Monday, March 11, 2013

How To Experience Fraser Island

GUEST POST: Meet Jill. She's a twenty-something primary school teacher and eager blogger who has previously lived in the Middle East and is currently exploring Australia. Jill stumbled across Cool Dingo Tours when she was exploring Australia's east coast - and whilst she didn't indulge her fondness for novelty snacks, she managed to have a fab time on the world's largest sand island.  Here's an excerpt from her BATTERED SUITCASES blog...
There's 75 Miles of gorgeous beach highway to explore
Choosing how to explore Fraser Island was a bit overwhelming for me. Everyone has an opinion on how to visit the famous island, and I didn't want to make the wrong choice.

It was a tough decision, but in the end we decided to just cross our fingers and climb aboard the Cool Dingo bus. I'm glad we did. Here's why:

First, if you've never poured over a guidebook or travel forum trying to figure it all out, you should know that there are essentially three ways to experience Fraser Island.*

1. A guided tour - ride along in a 4WD bus with a tour guide
2. Self drive tag along tour - follow along behind a lead car in a long caravan
3. Independent self drive - make your own itinerary and drive yourself around

Despite being more DIY style travelers, Mike and I did the guided tour and had an amazing time. Of course as everyone knows there are drawbacks to a guided tour: it's expensive, you're on a set schedule, your companions might be annoying, etc. But there are advantages too!

Advantages: 
The wreck of the SS Maheno is a popular spot!
1. You'll learn something! 
As I said in my first post about Fraser Island, I learned a lot. I learned so much (and forgot so much) that I struggled writing about the experience. I couldn't figure out how to fit in all the factual information with a retelling of the events. There are so many cool stories and facts that I left out (Like the guy who came from the American South to log Fraser Island in the 1800s and got really excited to see native people. He was thinking free labor, right? Wrong! The natives didn't enjoy being forced into slavery so they stabbed him to death with spears instead. Makes you chuckle, doesn't it?)

During one of our lunch stops we met up with a self drive tag along tour. Some of the people on the tag along tour complained that they were learning nothing about the fascinating Fraser Island and had no idea what they had or hadn't seen. In fact. most of the guys in the group were already drunk (1pm) and dancing on top of the trucks. That's cool if you're only on the island to party, but why not learn at least a tiny bit about the incredibly unique ecosystem while you're there? And of course if you're leading yourself around the island you'll need a really good book and a lot of patience.

2. You (probably) won't get stuck! 
Driving on Fraser Island is tricky. Depending on the weather the sand can be very, very soft. This means you really need to know what you're doing or you're going to get stuck. Because there is basically one route to each destination on the island, if you get stuck you'll be holding up others, and possibly getting them stuck as well.

Our bus had to stop several times to help people on self drives out of messes. We even had to tow one truck out of a bad situation. Of course, getting stuck for some people is just part of the adventure. However, you'll be really irritating the experienced guides and drivers. Not to mention, you'll be covered head to toe in sand from trying to get your truck to budge. I felt very grateful to have an experienced driver driving us around the island.

Blending in to the natural environmnet
3. You'll sleep in comfort!
If you're on a tag along tour or doing a self drive, chances are you'll be camping overnight (on uncomfortable mats, we were told). Now, I love camping...but we had been doing it a lot. Having camped night after night, the prospect of sleeping in a real bed was just too appealing. Our tour included a night at a resort in dorm accommodation that we fully enjoyed. Plus, we didn't need to worry about dingos or disrupting the ecosystem with our urine (seriously, that's a problem).


You wouldn't want to pee on the Pinnacles of Coloured Sands, would you?

4. You're free to enjoy yourself!
Since Mike and I were basically doing a self drive tour of the east coast, it felt really nice to let someone else do the driving, navigating, and guiding. Two whole days where we didn't have to read from a guidebook, fiddle with the GPS, stop for gas, or wonder if we took the correct turn. It was a welcome break.

So there you go. Four reasons why taking a guided tour was the right choice for me (and Mike).  Have you been to Fraser Island? Which option did you chose and why?
xo, jill

PS This is not a sponsored post for Cool Dingo, in case you were wondering. I just really enjoyed our tour and would recommend this style of exploring Fraser.
*I'm sure there's more but these three options are what you're most likely to encounter while doing research.

Too much fun for just one day... stay tuned as we publish the second installment of Jill's adventures on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.  Like what you've read? You can catch more of Jill's awesome Aussie adventures on her blog - Battered Suitcases - which is where we discovered her story.  Content has been reproduced with the author's permission.  Or why not visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and say g'day!

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