Travel

Darran takes photographers for a walk on the wild side

Darran Leal has locked eyes with lions in Africa and anacondas in the Amazon but facing his wife’s stare as he returned from a K’gari (Fraser Island) expedition with a salt-ridden car was more daunting.

“Don’t tell Julia,” Darran Leal called out as the tyres of their 4WD sink lower into the sand.

Ruing his decision to stop five seconds too long on the island’s boggy beach, for the sake of a better photo, Darran asked his passengers to honour the old adage “What happens on tour, stays on tour.”

Too late – this photojournalist was already onboard.

Darran had Buckley’s chance of escaping Julia’s salt patrol anyway. The self-confessed clean fanatic was wise to her husband’s ways and waited with fresh water and towels in hand for his return.

She was well rewarded for her efforts with early morning cups of tea before he headed off on more photographic adventures.

Darran and Julia own and run Safari Wise Australia, a licensed travel agency specialising in photography tours and workshops in areas as far away as USA, Africa, South America and beyond.

Since February alone Darran has been to Norfolk Island, Tasmania, Kimberley and Fraser Island. Cape Town (South Africa) and Namibia (South-west Africa), Bhutan (Mountain Kingdom), Wild West (USA) and Yellowstone National Park (USA) will fill the remainder of the year.

Disclosure: As a Booking.com Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links in this post.

Walking on the Wild Side - bird with oyster

Pied Oyster Catcher on K’gari (Fraser Island).

BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Catching up with Darren on K’gari (Fraser Island) during the 9th annual Bird Week in May 2010, the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year said his work had been published around the world and used in books, magazines and commercial products.

He has appeared on television several times and has been commissioned by Qantas, Warner Brothers, the Qld Government, Australia Post, Steve Parish Publishing and many other companies, and published six of his own books.

“My life has never been one of sitting around and waiting for things to happen,” the former Qld National Parks and Wildlife Service photographer said.

“Rather, I get out and explore, touch, catch, view, experience and savour every unique moment. I don’t specialise in one area but shoot everything from the smallest insect to the grandest landscape or unique culture.”

Walking on the Wild Side - man with camera on beach

Photographer Darran Leal on K’gari (Fraser Island)


Keep it simple, says Darran

Darran’s widespread success suggests complex techniques are at work but they are surprisingly simple.

“I take the KISS (Keep It Simple Shooter) principle seriously,” he told shutterbugs attending his week-long workshop on Fraser Island.

“We have the technology now – just understand light and metering and let the camera do work.”

Darran said most of his stunning images had been taken with hand-held cameras, using the same techniques he learned 30 years ago.

The limited use of tripods frees him to capture fleeting moments at the blink of an eye.

Getting the images from idea to print or canvas doesn’t happen overnight, however.

He and Julia, a travel consultant of 28 years, spend months or sometimes years researching remote regions for possible images before Darran takes to the field and returns to process, catalogue and print the results.

“The most gratifying aspect of my work – after all of the expense of equipment and travel and the many hours in the field – is to hear someone else enjoying that same split second with me.”

Darran’s passion for photography is infectious.

(The former) group general manager at the island’s Kingfisher Bay and Eurong resorts, Ivor Davies, is one of his converts.

Ivor said he had little photography experience until Darran started running workshops during the annual island Bird Week, attended by bird watchers from throughout Australia.

The artist and former military chef bought some of Darran’s “hand-me-down” camera gear and has become an expert in the field.

He now presents photography sessions for birdwatchers and joins Darran’s excursions, driving a 4WD and helping students with their work … and serving up tea, coffee, biscuits and muffins during the breaks.

Every year Darran and Ivor devote their time throughout the week to presenting theory sessions, helping camera buffs spot birds and wildlife at the Kingfisher Resort and leading tours through the island’s rainforests and along beaches where opportunities to capture unique and creative images abound.

Travelling in teams was certainly handy at this year’s event – particularly when one driver, despite his vast experience trekking through the world’s most remote wilderness areas, stopped five seconds too long on wet beach sand.

Watching the towing was all part of the island’s 4WD experience and offered Darran’s students yet another great photo opportunity – not to be used as evidence, of course.

For more information on Darran Leal’s World Photo Adventures and workshops visit https://worldphotoadventures.com.au/

First published Fraser Coast Chronicle, May 29, 2010.
The name Fraser Island has been updated to K’gari (Fraser Island) to reflect the island’s renaming to its original name in September 2021. 

 

Walking on the Wild Side - bird on a branch

Red-browed Finch.

Where is K’gari (Fraser Island)?

You will find K’gari (Fraser Island) off the southeast coast of the Wide Bay-Burnett region, about 300 kilometres north of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane.

The best way to get there is to take a barge from Rainbow Beach or River Heads at Hervey Bay.

You can camp on the island, or book cabins and resort accommodation through Booking.com.

Looking for inspiration?

If you are looking for your next K’gari (Fraser Island) adventure, check out my blog on discovering the island’s beauty here.

Discover The Beauty of K’gari (Fraser Island)

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s tough to find a place that lets you truly switch off and unwind.

Thankfully, the tranquil beauty of the World Heritage-listed K’gari (Fraser Island) offers the perfect place to recharge and relax.

As the world’s largest sand island, K’gari (Fraser Island) is undoubtedly a genuine paradise.

In fact, ‘Paradise’ is the literal translation of the island’s name, K’gari!

Alongside the breathtaking beauty, the island also offers a wonderful array of attractions for visitors, making it popular with tourists from throughout the world.

 

Disclosure: As a Booking.com Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links in this post.

 

K'gari (Fraser Island - Forest

A brief history of K’gari

The Traditional Owners of K’gari are the Butchulla people, with historians estimating that they have lived amongst the stunning landscape for upwards of 50,000 years.

Having always focused on care and respect for nature, the Butchulla people continue to live in harmony amongst the seasons, land, and sea today.

The 166,000-hectare island is a place of natural beauty, with the stunning coastline, rainforests, sand dunes, and perched lakes slowly forming over thousands of years.

For visitors today, the region is a space to escape the busy world, switch off their phones, and connect to the world.

K'gari (Fraser Island) - Nautalis Shell

The best things to do on K’gari

As one of the best tourist spots in Australia, K’gari (Fraser Island) is packed with a vast array of cultural activities suitable for all the family.

Some of the most popular include:

1. Take a trip to Lake McKenzie

While the island is surrounded by incredible beaches, a trip to Lake McKenzie should be on everyone’s list. Formed thousands of years ago, this unique lake features sand that is 98% silica, which means it is not only the whitest sand you will ever see, but it also reflects the sunlight, ensuring it remains cool to touch.

This unique sand also offers increased filtration of rainwater, helping to give the water the iconic azure colour recognised across the globe.

2. Check out the eastern sand dunes

Taking a trip to Eli Creek on the Eastern side of the island is the perfect opportunity to see the stunning sand dunes, and the incredible coloured sand the region offers.

Thanks to the leaching of oxides, each grain of sand on K’gari comes in an array of different colours with 72 shades found across the island.

3. Absorb the views from Indian Head

For thousands of years, the Traditional Owners of K’gari have climbed the island’s most northerly point, Indian Head, to take in the gorgeous viewpoints.

Arguably one of the best views on the entire island, Indian Head offers stunning sights across not only the land but across the sea, too, where it is not uncommon to see humpback whales.

4. Visit the rainforests

Driving from Eurong Beach along to Kingfisher Bay will reveal the stunning rainforest, the only place in the world where tall forests grow on sand dunes!

Growing to great heights, these trees have been growing for thousands of years and walking through them is an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.

5. Take a trip through history at the Cultural Centre

Fun for the whole family, the Fraser Coast Cultural Centre gives takes visitors through the incredible history of the island, educating them on everything from the UNESCO-listed beaches to the countless wildlife that calls K’gari home.

K'gari (Fraser Island) - Photo Montage

Where is K’gari?

You’ll find K’gari (Fraser Island) off the southeast coast of the Wide Bay-Burnett region.

The best way to get there is to take a barge from Rainbow Beach or River Heads at Hervey Bay, about 300 kilometres north of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane.

You can camp on the island or book cabins and resort accommodation through Booking.com.

PHOTO GALLERY

Looking for inspiration for your next adventure?

Is the daily rat race leaving you feeling exhausted?

My blog acts as a source of inspiration to help you follow your dreams and indulge your creativity.

So if you are looking for your next adventure, check out some of my latest travel and leisure blogs here.

Fancy Hunting for Boulder Opal? Start at Winton

If you’ve ever fancied yourself striking it lucky on an Australian opal field but felt it was daunting, the annual Winton Opal Festival is your chance to get the lowdown on all things Boulder Opal.

In July 2021, the Winton Opal Festival and Trade Show had everything for anyone interested in opal, Australia’s National Gemstone, and future years promise the same.

The Queensland Boulder Opal Association organised a line-up of 10 speakers to talk about opal mining, mines compliance, cutting, designing, valuing opal, jewellery, and more.

Stephen Tasic from Winton Opal Gems said visitors had the opportunity to liaise directly with miners, buyers and jewellers and even meet a genuine Outback Opal Hunter.

The Winton Opal Festival and Trade Show, which is open to the public, is the first event on the annual circuit for Australia’s eastern states, with shows in opal producing areas such as Winton, Yowa and Lightning Ridge.

This year, QBOA will hold a second Opal Festival in September, coinciding with Winton’s famous biannual Outback Festival.

The festival usually attracts hundreds of people, so it is wise to book your accommodation well in advance.

For more details visit https://www.qboa.com.au/opalfestival/

Stephen Tasic holds Boulder Opal at Winton Opal Gems.

Winton Opal Gems, Stephen Tasic

Stephen Tasic’s Opal Journey

Second-generation opal miner and part-time jewellery designer Stephen Tasic said his family came to opal mining in the mid-1980s.

“I came out here to Winton as a kid on school holidays from the Atherton Tablelands,” he said.

“My father was mining and buying opal off other miners. My family then sold the opal at the Kuranda markets through the 80s and 90s to visiting Australians, Americans, Japanese and other internationals.

“I found my first opal about three feet deep when I was about 16 years old. I think that memory pretty well hooked me, I got the fever, but it lay dormant for a few years!”

Stephen’s shop carries all kinds of opals including Queensland’s Boulder Opal, White Crystal Opal from Coober Pedy and Andamooka in South Australia, as well as Black Opal from Lightning Ridge in New South Wales.

“I even have some Mexican and some Ethiopian Opal. I like all opal no matter where it is from.”

Stephen said his ongoing opal journey takes him from Winton in the winter months to wholesaling with opal and jewellery shops around Australia in the summer months.

“Eight years ago, this journey led me to the biggest gem show in the world in Tucson, Arizona, selling and showcasing Australian opals to American designers. I’ve done many trips to the US in the past eight years.

“It has been an exciting journey. There is so much to learn and there is a new challenge every day. It’s a constant learning curve from exploration to mining, cutting, wholesaling, designing and retailing.

“This isn’t like working a normal job, for me anyway. There are so many aspects to the opal industry that many people rarely realise.”

Boulder Opal Fossicking Tips

Stephen Tasic’s top tip on how to fossick for opal is: “Eat your carrots so you have good eyes!”

“You can go to Winton’s Waltzing Matilda Centre or to the bush park at Opalton and pay for a permit to fossick at the designated fossicking area in Opalton. Then take a spray bottle and go for your life,” he said.

“When you pick up the stone and have a look, it pays to spray them with water in order to see the colour hidden in the boulder.

“We have a fossicking pit in front of our shop so we can show people what to look for.”

Stephen said some of the “gemiest” opal was often inside the rock.

“It’s a fine gem line, like the one I found when I was 16 years old.

“That was the finest, smallest line and I didn’t think much of it, but once cut, you could see it was a top gem. I wish I had it now. It would definitely have appreciated in price.”

Opalton to Jundah Run

Some of the best Queensland opals come from the run between Opalton and Jundah, which is more than 200km long by 60km wide.

“This run is prolific for producing some of the best quality opals,” Stephen said.

“The trinity of Australian opals is the Boulder, Black and Crystal opals, and we get all of it out here on the Queensland fields.

“Over the years, Crystal Opal coming out of Opalton, 120km out of Winton, has been prolific in volume and quality.

“But out here we mainly get the beautifully patterned Boulder Opal, which can often be brighter, more durable and better value than other opals.

“It’s mostly open-cut mining out here. I’m not a fan of underground mining, but over 800 old-timers during the Opal Rush before World War I were digging underground at Opalton for the spectacular Crystal Opal.

“Outside of the hand-mining area, we use excavators, bulldozers and drills to search for the opal.

“There’s so much potential here. There’s so much still under the ground. The only issue is there’s so much dirt with it, that it comes down to the economics of it.

“You need to be a jack of all trades, an operator, a bush mechanic, and above all, very patient.

“But if the old-timers did it, why can’t we? We just have to spend the time out in the bush.”

PHOTO GALLERY: WINTON

Getting into the Opal Industry

Anyone interested in a career in the opal industry could start with doing apprenticeships in mining, as a machine operator, or in cutting opal, Stephen said.

“Opal mining is largely small-scale mining and not all of us are doing it for the money.

“It’s more about small family businesses or partnerships than it is about full-scale industrial mining.

“It’s a passion, and about uncovering Australia’s National Gemstone and presenting it in the best light we can to the world.

“Ninety-five per cent of the world’s sedimentary opal comes from Australia. We’re pretty lucky with that.

“If this resource was in any other country, 100 per cent of our opal fields would be claimed, or pegged, and being worked.”

Valuing Boulder Opal

Stephen Tasic said the value of Boulder Opal was largely in the eye of the beholder.

“It often depends on what you’re attracted to, but a general guide, the brighter or darker the opal, the more colours it has, the bigger the stone, or the cleaner the face, the more valuable it is.

“Then, there is the trump card, which is its pattern. The rarity of the pattern can change an opal from $100 a carat to $1000 a carat.

“The rarer the pattern, the more desirable and valuable the opal is.”

Boulder Opals as investments

Stephen said buying Bounder Opal was a wonderful investment, not only for its appreciation value but also for sentimental values.

“We have what we call fun stones at the lower end of the market. Then there are picture stones, the commercial-grade, and then the high grade.

“Then there’s the super-high investment grade, which rarely gets showcased in Australia.

“Super-high investment-grade opal is available in Winton, Lightning Ridge and Coober Pedy with certain dealers and shopkeepers. You just need to ask for it.

“It helps that you have done your research first and have a budget in mind when talking with an opal dealer or shopkeeper, but when you find that special piece, sometimes the budget goes out the window! ”


Boulder Opal Jewellery

Boulder Opal Necklace

Boulder Opal, Winton Opal Gems, Necklace.

Having your opals made into jewellery is a popular way to showcase your stones.

“Our award-winning jeweller has worked with Opals for over 30 years,” Stephen said.

“He’s very experienced. There’s a real art to it.”

Stephen also designs some of the jewellery and enters annual design competitions.

“Every piece of opal has a story that can lend itself to its own special one of a kind design.

“If someone has a special piece of opal jewellery they would like advice about including how to look after it or have it valued, they’re welcome to bring it to our shop while they’re visiting Winton.”

Crocodiles were prehistoric but they’re not dinosaurs

Crocodiles are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.

They are reptiles like lizards, turtles and snakes and they have a very ancient lineage.

Crocodiles belong to the clade Archosaur. A clade is a group of organisms that have a common ancestor.

Interestingly, Archosaurs also include dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The earliest fossil crocodile known lived more than 300 million years ago and the crocodilians developed alongside the dinosaurs.

Like birds, which are now considered dinosaur descendants, crocodilians survived the K-T extinction, 66 million years ago.

Why aren’t crocodiles considered dinosaurs?

There are a number of reasons particularly surrounding the Archosaur “family tree” and when crocodiles branched off. For you and me, the answer is fairly simple.

A key aspect of dinosaur morphology, or shape, if you like, is that their hind legs are positioned directly under their body. This is true for birds, for instance, but not for crocodiles.

For this reason, also, pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the time of dinosaurs and prehistoric marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, pliosaurs and plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs.

In recent years, crocodiles have appeared in our news as the culprits in attacks on humans. This shouldn’t surprise us and, in fact, they are fairly easy to avoid.

Those who’ve been attacked took unnecessary risks either through bravado or ignorance. In Australia, the warnings are clear and simple.

Crocodile

On a bank of the Annan River near Cooktown is Blackie, the five-metre male croc that is said to rule the area.

Where are crocodiles found in Australia?

You can expect they are in any watercourse or basin from Fraser Island, across the northern coastline, to Shark Bay in WA.

Don’t go in or on the water, even in small boats or skis and kayaks. Don’t develop habits such as fishing, cleaning fish or dumping fish or meat scraps in the same place regularly. Crocodiles are smart and they learn.

Crocodiles are common in Australian tropical waters and the largest grow to at least five metres. You are not going to survive a meeting with an animal that size.

How big are crocodiles?

The largest measured crocodile was Lolong, which was captured and measured at 6.17 metres. Lolong was captured in the Philippines. He was suspected of the deaths of several people in his vicinity.

There have been claims of bigger specimens, including Krys. He was shot in 1958 near Normanton in Far North Queensland and was claimed to be 8.64 metres long. The accuracy of this measurement is contested though.

There is a skull in the Paris Museum that is 76cm long. Lolong’s skull was only 70cm.

Returning to prehistoric crocodilians, the largest known was Sarcosuchus imperator which may have grown to 12 metres.

VISIT DINOSAUR COUNTRY

Feature photo: Crocodile in the Northern Territory of Australia, by Jocelyn Watts.

Top 5 ways to unwind with a reef tour

If you’re looking for a top spot to relax, far away from city crowds and office desks, the Hinchinbrook Channel near Cardwell is one of the best in Queensland.

Port of Call skipper Annette Swaine lives and breathes a boatie’s life, taking reef tours through the channel and helping people with their boating and fishing supplies.

“I’ve found my happy place,” she beamed.

I met Annette, affectionately known as ‘Swainie’, while recently visiting one of my sons, Steve, and his family in Tully where they now live and work, in paradise.  And I thought I was lucky just to visit!

When Steve suggested taking a reef tour through the Hinchinbrook Channel with Swainie, he didn’t have to twist my arm. The tour is listed on TripAdvisor as one of the best in the region. I quickly agreed.

Swainie was a terrific host, sharing lots of information throughout the four-hour trip onboard Osprey, Port of Call’s Sailfish Cat.

Here are the top 5 things I learnt about the area that day:

1. Crab fossils wash ashore at Ramsay Bay

Reef tour - woman holding fossilised crabs

Taking us ashore at Ramsay Bay, Swainie showed us crab fossils that had washed onto the beach. The species was unknown. Could they be rare Fiddler Crabs?

The Discover Port Hinchinbrook website reads:

“Fossilised crabs, including a species of Fiddler Crab (6000 years old) are found in the creeks of the Island and on the shore of Ramsay Bay.

“There are only two other places (Southern California and the Panama Canal) in the world where fossilised Fiddler Crabs have been found.”

Alas, Dr Marissa McNamara, Queensland Museum Collection Manager Crustacea, said this fossil was not a Fiddler Crab.

“It is a crab, but unfortunately the species cannot be determined from the photograph,” Dr McNamara said.

“This crab specimen is termed a subfossil. It is probably 5000 to 8000 years old, and as such represents one of the same species that we see living in the area today.

“Subfossils are often casts of crabs that have been in their burrows and gotten smothered with a heavy load of siltation from a flood.

“Generally soft-muddy bottom inshore or mangrove species are found, like mud crabs or sentinel crabs.

“Fiddler Crabs are not typically represented.

“Often fossils like this are deposited during times when the sea level was somewhat higher, and that is why they can get washed out of river banks or mangroves during cyclones or any change to the path of creek channels.

“They often turn up around the mouth of the Brisbane River, and Magnetic is another hot spot, but they can be found in many places, including Hinchinbrook Island.”

2. Hinchinbrook Channel is a nature photographer’s paradise

reef tour - sea creature

Sea creatures can be found on the beach of Ramsay Bay.

Heavy fog blanketed Cardwell as we set off about 8 am but soon we were beyond the fog and cruising across the tranquil waterway towards Hinchinbrook Island.

A few nautical miles out, eagle-eyed Swainie spotted a saltwater crocodile in an area they liked to frequent. She said crocs were regularly sighted there.

Saltwater crocodiles can be found from the tip of Cape York to as far south as Gladstone, and sometimes even further.

Queensland Department of Environment and Science records show crocodile sightings were reported at Burrum Heads and Toogoom as recently as April 2020.

Swainie said Hinchinbrook Channel was a major feeding ground for dugongs.

“Dolphins, green turtles and a wide variety of fish and crustaceans also live in the waterway,” she said.

Fishing wasn’t on our agenda but I was able to photograph garfish as they skimmed across the water’s surface. It was a photo opportunity too good to miss.

The area also supports a rich diversity of birdlife, including Torresian Imperial Pigeons, Torres Strait Pigeons (Ducula spilorrhoa) or nutmeg pigeons.

While ashore at Ramsay Bay, we were on the lookout for the vulnerable beach thick-knees (Burhinus neglectus), but we weren’t that lucky.

On Hinchinbrook Island, the tropical habitat also provides refuge for many endangered species including the giant tree frog.

3. You can get closer to nature on the Thorsborne Trail

reef tour - Hinchinbrook Channel

The Thorsborne Trail winds its way along the eastern edge of Hinchinbrook Island.

A few days earlier, Swainie had dropped off some backpackers at Ramsay Bay as they set off to hike the Thorsborne Trail (commonly known as the East Coast Trail).

The Discover Port Hinchinbrook website lists the Thorsborne Trail as one of the world’s best backpacking adventures.

“This 32km trail winds its way along the eastern edge of the magnificent island in the shadow of the rugged Mt Bowen,” it reads.

“It snakes its way through a tropical wilderness, along spectacular ocean beaches and crosses numerous crystal clear mountain streams.

“Campsites are on beautiful beaches, beside freshwater streams or near magnificent mountain stream waterfalls.”

As part of our reef tour, Swainie picked up the backpackers from George Point on the island’s southern end and ferried them back to Cardwell, all with cameras holding hundreds of photos of their adventure.

4. Charter a boat and go fishing   

reef tour - Port of Call

Fishing is a popular pastime at Cardwell and Hinchinbrook Island in North Queensland.

 Throwing a line in the water might have provided us with a dinner of fish that night, except this was an impromptu trip.

With some forward planning, things might have been different.

Swainie said North Queensland was internationally renowned as one of Australia’s tourism destinations.

“The Hinchinbrook Channel with its tranquil waters is an angler’s paradise,” she said.

“On the reef, you can fish for coral trout, mackerel, giant trevally or nannygai. Barramundi and mangrove jack can be found in the estuaries and rivers.”

5. Research history

Rugged mountains on Hinchinbrook Island

A warplane that crashed in the rugged mountains of Hinchinbrook Island in 1941 remains scattered at the site.

 If you’re into researching history, there’s no shortage of topics with which to while away the hours in the Hinchinbrook Island and Cardwell areas.

After picking up the backpackers from George Point, we headed back to Cardwell. On the way, Swainie pointed to where the wreckage of a World War II plane still lies.

A Queensland Government website that’s dedicated to World War II history reports (in part) that on 18 December 1941, a USAAF Liberator bomber known as ‘Texas Terror’ lifted off from Garbutt airbase, Townsville, for Iron Range on Cape York Peninsula but soon disappeared.

Searches were made but no trace of the plane was found until two Aborigines searching the gullies on Hinchinbrook Island for alluvial tin reported finding some burned US currency in the creeks at the base of Mount Straloch.

In early 1944, searchers found the wreckage on the southern flank of Mount Straloch. The aircraft had struck the face of the mountain some 150 to 180 metres below the summit, killing all 12 people on board.

The wreckage remains scattered over the area.

For more information on the wreckage, visit https://wanderstories.space/mt-straloch/ 

A return trip is on our bucket list

Our impromptu reef tour with Port of Call skipper Swainie gave us a preview of what we could see and do, in and around the Hinchinbrook Channel. A return trip is definitely on our bucket list.

Port of Call Boating and Fishing is located at Port Hinchinbrook, Cardwell. For more information visit https://portofcallshop.com.au/about-us/%20

Details on Hinchinbrook Island can be found at www.porthinchinbrook.com.au and https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/hinchinbrook

 

 

Attention travellers: Are you looking for a Fraser Island adventure?

IT’S NO secret that Fraser Island is one of Australia’s top tourist destinations, and as such the world’s largest sand island is well-advertised across the world for adventure.

But when 9-year-old Hayden gasped in awe of his Fraser Island adventure, you could be sure it came with a child-like honesty and conviction.

Fraser Island adventure simply the best, says Hayden

“This is the best trip ever!” Hayden exclaimed after just one night at Eurolie on Fraser Island, a place also known as K’gari by the traditional owners.

Now, you might think Hayden’s experience with holidays might be limited since he’s nine years of age, but my second grandson has been around a ridge or three.

He’s slept under the stars at Charleville, Goondiwindi, Gympie, Noosa, Airlie Beach, plus a few other places, courtesy of his mum and dad’s “Taj Mahal” of camper trailers.

But sleeping in the games room of a two-story house next to his big brother and with a pool table, a stack of games and bathroom, all within easy reach, was simply the best.

After walking up the internal stairs that lead to a spacious lounge room with another television and more games, plus three bedrooms and another two bathrooms, we had one excited lad.

Then there was the breakfast table, dining table, huge open-plan kitchen with a walk-in pantry and fridge that we’d stocked with goodies, and a large island bench with four bar stools.

Looking through the wall-to-wall windows, we could see across a timber deck to a forest with trees that teased us with branches gently swaying enough to reveal glimpses of the ocean beyond.

 

Fraser Island Kookaburra

A kookaburra visits Eurolie on High a Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia.

Discovering wildlife so close

Kookaburras sat in the deck’s timber railings, so close we could almost pat them if we dared. Not us, though – we valued our fingers!

From the deck, we also spotted the occasional goanna foraging for food in the forest’s undergrowth and heard possums in the treetops at night.

Eurolie on High is nestled amongst tall red gum and paperbark trees, towards the top of Kingfisher Heights, just a few kilometres behind Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The home has an air-conditioner but with cool sea breezes and living areas that are cool in summer and warm in winter, there’s little need for its use.

Our accommodation, the holiday home of Kevin and Sandra Alexander, was our base for a week of adventure on Fraser Island.

Hayden travelled there with his dad, mum and three siblings, who were just as excited as he but not as vocal.

Adventure to remember

A barge carried their Toyota Prado from Inskip Point to the eastern side of the island where they drove along 75 Mile Beach to Eurong Beach Resort, and then across the island to Kingfisher Bay Resort.

A friend and I also came by a barge that took us from Riverheads to the jetty near Kingfisher Bay Resort.

Over the next few days, we visited iconic places including Lake McKenzie, which is famous pure white silica sand and crystal clear waters.

We also went to Eli Creek, where about four million litres of clear freshwater are pumped into the ocean every hour, and the famous Maheno Shipwreck just north of Happy Valley on 75 Mile Beach.

The kids were even lucky enough to spot some wild dingoes, from the safety of the Prado, wandering along 75 Mile Beach.

Our week was short but wonderfully eventful and one to be remembered for a long time to come.

  • Jocelyn and family were guests of Eurolie on High owners Kevin and Sandra Alexander.
Fraser Island - Eurolie on High

Eurolie on High, Kingfisher Bay Resort, K’Gari (Fraser Island), Queensland

Why hold world-class white water rafting championships at Tully?

Watching all the adrenalin pumping action on the first day of the 2018 Pre-World White Water Rafting Championship on 11 May was certainly a highlight of my five-week house-sitting stint in Tully.

Before visiting Tully, I knew the town of 2390 people and located 140 kilometres south of Cairns in North Queensland was reputed to be the wettest town in Australia.

It has an average annual rainfall of more than 4000 millimetres. The highest ever annual rainfall in a populated area of Australia, 7900 millimetres, was recorded in Tully in 1950.

The Golden Gumboot monument stands as a testament to these records.

At 7.9 metres tall, the boot represents the town’s record 1950 rainfall. An inside spiral staircase takes you to the top for a view of the town. Tully also holds an annual Golden Gumboot Festival.

Australia’s best white water rafting river?

What I didn’t know was the nearby Tully River is arguably the best rafting river in Australia.

It’s no wonder Tully was chosen to host this year’s national rafting championship in May, which was a build-up event to the International Rafting Federation’s (IRF) 2019 World Rafting Championship (WRC).

On 11 May I was lucky enough to find a terrific spectator viewing spot to watch the first day of action when some of the world’s best rafters competed in the sprint and head-to-head disciplines.

In just a few hours I learnt a lot about the sport and watched in awe as rafters navigated their way through the Tully River’s rapids, fringed by world heritage tropical rainforest.

However, you don’t have to be the best in the world to experience the thrill of white water rafting on the Tully River throughout the year.

Thrill-seekers of all levels, even beginners, can book half or full-day tours through www.wildsideadventures.com.au or www.ragingthunder.com.au.

Below are some photos from the first day of the 2018 Pre-World White Water Rafting Championship at Tully.

white water rafting

 

Remembering Olivetti

Captain James Cook was swiftly demoted to second rank in my eyes when I discovered a long-lost love, Olivetti, at the Agnes Water Museum.

Despite Captain Cook’s notable achievements in charting Newfoundland and leading discovery expeditions to Australia, New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands, I could only think of Olivetti.

My heart skipped a beat as we met for the first time since my high school days when we spent endless hours blissfully crafting words together.

Many years have passed since then yet I remember reciting “a-s-d-f-;-l-k-j” as if it were yesterday. I fondly recall Olivetti patiently forgiving my mishaps and supporting my goals.

Blinded by a horizontal cardboard bib that made it possible to bond with Olivetti only through touch, we forged a friendship that started a life-long love affair with words.

The memories came flooding back as I spotted my old typewriter sitting on a timber bench at the Agnes Water Museum. It was as though we’d never parted.  In some ways, we haven’t.

Only now do I realise the influence Olivetti has had on my life.  Every day, in some way, I continue to use the skill I learnt in typing classes so many years ago.

While Olivetti’s family has undergone major changes and computers, tablets and smartphones have replaced the old typewriters, my touch typing skill has thrived. Thank you, Olivetti.

Olivetti typewriters and so much more

Aside from the typewriters that piqued my interest, there are many more displays at the Agnes Water Museum to interest people of all ages.

There are informative displays on Captain James Cook’s voyages as well as the origins of the names of Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water and other towns that make up the Discovery Coast.

Forming other displays are specimens collected by Joseph Banks and his party on the Endeavour voyage, maritime information of the shire’s coastline and shipwrecks, history on the Bustard Head Lighthouse and Aboriginal artefacts. Collections also include shells, minerals, fossils, prams and bottles.

The museum is located at 69 Springs Road, Agnes Water Queensland 4677, adjacent to the Library, Visitor Information Centre and Community Centre complex.

For 10 things to do in Agnes Water and Town of 1770 visit my blog post on 10 things to do. Visit the website for more information.

 

Pure Spirit of adventure on the waves

For a landlubber more used to hoofing it across cow paddocks than sailing, when ‘Captain Awesome’ spoke of jibing, I thought he was into dancing.

You know, jiving! That’s the international ballroom dance style that originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1930s and was popular throughout the 1940s.

I must get my hearing checked because I soon discovered the word had a ‘b’ in the middle, not a ‘v’, and it meant putting the stern of a boat through the eye of the wind.

So on Sunday 18 June 2017, instead of sashaying across a dance floor, I was shimmying across the waves aboard Captain Awesome’s catamaran with two parallel hulls as shoes.

Pure Spirit speed is not enough

The skipper’s 11-meter hand-built cat, Pure Spirit, was one of seven vessels to participate in the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail for June.

Being ballast-free and therefore lighter than monohulls, Pure Spirit was the fastest vessel on the day and scored the largest handicap, starting about 40 minutes after the first boat began.

It wasn’t long before we’d overtaken Endeavour but the other boats proved more elusive.

Nearing the finish line, it was all hands on deck (except mine as I was in charge of the camera) to trim a few precious minutes off our sail time.

Alas, the first position wasn’t to be this month, as announced at the post-sail presentation on the clubhouse deck as food and stories were shared.

Join the club’s  Sunday Fun Sails

The opportunity to join the club’s monthly Sunday Fun Sail is open to anyone with $10 in their pocket, even landlubbers like me who don’t know the difference between tacking and jibing. That is if space is available on any of the boats on the day.

You might be called upon to steer, trim or practice manoeuvres under the watchful eyes of seasoned sailors or you might simply enjoy a day out on the water as an onboard spectator.

It’s all part of the fun of learning about sailing while getting up close and personal with one of Australia’s most beautiful regions.

The experience might even inspire you to put aside some dollars and one day join the event or club as a boat owner.

Find out more about sailing

For more details on the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail, phone (07) 4055 7711 or email reception@ykbc.com.au.

Yorkeys Knob Boating Club is located at Yorkeys Knob, 18km northwest of Cairns and 42km southeast of Port Douglas.

 

Discovery Festival: Rock Around The Croc

When the 2017 Discovery Festival at Cooktown kicked off, even the wildlife put on a stunning show to welcome the deluge of visitors.

Spotted on a bank of the Annan River just south of the town in Far North Queensland was Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that rules the area.

The last time I visited Cooktown, locals said I’d catch of glimpse of Blackie but he was nowhere to be seen.

He didn’t even offer a few bubbles of water to suggest his snout was just below the surface.

This week, however, he was there in full view where I could see him from the safety of a high bank on the opposite side of the river.

Crocodile on a river bank

On a bank of the Annan River near Cooktown is Blackie, the five-metre male croc that is said to rule the area.

Organisers of this year’s festival also went above the average watermark with a full weekend of festivities in celebration of Captain James Cook’s landing in 1770.

Located at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown is where James Cook beached his ship for repairs after sustaining serious damage on a nearby coral reef.

In 1873, the town was settled as a supply port for the goldfields along the Palmer River. It was known as Cook’s Town until 1874.

Located about 330 kilometres north of Cairns, Cooktown today has a population of about 2500. Numbers swell radically every June for the annual festival.

Discovery Festival caters for all ages

The 2017 program was jam-packed with activities and events for all ages starting with a Mayor’s Maroon Community Ball on Friday night. The 1RAR Army Band provided the music and again entertained crowds in Anzac Park on Saturday.

Fire dancers, fireworks, buskers, paintball, markets, street parade, helicopter flights, harbour cruises, dancing, workshops, competitions, tours and a wet t-shirt competition were just some of the other highlights.

The festival culminated on Sunday with a costumed re-enactment of James Cook’s historic landing in Bicentennial Park where still in place is the rock to which His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour was tied in 1770.

A huge crowd gathered to watch the impressive show that preceded a ceremonial firing of a full-size cannon by a lucky spectator who won the opportunity in a ticket draw.

To discover more about the town’s festival, visit  http://www.cook.qld.gov.au/community/events/cooktown-discovery-festival

Cooktown Discovery Festival 2017

Cooktown Discovery Festival 2017