SQUARE WOMBAT POO AND THE LEGENDARY “DROP BEARS” OF FRASER ISLAND
Why wombat poo hits the ground in squares – not rounded or elongated pellets, for example – was one of the many marvels of the natural kingdom revealed to me yesterday on an instructive, and entertaining, eco-tour of Fraser Island.
The details were imparted by Peter Meyer (pictured), the island’s resident photographer, who sets his camera gear aside for a couple of a days a week to take guests on the “Beauty Spots” Coach tour of Fraser Island from the Kingfisher Bay Resort.
…..I mean squares – as in, straight lines, sharp corners and all. Who would have thought right? (it’s all to do with a digestive system that includes gristle apparently).
Anyway, l’ve just returned from an all-day tour of the largest and oldest sand island in the world, during which about 60 of us were bundled onto a blue, custom-made, four wheel drive bus and taken off to see the island’s highlights. Stop-offs included 75 Mile Beach, the shipwreck of the S.S Maheno, an ancient forest and the jewel of the island, Lake McKenzie, fringed by the whitest, finest sand you’ll ever see.
“Fresh meat” is what he called them,” was Pete’s reference to a legendary Fraser Island tour guide who greeted naive international visitors who arrived by ferry to Fraser Island in search of a true Australian adventure. “Funny guy,” said Peter. “He used to run through his group in the middle of a tour with his hands in the air screaming, and dragging a rubber snake through the sand behind him, attached to his ankle with a piece of fishing line.”
“And he had this story he’d tell about Drop Bears” *
“You’ve heard of them right?” Fierce and cunning. They looked like giant, deadly Koalas, “ he’d tell his captivated young audiences. “They’d sit in trees and wait until you walked underneath, then pounce and maul you to death. The only way to protect yourself was by getting out of the coach and putting a clenched fist on-top of your head with one finger sticking upward because they’re scared of impaling themselves on sharp objects.”
And he’d delight telling the story to people he met afterwards: “They’d always be at least a couple of ‘em getting off the coach looking up into the trees with their hand on their head and their finger pointing skyward.”
* Author’s note (as the bus was heaving and rolling along the sand while Peter was telling the story, I wasn’t taking notes and I was laughing too much, so you’ll excuse the literary license).
Photography Stuff: If you want to come back from Fraser Island with anything more than a snap, you’re best to come in your own vehicle, having done some serious planning. Peter’s Gallery and Google is the best place to start for reference of the best of what there is to shoot if you’re a nature photographer. While the bus tour is good for an introduction and a recce, your first 30 seconds on the ground will make it pretty clear that light, knowledge and access are the most important aspects of capturing something special, and that you simply need to be at the spot you want to shoot when it’s working (SS Maheno wreck at dawn, rainforests when it’s overcast, Lake McKenzie on a clear day around 2pm, and the Resort, late afternoon ‘cause its in shadow in the morning). And you’d be wise to choose the time of year carefully – not just because of the weather, but because of the crowds. Even during this wretched pandemic, I was amazed at the constant flow of four-wheel drives along 75 Mile Beach and the numbers of cars huddled around the popular sites looking to “get away from it all.”
Best Tip: Do Peter’s tour if you’re looking for a knowledgeable and entertaining introduction to Fraser Island.
Second Best Tip: The Resort’s East Indian Vegetable pakoras with fruit chutney and siracha mayo, with a chilled Corona. Sublime.