Friday, July 24, 2015

COOL DINGO: Confessions Of A Fraser-phile

GUEST BLOG: Anna Kantilaftas is a self-confessed Fraser-phile. She first visited Fraser Island as part of an all gal media group on island to learn the basics of four-wheel-driving.  She returned to recharge during a relaxing Yoga retreat holiday at Kingfisher Bay Resort.  This was quickly followed by a trip north with our Cool Dingo Tour to discover The Champagne Pools, Indian Head and some of our eastern beach attractions. She's not your average backpacker, but here's her story...


Cruising down Eli Creek (that's Anna in the black). Image: Reichlyn Aguilar (closest to the camera)
I’ve done plenty of brave things in my time. I’ve jet skied across the Great Sandy Strait (between Fraser Island and Hervey Bay), gone swimming with Whale Sharks in Western Australia, and abseiled down cliff faces in Victoria. So, when I booked myself on to one day of a three-day Cool Dingo Tour to see some of the beautiful K’gari (Fraser Island), I thought I was just sticking to the theme.

The term ‘backpackers’ has long been one that frightened me. It’s up there with spiders, Great White Sharks and clowns. But, as is usually the case when fear-facing, my expectations were wildly exceeded. I even learnt a thing or two along the way.

With Jarred our tour guide at the helm, the engine roared and before I knew it, the blue Cool Dingo bus was bouncing through K’gari’s offroad tracks smoother than any 4WD I’ve had the pleasure of driving.

Bubbles of fun at The Champagne Pools
Lesson one: You’d be surprised at just how much ground you can cover in a bus. We managed to visit the Maheno Shipwreck, The Pinnacles, Champagne Pools, Indian Head and Eli Creek… and a couple of extra little secrets that only a tour-guide could know. It’s a great, stress-free way to see the island. Plus, if you get bogged, you’re not the one having to dig out the tyres… in the middle of a rainstorm… with a busload of people watching!

Talk about a bonus.

To my surprise, the bus was quieter than a sunrise at Kingfisher Bay. There were no crazy drinking games, no obnoxious yelling, and no stopping for road-side post-bender-emits. The night before had been a late (or early?) one for my fellow travellers, or Cool Dingoes as I called them.

Lesson number two: Young, international travellers know how to party their way through the night and sleep on an off-road bus during the day. If the ability to speak three different languages didn’t impress me, this certainly did. To be honest, the lack of animation threw me a little. I’m not sure if I was disappointed or relieved. Does it still count as brave if they were lovely and placid?

At least it gave me plenty of time to listen in on the conversations happening through the bus.

Those Fraser Island worms are man-eaters. Watch out!
Lesson three: First time visitors to Australia are afraid of everything, because ‘Straya! This makes for a whole lot of fun for us locals.

The beaches surrounding a lot of Fraser Island aren’t meant for swimming and the Cool Dingoes had been warned of the risks: rips, jellyfish and sharks. So when they saw a woman dip her toes into the cool blue waters, they (hilariously) feared for her life. Of course, they had to check my theory once I explained it was still just ocean – not acid water – and toe-dipping probably wasn’t going to kill anyone.

Shoes went flying and feet were in the water faster than you could say “Bluebottle Jellyfish”. Until I pointed one out, that is. Then it was like watching it all in rewind. Maybe they were being sensible, or maybe it was because I told them the jellyfish were deadly; we will never know for sure. (Note: Bluebottle Jellyfish don’t kill, they just sting for a bit).

Take two of the games happened at the beautiful Eli Creek, one of my favourite spots on the island. As any good traveller would, I reassured them they were perfectly safe and answered all their “will this kill me?” questions. I did, however, warned the Cool Dingoes of the piranhas hanging out around the bend. Cue screams.

Lesson four: Travellers will believe anything you tell them. I did tell them the truth, eventually. (Note: There are no piranhas in the waters on Fraser Island. Just shiny little fish that don’t like eat humans… most of the time).

You'll find lots of laughs and plenty of new friends on Fraser.
And so we come to the final lesson. The best thing about travelling on a Cool Dingo tour is meeting people from all over the world and seeing this beautiful part of the country through their eyes. We tend to take Australia’s wonders for granted, so to experience K’gari (which is a special kind of amazing) with a fresh perspective makes it even more extraordinary… plus, we get to have a bit of fun along the way.

Meanwhile, I’m going home to tick that fear right off my list. Would I book myself onto a Cool Dingo tour again? You betcha. Well, that is until I’m over the age threshold and I can’t convince anyone otherwise.

Meet you at the Dingo Bar.

Five COOL reasons to book yourself into a Cool Dingo Tour on your next trip to Fraser Island.
  • Backpackers just want to have fun. They know how to let their hair down and they’ll force you to do the same. 
  • The tour guides know their stuff. I’ve been to the island a couple of times and I still learnt a bunch of facts and secrets I never knew before. 
  • You get to see some of K’Gari’s hidden surprises. When time permits, the guides will happily show you their favourites. Without them, you might miss out on some pretty cool sights – like the skeleton of a whale. 
  • The island is only open to four-wheel drives, so if you don’t have access to one, the tours are a safe, easy, and affordable option. Plus super-efficient and quick – they always have right of way. 
  • You get to really experience Fraser Island as an Australian and as a visitor, and make some new friends while doing so.  
We're guessing Anna's already planning her next trip back.  This story was written for Life on Fraser and Cool Dingo Tours. When Anna's not testing the mettle of her four-wheel-drive on Fraser's sandy highways, you'll find her behind a desk editing the brand-new Whichcar.com website - CHECK IT OUT!, writing for 4x4 Australia and Instagramming like a boss.

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