The sunlight filtering through a thick
canopy of satinay trees forms a dappled pattern on the sandy base
of Fraser Island. The satinays straight, majestic trunks
-impervious to water and wood-boring insects -- were used in the
construction of the Suez Canal and the London docklands.
The trees are
only one of the many special things about Fraser Island, which is
off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and is the worlds largest
sand island and a listed Unesco World Heritage area.
Over 80 miles in
length, the islands sand mass has been accumulating for an
estimated 800,000 years and supports an astonishing variety of
flora and fauna.
Rain forest, huge
stands of kauri pines and brushbox trees, mangroves and heathlands
with wildflowers that form a carpet of color in spring are
interspersed with clear, freshwater streams and large
In fact, Fraser
Island contains 42 of the 80 perched lakes in the world. (A perched
lake is isolated above the groundwater table by a layer of rock or
The islands sands
range in color from white to shades of orange and
The animal life
is equally diverse, with numerous small mammals and the
purest breed of dingos in eastern Australia, while overhead, some
230 species of birds in the sky include oyster catchers, gulls,
kites, sea eagles and peregrine falcons.
No wonder the
name of the island in the language of the indigenous Badtjala
people -- who have lived here for more than 5,000 years -- means
Fraser Island has
so much to offer that visitors will likely only scratch the
surface, strolling through ancient forests, clambering over the
huge sand dunes that continue to form and reshape or cooling down
in the freshwater streams.
Fraser Island is
four-wheel-drive territory. In fact, its impossible to drive on the
island without such a vehicle, and permits are required. Although a
number of companies now offer bus tours of the island, self-drive
tours remain popular.
A network of
sandy roads -- actually, tracks made by loggers who operated here
until 1991 -crisscross the island, but care is required as it is
easy to get bogged down, especially where the sand is
For a visitor
with only a short time to see the island, area tour operators, such
as Fraser Island Excursions and the Day Tour Co., as well as local
hotels, offer a range of one- to three-day excursions.
offering varying degrees of luxury and comfort, cover the main
highlights, and the generally excellent commentary adds an extra
dimension to a visit.
Sights of main
interest include large sand dunes, such as the Stonetool Sandblow;
deep, green Lake Wabby; the incredibly white sands and tranquil
waters of Lake McKenzie (well worth a dip); and the trails around
Central Station, once the focal point of island logging
The eastern side
of the island comprises a long beach that is, in fact, a designated
roadway. Police can book you for speeding or drunk driving on the
And keep an eye
out for pedestrians and sunbathers who may not hear you
approaching, as well other vehicles, such as the planes that often
land on the beach.
flights and helicopter rides are available for a different
perspective of the island and the surrounding waters from firms
such as Air Fraser Island, Suncoast Helicopters and M.I.
Waves lap at the
beached, rusting wreck of the good ship Maheno, which foundered here in 1935 and is
dramatic testimony to the dangers of treacherous local
strongly discouraged, and many who have ignored the warnings have
lost their lives -- not only to the strong rip tides but to the
Not far from the
shipwreck, the huge cliffs of the Pinnacles offer a changing array
of colors in the sunlight, while farther north, Indian Head juts
into the ocean.
waters around the headland are home to many marine creatures, and
visitors will often see not only sharks but also dolphins and sea
From August to
October, Fraser Island is also the base of operations for large
numbers of humpback whale-watching cruises. These majestic marine
mammals make a stop in the waters of Hervey Bay as part of their
annual migration to Antarctica.
In terms of
accommodations, camping is very popular on Fraser Island, as there
is no shortage of fresh water, and there are also a few small
resorts that offer cabins.
Resort, located close to the beach on the eastern side of the
island, offers good accommodations to suit all budgets, a modern
restaurant, bars, a bakery, a cafe for snacks and a well-stocked
looking for a touch of luxury, Kingfisher Bay Resort -- on the
western side of island -- is the place to be. The self-described
four-star complex blends into its natural surroundings, offering
ecotourism experiences and traditional hotel rooms, stand-alone
villas or wilderness lodges.
In terms of
activities, Kingfisher Bay proffers ranger-guided tours and nature
walks, water sport activities, bird-watching, star-gazing and
fishing clinics. Guests desirous of relaxation can indulge in
natural spa therapies.
outstanding resort feature is the food. The talented young chefs at
fine-dining restaurant Seabelle have made a specialty of combining
fresh ingredients -- the fish and beef are superb -- with
traditional bush foods, including quandong fruit, bunya nuts, lemon
myrtle, native ginger and wattleseed. Australian wines provide the
Resort pays travel agents a 10% commission on bookings.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].