Scenes from the Skeens

A Visit to Fraser Island

March 13, 2007 7:33 pm by Melissa

As it is with any type of writing, if you don’t do it while it is fresh in your brain, the details will soon disappear. This is a task I find difficult now that I am in the swing of assignments at school and spending less time (but still a lot of time) exploring Queensland. One offer I could not turn down came from my Workplace Learning tutorial leader, Chris. He sent out an invitation to all Canadians to visit Fraser Island for the weekend, what he called ‘A Canadian Induction.’ He played light of the fact that the trip was completely paid for by the university and that we would be staying in cabins on the island. It also included free Aussie catered meals.
As soon as Dan heard he told me I had better accept or that he would be going in my place. So, I quickly accepted and packed for a night of ‘camping’ knowing full well that we would not be outdoors while sleeping, so my chances of being attacked by any reptiles, snakes or spiders was fairly unlikely.
We left USC campus at 6 a.m. on Adventure Tour Guides all terrain buses and drove to Rainbow Beach. Along the way we spotted several kangaroos and we also saw a dingo pup, all black in color, crossing the street. The drive from campus to Rainbow Island was a bit bumpy at times but not anything close to the rough terrain we were about to travel across on Fraser Island.
For those of you who have not heard of Fraser Island, it is the largest sand island in the world. It is approximately 123 km long and around 11 km wide, (if I am remembering our tour guide facts correctly!)

It is home to several different species of animals and plants…just like every other part of Australia basically. It is referred to as the dingo island as it is the only place in Australia that still has the original dingo breed. The rest of the dingo breed has been interbred with other dogs. Unfortunately we did not come across any dingoes during our stay and our tour guide told us that there is said to only be around 160 dingoes left on the island. Almost all of the walking areas and accommodation areas are fenced off, preventing the dingoes from entering public terrain. This is not to say that they cannot find ways in to feed off the garbage and food tourists leave behind. (Not that I was thinking about that when I had to walk to the toilet in the middle of the night from my cabin!)
fraser island
From Rainbow Beach we traveled on a barge over to the island. We were told you could see anything from dolphins to sharks and even manta rays. Unfortunately we did not see any of these. Being with three buses of 17 Canadians on each I can honestly say that everyone was completely amazed at the beauty of the island once we arrived on the shore and began our drive along the beachfront, often through water, to reach the rainforest trail where lunch would be waiting for us. Now because the tide was too high we had to drive onto an island ‘road’ as they call it, but it truly is just a one-way rocky path of sand. This is not a trip that could be taken by anyone with a slightly bad back or anyone who may have been drinking the night before…luckily there was neither of those on my bus.
After driving for quite some time we came to a hiking area (Wanggoolba Creek at Central Station) where we parked and our tour guide took us for a walk through the rainforest while our lunch was being prepared. Now, I was much more relaxed about this walk then our first walk through a rainforest for two particular reasons. For one, this walk was guided and on a boardwalk and second there were over 30 people with me. The chances of me spotting the first sand goanna were less likely! I also had a one in thirty chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake rather than one in four with Maddy, Nate and Dan.
fraser island rainforest
I think the thing that amazed me the most about the whole trek was the different type of plant life around us. You would think that it would be just tropical vegetation but we would walk through areas with redwoods and red gum trees as well, all growing in the same soil environment. Most significant is the angiopteris ferns, an ancient species boasting the largest single fern fronds in the world. That and the Wanggoolba Creek that can be missed if not looking closely enough at the sand, realizing that in fact there is clear water, not moving, on top of it.
fraser island stream
It was difficult not sharing this time with the kids and Dan but as luck would have it several of the boys/men on the trip partook in all of the child like scenarios Maddy and Nate would usually fulfill, like swinging from the tree vines and making jungle noises as we walked through the bush. Actually I should give Maddy and Nate more credit than that, they are great explorers and know how to keep quiet to spot any hidden wildlife. Luckily our only discoveries were tolerable from my point of view: an eel, and a few skinks.
After having a very quick delicious meal that was ready for us we took another bumpy drive to Lake Mackenzie. This lake is a crystal clear freshwater lake, bluey green in color and as warm as bath water. After swimming for half an hour I feel very much at home, probably because I am in a body of water that is not whipping me around and the quietness of the still water is so relaxing. Anyone who has swum in Lake Mackenzie will tell you how smooth and healthy your skin feels afterwards. One rewarding experience after another.
fraser island beach
To make a long weekend short I will skip over our evening festivities at the cabins and instead express a big thank you to the Education Department of USC. Especially Chris Dann who did a good job of incorporating education into the experience. Chris always reminded us when we were having fun that there was a way to turn the fun into a classroom experience (minus the wine). I also feel much more secure walking into an Australian classroom, having had some education in Aussie slang and sports! I had an amazing time.

One Response to “A Visit to Fraser Island”

Cathy Skeen wrote a comment on March 15, 2007

It almost sounds like you’d rather be there than here. But I know that can’t be true – who would want to miss those warmish March days when you slowly start to discover where all that dog food went. I’m seriously happy that you’re having such a great experience but equally concerned about snakes and things that bite. Cathy

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