed to go to the toilet at the police station 300m away we had to take a “dingo buddy” and a “dingo stick” (which were usually didgeridoo’s ) We later learnt of an attack on a backpacker a couple of years ago when he went out alone in dingo territory in the dark – he was severely wounded but thankfully survived. Parents have to be super protective of small children when on the island!
We were also introduced to the camp toilet – a tent with a portaloo in it. I’ll let you imagine the smell that would eventually come from that…
Our guide Dave had a great big dose of man flu so wasn’t really feeling up to much. After lunch & dingo chat he lead the cars to our first stop – Lake Wabby! Jonny remained designated driver as he had done so well on the sandy drive to get there. Before Dave left us to go explore he had to advise us of the safety risks about a steep sand dune in the area – someone ran down the dune into Lake Wabby and broke their neck, ending up paralysed. His family sued National Parks and won (a bit of a silly decision in my opinion which has kinda ruined the fun of this dune for others…)
There was a 30 minute walk through a forest and then we were met with a sand blow! It was just as incredible as the one at Rainbow Beach. Only this one had an amazing lake at the bottom of it!
We had a couple of hours to chillax at Lake Wabby and got to know some of our camp mates. Then it was back to the cars and back to the camp to get ready for dinner. Me and my tent buddy (Jonny…) picked our tents and got changed into some warmer clothes – our camp was very close to the sea so it got a bit chilly at night
We had an amazing Aussie BBQ – rump steak, sausages, mash, fried onions & veg. Deeelish! It was so good I had seconds. That night was spent playing games & drinking beers! We had a lot of fun playing card games etc. Then it was time for the guitar to come out. Lewis, the camp manager kept us entertained with some of his own tunes which were pretty cool and introduced us to Jamie Lawson! Mark also taught us how to play a didgeridoo.
Bed time soon called as we had another early start and a very busy day planned for Saturday.
We woke up the next morning bright and early and just as I was about to get out of the tent I was greeted with a didgeridoo appearing through the tent! This was the camp wake up call! My attention was drawn to the dingo footprints right outside our camp kitchen!! I have to admit I was a little gutted I hadn’t caught a glimpse of one.
After breakfast we waited for what felt like forever for people to get ready – like how long can it really take to put on a bikini or pair of shorts…?!
We eventually hit the road and Jonny was behind the wheel again. Dave was feeling too poorly to join us so we had Mark take his place. Our first stop was the Maheno Shipwreck. The Maheno was an Ocean liner (built in bonnie Scotland) which used to go between New Zealand and Australia across the Tasman sea. It was later used as a floating hospital during WW1. Maheno was bought by the Japanese in 1935 and on it’s voyage to Japan from Australia it got caught in a freak cyclone and it’s tow rope broke and it got washed ashore. It was unbelievable the size of the wreck that is still standing on the beach!
After the wreck we jumped back in the cars and our Swiss car buddy Iris decided she wanted to take over the driving (and did an amazing job!). We headed to the Champagne pools next. These are saltwater pools which have been formed naturally by volcanic rocks. It’s the only place you can swim in salt water on the island due to the strong rip currents and tiger sharks in the sea! The tide was quite far out at the time we arrived so there wasn’t really that much water in the pools and the temperature wasn’t quite to my liking so I enjoyed basking in the sun instead. Jonny found some nice pink goggles and went searching for fish!
After an hour or so here we went on a quick drive to Indian Head which is a view point overlooking the beach. It is said to have got it’s name from Captain Cook’s first sighting of the Butchella people and so he named this point after them based on their appearance.
A huge black cloud was hanging over us and we knew a storm was on its way. We all started to walk up to Indian Head when Mark called us all back. His rain sense told us we had 2 minutes until heavy rain started so we all got into the cars and within 2 minutes the heavens opened! If that’s not a good tour guide I don’t know what is! The rain eventually passed and he told us we had about a 10 minute window to get up, take some pics and get back down before a second rain storm began. We all went up as fast as we could trying to avoid slipping on the rocks in the process. When we got to the top we were amazed by the views! We saw more whales jumping out of the water (I will never get bored watching them). We admired the view for a little longer than Mark’s recommended 10 minutes and of course we got caught in the rain. Oops. I was like a drowned rat by the time I got to the bottom! And I had stolen Jonny’s hoodie so he was completely drenched…oops!
Mark told us the next drive would be a quick & easy one so advised any “under-confident” drivers to step up if they wanted a go driving. I asked him how far it was and got the reply “not far and you’re behind the wheel Nat!” GULP!! I thought if I didn’t do it then, I never would! Ten minutes of sandy driving later we arrived at our next spot – and we were all still in one piece! Go me!
Although when we stopped the car, I went to put the keys onto the spring under the wheel where we had been told to put them. We had been warned at the start of the trip not to drop the keys in the sand as they can be impossible to find. So what did I do?! DROPPED THEM!!! They literally fell the second I put them on the spring. I went into a total panic and was convinced they were gone forever. Me and Jonny hunted until he found them stuck in the back of the wheel. My hero! I was so relieved!
This stop was Eli Creek and we were all delighted to see that the sun had come back out. Eli Creek is the largest freshwater creek on the island and it pumps around 80 million litres of water PER DAY into the sea. It was a beautiful spot! We got into our swimming gear and headed upstream to jump into the water. I grabbed a tube off one of our new friends and had a lovely relaxing trip down the creek…until Jonny decided to spin me really fast so I was really dizzy and bumping into branches! He continued his fish hunt the whole way down the creek.
We also went to a site called Pinnacles Coloured Sands. These were similar to the coloured sands at Rainbow Beach. Mark told us the Aboriginal legend as to why the sands got their colouring. Pinnacles is considered a sacred site for Butchella women. The story goes that a young woman called Wuru was promised to an older man to marry. But, Wuru fell in love with a rainbow serpent called Wiberigan (I’m going to refer to him as Rainbow…much easier to say haha!) Wuru supposedly went to the beach everyday to visit her beloved Rainbow but one day the man she was due to marry followed her and saw her with Rainbow. In a rage he threw his Boomerang at Wuru but Rainbow jumped in and protected his love. He then scattered into millions of pieces which coloured the sands on the cliffs. Of course there is a scientific reason as well… but that doesn’t sound quite as interesting.
On our way back to camp Mark stopped all the cars. We got out and had no idea what he was going to show us. We walked up a small hill and found a skeleton. I immediately recognised the skull to be a whale skull! Mark told us that it was the skeleton of a one year old whale that had apparently been chased to shore by sharks. The whale got stuck in shallow water. The people on the island dug a sand wall behind it in the hope that when the tide came in it would carry the whale out again. Unfortunately this never happened and the poor whale died. It was towed off the beach by rangers and provided a great feast for the dingoes for quite a while!
That was the last of our stops for day two. It was a busy but amazing day! We headed back to camp to get ready for dinner and our final night camping on the beach. Again the card games were in full flow. Then we had our dinner of a “hearty chicken stew”. Being Northern Irish I should have been thrilled by the prospect of stew (though I don’t even like Irish stew…) but unfortunately the hearty chicken stew wasn’t quite to my taste (purely because I’m a total “veggiephobe”)
After dinner more games started – a charades type game that provided lots of laughs and a few ‘I wish the ground would swallow me up’ moments. We finished the night with a very funny story telling game that I hope lives on in the Dropbear campsite for a long time. We ended up with ten very funny stories!
While I was gaming Jonny had went on a “dingo walk” with a couple of other guys. They went armed with their dingo sticks and came back around an hour later to tell us they had seen one dingo in the dark. I have to admit I was little jealous that I still hadn’t seen one but was glad that Jonny had and that he didn’t get mauled by it!!
We went to bed to prepare for an even earlier start to the next day
Our didgeridoo wake up call came around 6.30am. When we were all having breakfast someone shouted “dingo!” and there it was; a dingo went walking past our camp. It stopped and looked at us all and walked a couple of metres before stopping to look again and then it ran off! I was so happy I wouldn’t have to leave K’gari without seeing a dingo!
The reason for us getting up super early was to be one of the first tour groups at Lake Mackenzie! Another reason why Dropbear are the best.
Our drive that morning was inland – lots of bumpy soft sand to go through! Designated driver number two, Iris, took the wheel and did an amazing job of what looked like a very difficult drive.
We got to Lake Mackenzie and we were the first tour group to get there – hooray! We only had to share the lake with one other man. Lake Mackenzie is a freshwater lake made up entirely of rain water. The water is crystal clear and the sand around it is white silica perfection! It was so beautiful and certainly worth getting up early for.
After an hour and a half of lazing around the lake it was time to move on. I could have stayed forever (a bit like how I felt on Whitehaven beach)!
Our final stop of the trip was at Central Station Rainforest. This is where we learnt more about K’gari’s history and how the island was used for logging. We took a walk through the rain forest and learnt more about Australia’s very unique flora and fauna. We also learnt of another sacred place for the Butchella women – a place where they would come to give birth and if they had a baby boy it was quickly taken away from this site as it was considered bad luck for males to be here even for a short period of time!
Next, Dave set us a challenge to see how many people we could fit into this hollowed out tree (it had hollowed out by lightning striking it and setting it on fire!) His record was 17 but we only managed to squeeze 16 in – darnit!
We also had a go lifting some 60kg wheels – my obvious lack of time spent in a gym most definitely showed here.
Jonny was able to do it but was quickly shown up by Dave who lifted the humongous 200kg wheels straight after!
We went back to camp for lunch after this before the drive back to Rainbow Beach began. About 10 minutes into our drive I had started to fall asleep when I heard someone shout “dingo!” That definitely woke me up. All the cars had stopped and there was a wild dingo just chilling out by the sea!! It was an amazing sight…
When we got to Rainbow Beach we refuelled and I made the decision to do the drive back to Noosa – I felt it was only fair to give our two designated drivers a break! But I was still pretty terrified. We hit the road and I quickly fell in love with driving such a big car – plus this was my first time ever driving an automatic and I couldn’t believe how easy it was!! The drive home was beautiful. We went off the normal road onto a gravel road (I started to panic but Dave assured me it was easy!) Not too long into this drive we started to see loads of wild kangaroo’s in the fields beside us. It was so awesome seeing so many of them roaming freely. We stopped to let them pass on the road and then began the drive again. Out of nowhere a huge hail storm began (I didn’t even know Australia got hail stones!!) And when it ended we had a double rainbow. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend!
This trip will cost you $465 which is currently around £264. It is a lot of money but you it covers all expenses for the duration of the trip and it is that good that it is worth every penny!