We woke – a tad groggy – the next morning to find dingo tracks leading through the camp. The dingos living on Fraser Island are completely wild and, to keep them that way, visitors have to ensure no food is left out and no “human-smelling” items were left in our tent to pique their interest. Around the island, dingo-proof containers were provided for food storage.
After an hour of faffing (the level that can only be achieved with 30 hungover people) we were back in the 4×4, a new German teenager at the wheel and some new German pop music to enjoy, and we hit the road/sand. Actually, we hit some soft sand and nearly smashed into a tree, and for a terrible moment I did think that the last sounds I heard would be some “good” German rap. Thankfully, all that happened was we learnt some exciting new German swear words.
Once we’d unwrapped ourselves from the tree, we were on our way. The only way to drive on dry sand is to ignore all of your instincts and give it full throttle to avoid being bogged down. This is easier said than done, as the 4×4 lurches and swerves (sometimes into trees) and the safety video plays on repeat in your mind.
After a lively journey bucking down the sand, we arrived at beautiful Eli Creek – a freshwater lazy river-esque creek which you could float along and pretend you were in center parcs. The water is so pure that Paul, our guide, even topped up our freshwater tanks here.
Our next stop was the Maheno shipwreck – a zippy little cruise liner which had broken free of its tow line on its way to a new home in Japan and had wound up here some 60 years ago, decaying here on the beach ever since. A rather sad ending for a ship that served not only as a cruise ship but a floating hospital during World War 2.
Our final stop for the day was Indian Head – a small lookout with stunning views back across the beach and the vast sand flats behind us – and the “Champagne Pools” (we Brits, rather less decadently, would call them “rock pools”). Tragically, Indian Head was also the site of a massacre back when the island was being logged; men, women and children from the resident aborigine tribe were pushed off the cliff head onto the rocks below. There was no mention of this, aside from a rather ambiguous sign asking you not to step on certain areas of the cliff (it is considered sacred ground). I was surprised to find there was no plaque, or memorial of any kind.
We bounced back to camp, a little reflective, ready for dinner: stir fry cooked on a bbq washed down with the remainder of our (chilled) merlot. Bbq stir fry is definitely testimony to the maxim that just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
Our final morning – after a 5am wake up call – we headed to the centre of the island, which is covered in ancient rainforest. I tried not to feel bitter about the fact this seemingly inhospitable pile of sand had cultivated a giant and ancient forest, when my lovingly-tended balcony tomato plants had yielded one poxy tomato between them over a whole summer.
I actually liked the interior of Fraser Island more than the beaches. The forest smelt amazing (in that lovely dense mossy way that a forest does) and it was just so… unexpected. We also took a walk down a beautiful shaded creek, which was used by aborigine women to give birth. Although a calm, quiet place it looked like it might be a bit chilly in winter!
Our final stop was Lake MacKenzie – a “perched” (meaning it just sat on the top of Fraser Island) freshwater lake whose only source was rainwater. It was a beautiful, if breezy, morning and a few hearty souls went in for a dip (not me – I am not hearty).
The timetable for ferries (and therefore tours) is dictated by the tides, so all too soon it was time for us to take the ferry and the beach road back to Noosa.
A few words of wisdom on booking a DropBear tour (if that’s what you came here for):
- Of the tour options, you can either take a guided bus or a supervised 4×4 drive (of which I think DropBear are one of the most established). The destinations visited are the same on both tours – probably in a different order. If you aren’t fussed about driving, the bus tours are cheaper
- The tour should be $425; as mentioned we found a discounted rate via BookMe but did need to rejig our itinerary to accommodate it as dates and availability are limited. I’d highly recommend researching and booking a tour well in advance for maximum flexibility.
- The camping experience is very basic which was fine for us for a couple of days; from a friend’s report I gather the bus tour offers hostel-type accommodation in dingo-proof campgrounds if that is more your bag. I understand DropBear do (or will) be doing tours with hostel accommodation as well. There are plenty of public toilets around the island.
- We did experience some organizational issues at the camp – I think they had upped the group numbers (we had about 30 to one guide and a few teenage volunteers) but not the structure of the camp accordingly. I get the impression they took the feedback on board, and previous camper feedback was excellent. It may be worth checking group numbers and asking a bit about the camp now if this is important to you, but I think the bus tours are run on similar (if not bigger) groups. Ours was a mixed bag of ages and nationalities but (at 29 and 33) we were definitely some of the older campers on the trip
- Minor camp niggles aside, we really enjoyed our trip. Driving was a great way to experience the island and Paul – our guide – was incredibly knowledgable. The island is an incredible place, and camping is a relatively sustainable way to experience it. We even developed our appreciation for German rap music at the same time!