One of the great things about traveling is that you tend to pick up tips from people everywhere you go. For instance, one of my Uluru buddies told me about his fantastic trip on Fraser with Dropbear Adventures. When I checked Tripadvisor, which I usually do not put a lot of weight against anyway since 9 times out of 10 the reviews are so mixed that it is difficult to decide (actually I find the people on tripadvisor very whiny), Dropbear had pretty consistent positive reviews. So I went ahead and signed up for a 3 day 4x4 camping tour for about $360. Right from the beginning I was impressed with Dropbears customer service. I had trouble making the reservation on the site and Hana was so helpful, and patient, getting back to me quickly and sticking with me to the end. I'm really glad that I got to meet her and thank her later.
I was staying at the YHA in Hervey Bay, and here is another tip for anyone planning this trip, if you are starting from Hervey Bay either stay in Flashpackers, where the tour departs from, or even better, stay in Noosa so you can meet and take off from the Dropbear headquarters and check out Rainbow Beach. I'm pretty upset I missed that, and since I stayed at YHA, I had to pay for a $16 taxi to Flashpackers!
I met up with 2 German guys at Flashpackers on day 1 where we were asked to watch a movie about safety on the island and driving a 4x4 in the sand. Then we were packed into a cab where we realized that neither we nor our driver knew where we were going. Great start! We ended up figuring out that he should drop us at the dock for the ferry, and he was nice enough to stick around until we got our tickets and made sure all was okay. It was about a 30 minute ferry ride to the island, where we got to see dolphines leaping along the wake of the ship, and when we got there we were told to wait for a taxi to pick us up and bring us to the campsite. And wait we did, for probably 20-30 minutes until I started thinking we may never meet up with this group and the trip I had been eagerly awaiting would be over before it started (Another reason it would have been better to leave with the group from Noosa). Then up rolls Lisa in her 4x4 cab. She was so friendly that I immediately forgot my worries, and we got to see a bit of the internal island and its rainforest as we rode down the main highway crossing the island from West to East, which was nothing more than a sand path. The other main road on the island running North and South is the eastern beach.
To give a little background, Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world, and the only place where there is a legit rainforest growing in sand. It is a world heritage site and is home to several freshwater lakes and miles of gorgeous beaches, not to mention the purest breed of dingo and many other native animal species. The original aboriginal name of the island, given to it by the Butchulla people, is K'gari, meaning paradise, and I would agree with that 100%. Just like Ayers Rock was changed back to Uluru, there are many people fighting to see Fraser Island become K'gari once again.
When we pulled up to camp we were immediately greeted by our guide, Troy, and the rest of the group, who were busy setting up tents. Working together it was not long before we were set up and ready to get on with our adventure. Our group consisted of 3 German guys, 2 Swiss girls, 1 Swedish guy and me, so pretty small, especially compared to other groups we saw of upwards of 15-20 people. We piled into the jeep to head to our first location, the stunning Lake Wabby. Just getting to the lake was an adventure and gave us a small taste of what we could expect from the island and our guide, Troy, as he navigated our 4x4 vehicle down the beach and over coffee rock with practiced precision. Once parked we had a short walk to the lake over magnificent sand dunes. It looked like we were in the middle of the Gobi when suddenly the sand drops down a steep slope to reveal a pristine, fresh water lake, infused with oil of the tea trees that hug its shores. Troy kicked off the fun with his gymnastics routine down the sandy slope and into the water. Coming from a former gymnast I was pretty impressed, though I would never pull that shit myself...that hill was steep! The day was sunny, but still a little chilly, and I knew the water would be cold for my taste, so the only thing to do was take it at a run and dive right in, which I did. And it was freezing! Eventually everyone joined in and as a group we swam to the opposite side of the lake to check out the tea trees, which gave off a lovely citrusy scent. Eventually the water started feeling pretty good and I did not want to get out. As we were enjoying ourselves rolling down the hill and splashing into the water we got our first idea of how lucky we were to be with Troy and Dropbear, as a second group joined us at the lake just standing on the shore looking bored. Once we all had our fill of the water we dried off in the sun while we tossed a rugby ball around, realizing that not a single one if us would be joining the British/Irish Lions any time soon.
As the sun began to set we made our way back to camp. A delicious meal was cooked and I still remain totally impressed with what Aussies can do with a grill. We ended up with a couple of "cheeky" dingos visiting our camp through the night, which Troy chased away with the "dingo stick." As the night went on the boozing began, surprisingly enough with mostly wine, or as Troy called it "goon." The group melded really well and we were all up till late boozing and chatting. I again polished off an entire bottle of wine, but thankfully there was no fire for me to fall into. In fact, I stayed pretty lucid through the night, though I'm embarrassed to report that I had no idea how I made it to my tent, and the whole next day I kept being reminded if things I said and did that I had no memory of. *shaking my head as I write this* Not good behavior. But I didnt have the best story by any stretch. One of the guys in our group ended up vomiting out of his tent in the middle of the night and attracting a hungry and curious dingo. He ended up calling for Troy between his heaves, "Troy! Dingo! Troy!", who ended up coming to the rescue with the Dingo stick. I was passed out at this point, but it must have been hilarious.
The next day, though overcast and rainy, was full of more beautiful sights, from the champaign pools, gorgeous natural rock pools at the edge of the ocean that bubble with every wave that crashes into them, to the decaying Maheno Shipwreck, to the freshwater Eli Creek swim, the Indian head lookout where Troy gave us an excellent rundown of the interesting history of the island and much more. We saw and did so much I can hardly remember it all, though I do know that although it was overcast and cold and raining on and off I had a fantastic time. Also, everyone, aside from me, got to drive the 4x4 at some point. I opted out for several reasons, but most importantly, last time I drove a stick shift I literally hit the broad side of a barn, so I didn't think it was a good idea for me to endanger my entire group.
The night sky cleared up enough on our second night to get a spectacular view of the southern sky, and SUPER MOON! We took it a little easier on the boozing this night, though I did introduce the group to my favorite drinking game, drunk driver. I told them to take this new knowledge back to their homelands. LOL...what did I unleash?
On our last day we visited the famous Lake McKenzie where we went for another swim and enjoyed the amazing white sand which felt more like walking on baby powder. We also came across a deadly Death Adder (snake) along one of the trails, which was pretty cool. After the lake we traveled inland to a place called Central Station, where we were able to take a short walk through the rainforest. Again, Troy imparted some interesting information about the makeup of the island.
Unfortunately, due to the tides, those of us taking the ferry back to Hervey Bay had to cut our trip a little short, while the rest of the group got to take the 4x4 all the way back to Noosa (really wish I had stayed in Noosa!).
So everyone who told me to choose Fraser Island was right. I had a fantastic time and is truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I will be looking forward to visiting again, during the summer next time!
As for Dropbear, I cannot sing their praises enough. Especially after seeing first hand the other groups on the island, one guide lost some of his group, others just seemed bored, while we witnessed other groups trash talking their guides and the guides skirting their groups. It made me feel very grateful that we had Troy, who was wonderful and passionate about the island that he had all but grown up on, and lucky to have met such fun and amazing people in such a beautiful place!
PS. Most f the pictures below came from Troy since my camera died after the first day, so Thanks Troy for the memories!