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Friday, December 2, 2016

Australia: Mangrove Misadventures, Fraser Island

Wayne and Eve mull our trail options at Fraser Island's mangrove edge.  The largest sand island in the world, Fraser's
a Unesco World Heritage site.  Queensland Australia.  
We’d heard Kingfisher Lodge offered the most to do of all the anchorages on Fraser Island.  The day before, I blitzed Fraser Island on a guided tour, while my better half, Wayne, and our solo-sailor friend Eve of Auntie had yet to set foot on Fraser.  We headed toward shore on our dinghy to check it out.

Fine looking goanna seen on our hike at
Kingfisher Lodge, Fraser Island.
The previous day, Chris and Chris of Scintilla and I found ourselves first dragging their dinghy for quite a ways up to get past the high tide line before heading out for the full-day Fraser island tour.  When we returned. the low tide required dragging their dinghy an even longer ways back, plus a long wade and rowing a bit before the water was deep enough to drop the outboard motor to propel us back to our boats. 

That prompted Wayne to try a different strategy for to deal with the big tidal swings and Fraser’s exceedingly shallow shelf to shore and securing our dinghy while we explored ashore.  Wayne tied our dinghy to a post on Kingfisher Lodge’s long pier near the waterline.  The theory was we wouldn’t find ourselves having to make a long drag back to the water when we returned.

Overlooking the anchorage area and beyond from a viewpoint off a Kingfisher Lodge trail, Fraser Island, Queensland Australia.
We wandered into the elegant Kingfisher Lodge reception area, its open high ceiling architecture reminiscent of a train station or airport terminal entry. A free ranger-led bush tucker tour that Wayne and Eve were going to check out met there. (I was busy with another commitment.)

 Turns out the tucker tour was more of a lecture, and never went past the Lodge parking lot.  There was a $20 tucker tasting that Eve and Wayne figured would be more worthwhile – for me, as I didn’t shy away from taking a bite of a Bardi grub.  Eve and Wayne were less adventurous eaters.

After the bush tucker tour, we decided to check out the nearby trails.  We weren’t up for tackling the 11 km trail – each way -- to Lake McKenzie.  It was already mid-afternoon and the trails were loose sand and I wasn’t sure if they overlapped with the tour busses and definitely didn’t want to compete for space or get dusted by them. 
Between the gum trees (eucalypts), shrubs and mangroves formed an intricate and dense tapestry of greens.  Hiking ,Fraser Island.
Instead, we took a loop trail that led to an overlook, then down past the mangroves and back along the shoreline.  The clear afternoon made for not only a nice view of our anchorage, but also of the islands we passed on our way in to Fraser. 

Once we got down to the mangroves at the water’s edge, there clear trail gave way to a narrow sandy bit, with a cliff on one side, and the water on the other.  Our choices were to


  1. hug the shoreline, wading when needed, until we found our way back to the beach, failing that to
  2. scale the cliff until we could either drop back down to the beach or reconnect with the trail we took down to the mangroves, or
  3. retrace our steps, back up the hill and to Kingfisher Lodge and back to the beach



Naturally sculpted driftwood on Fraser Island's shoreline, between the mangroves and Kingfisher Lodge pier.
We opted for #1, to try the path forward, hugging the shoreline.

Eventually, we made it.  

If you visit Fraser and decide to hike the same trail we did, consider the shoreline portion as a LOW TIDE OPTION ONLY!  We puzzled over why the trail wasn’t labeled as such on Kingfisher’s info.

Then, to our dismay, the pier the dinghy was tied to was now in at least waist deep water.

We again considered our options….  We could
  1. Wait until the tide dropped
  2. One of us could swim out to the dinghy and bring it back to a wade-able point for the other two
  3. Find someone to give us a ride out to the dinghy 

Then Eve offered up a fourth option, to scale down the pole our dinghy was tied to from the pier above it.  We decided if she was game, we’d take her up on it.  It wasn’t easy, but she pulled it off!

Eve, beginning her decent to our dinghy, tied off a ways down, below Kingfisher Lodge's pier.  Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia.
Still a way more to forEve to rappel down.... Wayne offers encouragement.
Eve makes it!  



  































Given how high the tide was, the timing was perfect for a dinghy ride up the inlet into the mangrove.  We trailed a ranger-led group kayakers headed into the mangroves before us.  We knew we wouldn’t run aground before the kayakers reversed course. The waters weren’t as clear as other mangroves I’ve explored by kayak, but we were all still enthralled by its mysterious beauty.

Eve ducking as we wove our way through Fraser Island's mangroves at high tide, near Kingfisher Lodge.
We ducked and twisted our way upstream, eventually hanging a u-turn as the kayakers began their trek back.  Near the exit, a hop—hop-hop ZING bee-lined the waters right in front of us, startling us into momentary silence.“That’s classic predator and prey in action,” Wayne laconically observed.


Wayne, laughing as he holds onto the mangrove branches we're trying to avoid getting thwacked by in our dinghy tour.
Feeling satisfied we’d had a full Fraser Island afternoon, we returned to our respective boats, to rest up for whatever the next day had to offer.

PS Afterward, we spotted a lower dock at the end Kingfisher's pier with an area that looked like it wouldn't be in the way of the ferry that brings visitors to Fraser from the mainland.  After dodging several fishing lines, we tied off there.  Our dinghy was moved but safely re-tied while we were ashore; we're guessing it got in the way of a catch.  Still beat rappelling, or swimming to the dinghy, or dragging it a half-mile to get to outboard-able waters.

Location Location
We toured Fraser Island (S25.22.852 E153.01820, near Kingfisher Lodge), November 19-24, 2016.  We are currently anchored off Brisbane's area's Peel Island, Horseshoe anchorage (S27.30.265 E153.21.640).  There is still one more post from Fraser Island coming (and eventually a short video clip) as well as a few final catch-up posts from New Caledonia.

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our November 2016 sail from New Caledonia to Australia, 790 miles
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.

Up Next
Our next stop is Gold Coast, Southern Queensland. From there it's about a 350 mile, multi-day passage to Pittwater, near Sydney.  Our goal is to be aboard our boat in Sydney Harbor, taking in the New Year's Eve festivities.