It turns out waking up at half 6 isn’t as much of problem when there’s the possibility of going on a little plane over the island. Obviously it’s still a bit of an issue as we had set the alarms for 6:15 and overslept but once we were up, we were up. As we’d packed everything again last night before bed, all we need to do was get dressed and head over for breakfast which was once again amazing. The problem was, I’d stuffed myself so much that I couldn’t eat much at all and even had to force the tastiest hash browns down. I also had a fight with the spaghetti and the serving spoon and only ended up with the tomato sauce which was very upsetting. Grrrr.
Anyway, we headed off back to the room to collect our things before climbing back onboard the big bus and getting ready to leave for 7:30. We didn’t manage to leave at the set time, however, as people were late getting back from the breakfast buffet but eventually everyone was gathered and the seat-belts were on. It was at this point the pilot of the Air Fraser flight came onto the bus to tell everyone about the joy flights and what they did. Our guide had told us a little bit about them yesterday and I’d already decided that I was definitely , definitely going to have a go and so I was a bit on edge in case we didn’t get the chance to.(who would have thought?) As soon as he asked who wanted to go up, our hands shot up and we were picked for the first flight. Yay! This was the best slot to be in as it meant that we weren’t missing anything at all in terms of the bus tour; it was just moving further along the beach to wait for us to land.
The seven of us who had been chosen all lined up in front of the plane, waiting to here more about what we were going to do. The pilot then said they needed a ‘co-pilot’ to sit at the front and after hesitating to see if anybody else wanted to, I volunteered to. I almost regretted it straight away because getting into the plane was a lot trickier and if I’d have fallen out again, it would have been humiliating being right next to the bus but it was alright, I managed to get in fine. Now all I had to do was avoid hitting the pedals or the controls whilst we were in the air. I was so on edge about touching anything that my feet were frozen the whole time and so achy afterwards; I’d rather that than dropping out of the sky though!
As we took off it didn’t feel any different to being in a huge plane apart from the fact that the airstrip was 75 mile beach making it quite bumpy. This flight company is one of only two in the world with permission to take off and land on the beach, the other being in Scotland and so it was quite a unique experience, especially with the chance to fly over the world’s[ largest sand island at the same time. To begin with, we flew out over the sea to see if we could spot any marine life as the water was so clear, it would have been quite easy. This wasn’t for long though and we turned off inland towards the lakes and have a look at them from above. It was quite strange to see Lake Mackenzie and Lake Wabby from the height we were at; we’d been swimming in them only yesterday and yet they seemed so small today. Likewise, the island looked carpeted with all it’s native trees and so it’s even more strange to think about the amount of 4WD vehicles driving along through them and the people walking around, soaking up the atmosphere. From above it looked so peaceful and yet although it’s quiet below the canopy, it’s not to the same extent.
We circled the island looking at all the different types of lakes before flying over the Eurong resort and back out to the sea to spend a little bit more time looking for creatures. It wasn’t until I noticed the miniature specs of 4x4s trundling across the beach and the tiny seagulls flying below that I realised quite high up we were and that looking for big splashy shapes in the water, probably wasn’t going to lead to anything. At one point, the pilot pointed out some stingrays on the left but I couldn’t see them and so carried on looking myself. I spotted a sea eagle flying just below with such a huge wingspan, it seemed the width of the plane and was really fascinating to see that close. After a little while, we turned off and began to land, racing across the beach before coming into land on the bumpy sand once again. We’d obviously been travelling at a considerable speed whilst in the air but it’s only when you’re on the ground that you realise quite how fast. For $75 each for the flight, it was definitely worth it to see the sheer scale of the island, the fauna, the wildlife and experience the thrill of the plane and it’s something I would without doubt do again.
Once we landed back on the sand and I managed to not fall climbing out of the plane, we had a few photos by the plane and then it was time to board the bus and head further down 75 mile beach to the Maheno Shipwreck. As we approached we were told a little bit about the history of the ship and how it came to rest on the beach which was really, really interesting. It was built in Dumbarton, Scotland and launched in 1905 where it began it’s journey making the route between Sydney and Melbourne via New Zealand and Tasmania. Throughout WW1, the ship was then converted into a hospital transporting the wounded before returning the the usual routes. However, during one voyage where it was being towed, the towline snapped during an intense cyclone leaving it drifting and eventually reaching Fraser Island. Attempts to refloat the boat failed and once stripped of all it’s value, it was left on the beach where it still stands to this day. A lot of it has now either being buried under the sand or has disintegrated and it was very strange to see what it looked like before it ended up there as it’s so small now. Apparently, it was used as target practice by the Australian military too so that can’t have helped things!
We spent quite a while at the wreck as the second plane trip had taken off and we needed to wait for a while until they landed and the next group could leave. I really enjoyed spending time there though because it was quite eerie to think about everything it had seen until it began crumbling on the beach. It was also still only about half 8 so there was plenty of time to see everything else throughout the day. Whilst we were walking around the ship, an osprey hovered above us and looked like it was going to land on the wreck and so I followed it and saw it sitting on a post. There are so many birds of prey swooping around this area that it’s strange to think that I’ve spent hour waiting to see them in Scotland, especially when we’ve seen two now who’ve just turned up. Eventually it flew off and we made our way back to the bus to continue the tour.
It took quite a while until we reached the next stop, the Champagne Pools, as it was really far north of the island. I did enjoy being thrown about on the bus again though and we saw another bird of prey, a white bellied sea eagle, so it wasn’t all bad. Again, we learnt a lot about the island’s history as we bounced along and about how Captain Cook first assumed that the island was connected to the mainland as well as how he first saw the indigenous people at the top of the cliffs and, presuming they were Indian, named the rock ‘Indian Head’. We were climbing up there later on and I wasn’t sure how much fun that would be as it looked steep but I decided it couldn’t be as bad as the hike to Lake Wabby! It was a little bit hairy getting to the stopping point for the Champagne Pools as it hadn’t rained for a while so the sand was incredibly soft and the bus had to go up hill. After a few attempts we got there in the end and clambered out of the cool bus into the hot air.
Walking down to the pools was a lot easier than driving up them as it was just a long wooden walkway all the way down. We didn’t stop for photos at this point as we wanted to get into the water before the tide came in and they filled up more so wandered down quickly. It was a really pretty place but there was barely any shade at all so it took a while for us to find somewhere safe to put the cameras out of the sun. In the end we found a little rock hide type thing and put them in there, slathered on the sun lotion and went into the sea. After paddling in Hervey Bay where the water was really warm, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we first went in as it was freezing! We waded out to where the waves crashed over the rocks and I couldn’t help but think that you’d have to be stupid to climb along the rock wall. We’d be warned not to do that as people had drowned and been injured in the past but I can’t imagine who would want to! Nevertheless, someone climbed up when we were there but luckily he didn’t get injured.
It was great fun in the pools as the waves shoved you around but as the way was only really shallow, the dangerous element was gone really. As the tide crept in the waves got bigger and bigger which was great but I think it washed a lot of my sun lotion as I was quite burnt at the end of the day. After a while we decided to get out so we could dry off a bit, put more sun lotion on, get dressed and take some photographs. The sand was a real pain though because it gets everywhere and so reapplying the sun lotion ended up more like applying sandpaper to my skin. Despite this, we got ready and set off back up to the coach and noticed something bobbing around in the water. Suddenly, a little head popped up and it turned out to be a little turtle. It was nice to see a turtle in the wild; we’d seen one on the boat trip (which was really just a blob) and in the aquarium but seeing this one swimming around by itself was even better. We noticed a few more blobs near by which turned out to be three more turtles just drifting about seemingly enjoying themselves. It’s the turtle mating season at the moment and it seemed as though there were three males all chasing the one female. Poor turtle. A couple more of the guide group had joined us in watching them and after spending a good half an hour, we carried on up the path taking some photos of the beautiful view as we went. Upon arrival at the bus, it was lunchtime and tasty ham and cheese salad rolls. I was just happy to have some cold water and orange juice at this point as it was so hot with barely any shade at all but the sandwich was definitely an added bonus. It took me so long to eat the giant bun that by the time I had finished Codie had demolished an apple, a sandwich and biscuits so when we found out it was 2 rolls per person I just couldn’t have another one and instead had an apricot bar. I would have taken it with me in my bag but there are signs everywhere saying don’t carry food due to the dingoes and I didn’t fancy being carried off by one of those!
Indian Head was next and the journey back to that point was much easier than on the way as it was downhill. We were told it was only about a 10 minute walk to the top which didn’t seem bad at all. It was. There was a lot of scrambling over rocks and in flip flops, it’s very difficult to do without throwing yourself off backwards. Once we’d got over that, we then had to walk up another very steep and sandy path for what seemed like forever and then more rocks to get to the top point. It seemed like the worst obstacle course ever. I’ve never been a huge fan of climbing on rocks but unlike at Lake Wabby where it took a bit of time to appreciate it, the view from Indian Head was definitely worth it. Straight underneath us there were turtles playing on the surface and shoals of fish gathered a little further out in the clear, turquoise coloured water. Rays moved around the rocks and swallows fluttered around the rocks. If I had my way, we’d have spent a lot longer there than anywhere else as I really enjoyed spitting and watching the wildlife and scanning the surface for more. Sharks have been spotted there in the past but we didn’t see any this time which was a bit disappointing but the turtles made up for it. As we hadn’t been given a time to go back down, we thought we’d better leave fairly soon as other people had started wandering off as well and it turned out we were some of the last to get back to the bus. If I hadn’t have torn myself away we would have been so late and I don’t think that would have gone down well!
We had a quick visit to the Pinnacles coloured sands before the last stop but it wasn’t for long, more as a photographic opportunity. Although I though the sand was really pretty and the way it had formed was really interesting, it was an eagle which caught my attention the most.. Codie was also being attacked by a huge fly at this stage so we took a few photos and hurried back to the bus. The final stop before we headed back to catch the barge back to the mainland was Eli Creek and after seeing lots of pictures of it, I was really looking forward to it. As we pulled up, I wouldn’t say it was disappointing but it wasn’t what I expected at all due to it not having rained for a while. It was really shallow so if you were to drift down in the currents like you could do, it looked as though you’d get a swimming costume full of sand and soI opted out of it as I didn’t fancy that again. It was still very, very pretty and the water was so crisp and clear you could see little fish darting about, fighting the current as they tried to go back upstream and walking through the trees made it feel like you were deep inside a jungle. I can’t help but think though, how much sun lotion is polluting it all. Of course it’s necessary or you’ll be burnt to a crisp (it was at this point that I noticed how red my feet were) and they upper part of the stream is cut off to conserve the habitats but it must still do some damage. It’d be a shame if anything was to happen to Eli Creek but with Fraser Island being so conservation and nature orientated, I’m sure that it’s under control.
We arrived back at Eurong Beach Resort just after 4 to drop off some passengers who were going back to Rainbow Beach and not Hervey Bay so needed to catch a different ferry. The bus went off for a quick wash and refuel and we went off for an ice cream in the shade. It was nice to see the resort again as I’d been so distracted by the possibility of going in the plane that I hadn’t noticed us leaving on the way out. All to soon, it was time to leave and we all climbed back on the sandiest seats ever and set off back through the trees to Wanggoolba Creek.
Everybody was shattered during this ride over the bumpy sand track and so it wasn’t quite as fun as on the way in. Once at the dock we all climbed off and up to the top of the barge to flop down and begin the trip home. It was at this point that I felt a little nip on my leg and looked down to see the tiniest fly ever sitting there. I shoved it off and took some photos of the island before I felt it nip again. These nasty little flies wouldn’t leave us alone the whole 30 minute trip back! I thought they’d only bitten me a few times but it turns out they’d attacked me 32 times all over my legs and my hands. At least they weren’t dingo bites though, I expect they’d be much worse!
Back on the mainland and we quickly found our bus back to the hostel and sat down. The tour guides seem to have to do so much over the trips that I hope they’re paid a fair bit! Not only do they have to drive everyone around and walk about on the island whilst talking about it, ensuring that the food and water was available, they also have to drive the courtesy buses as well. We were all shattered so I can’t imagine having to do all that so often. On the way back to Hervey Bay, our driver pointed out some wild kangaroos who’d come out to feed in the grassy fields. It was the first time we’d seen actual wild kangaroos, we hadn’t even seen any killed by cars, so it was really nice to see them all hopping about.
Overall, I think this trip was one of the best things we could have done and I’m really glad we did do. So much was crammed into each day but not in a rushed way and so it felt as though you really saw the island. It was a shame that we didn’t see any dingoes as everyone always talks about them being the purest colony in Australia but it is the puppy season and it can’t be helped. If I had the chance, I’d definitely go back and I’d recommend it to anyone!