We got caught up in the tourist trek along the Queensland coast and without knowing too much about it we booked our trip to check out the buzz of the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island. It is the only known place where the rainforest grows on sand.
We booked a 4 WD tour on a mini bus driven by a guide instead of a drive it yourself tour commonly catering to backpackers, and headed out from Hervey Bay to the island.
Our guide was cheerful and friendly and our itinerary for the day was filled with must-hit tourist spots. We stopped first at Lake Mackenzie. Our guide rushed us here to try to beat the crowds and we were the first tour group to arrive. The colors of the water were stunning and it was so clear! We took a short walk on the beach, taking it in and taking pictures. By the time we turned back, the beach had become very crowded with other tourists, which I found to detract from the awe and charm we initially experienced.
Another highlight was our stop at Eli Creek, which I was really excited about as I had been looking at pictures of this beautiful creek for years. Admittedly this photograph, like the ones I see in tourist websites, is very deceptive. It took a bit of time, luck, and effort to capture this segment empty as there many tourists here (not pictured, a large group of people cropped out of this frame. I caught a lucky break to capture the illusion this place isn’t run over by people!
We saw wild dingo’s on the beach and in the rainforest.
We stopped at the Maheno Shipwreck which I personally found underwhelming. We checked out some colored sands, and took a walk through the rainforest (highlight) and visited some aboriginal scared sites. A buffet lunch was included as part of our tour.
Personally, I found a fair part of our tour to be really uncomfortable. Some of the sites on our itinerary were actually aboriginal sacred sites reserved for a specific gender (i.e. male/female only areas). Our tour bus had both male and females present. When we arrived at the sacred sites that were gender specific, we were instructed to get out to take pictures.
My first grievance is that there was no option on these tours opt-out of going to these gender specific sacred places out of respect for the local Aboriginal Culture. I was uncomfortable going to a men’s-only site as a female. My partner was uncomfortable going to a female-only sacred site as a male.
My second grievance is I had learned while touring the Outback that many aboriginals believe that if you take a picture of something you steal part of its soul. While I don’t know the verbal traditions of the aboriginal population on Fraser Island, I know that other tribe’s stories portray the land itself having a soul. Bearing this in mind, it is my view that it was insult to injury to be an area forbidden to my gender taking pictures of it.
I feel that this should be disclosed as it is definitely not on your travel brochure. It is very likely if you decide to take a tour on the island you will be in the same situation. I conclude this because when comparing tour providers, I noticed there isn’t much variation with regards to stops advertised. I realize many people won’t be bothered in the least by this situation, and will stop on the island. I view that as a personal choice. For those who may feel uncomfortable, now you know, and have the tools to make an informed decision about visiting the island. Who knows, maybe even some change within options provided to tourist will come as a result of this?
Overall, my appreciation for the island’s beauty did not overshadow how uncomfortable the sacred site situation made me. I know the island is a highlight for many tourist, but for myself, it simply wasn’t. There are many things to do while you’re on the Queensland coast but knowing what I know now, I’d personally skip Fraser Island.