Self-confessed greenie Samantha Solomon travels on her first ecotourism adventure to the beautiful Kingfisher Bay Resort on precious Fraser Island to see how eco-friendly, while essential, can also be laid-back. Samantha’s story was published in Profile Magazine (13 Feb 2012)
It is said that people will only protect what they understand and understand what they take the time to experience. With the boom of the environmentally-friendly trend, the ecotourism bandwagon has taken off and everyone is scrambling to get on. But this isn’t simply a hot-this-minute trend, gone-tomorrow along with acid wash jeans and roller blades. Ecotourism has been around for decades, which is exactly the way it is supposed to be.
Our lovely state offers any number of destinations to the eco traveller, but none is more alluring than the iconic K’gari (meaning paradise), better known as Fraser Island.
Kingfisher Bay Resort, on the western side of Fraser, is a beautiful merging of comfortable elegance and sustainability. As my [then] partner Will and I would discover on our first trip to Fraser, the combination of education, adventure and tropical paradise makes it impossible for anyone who visits not to instantly want to protect this truly unique island.
As we drove the three hours up the coastline, I wondered what was in store for us. Having never been on an eco holiday, my mind conjured up images of a non-air-conditioned hotel room, a muddy, chemical-free pool, and rough recycled toilet paper … ah! However, as we walked up to the check-in desk for the ferry at River Heads, my fears were quelled slightly. Check-in was a cinch as the resort conveniently has its own desk at the boat harbour for its own ferry. Our bags were whisked away with the promise that they would be delivered directly to our room, and we grabbed a cup of coffee and looked out over the Mary River as we waited to board the ferry.
The 50-minute ride over the azure Great Sandy Straits gave us spectacular views of the western coast of Fraser, with sights of sparkling white beaches, dense jungle and freshwater creeks flowing into the ocean. Docking at the jetty, we were greeted by a little train to take us up to the main resort. Travelling through paved streets, we caught glimpses of saltwater pools and private villas through the thick bush of eucalyptus trees and bushland. As we stopped at an elegant archway of dark wood that was the main entrance to the resort, We jumped out using our speed walking skills, determined not to be last in a long line of guests waiting to check in
Sidling up to the desk, smugly first, we were directed down the stairs to a group of comfortable leather seats where trays of cold tangerine and pink fruit juices were waiting. The resort had planned for people like us. As we sat enjoying our cold drinks, we were greeted by Ranger Kat who had our keys ready and waiting, avoiding any sort of line … genius.
It was here we experienced the full impact of the resort. Dark woods, blue metals and glass were intricately worked together forming the walls and ceiling that gave the illusion we were neither inside nor out. Lush creepers climbed their way along beams, leading the eye to the outside where expansive decks were greeted by beautiful flora and a turquoise pool beyond.
I learned from my trip that good sustainability is all in the subtleties, and Kingfisher Bay Resort is a beautiful example of this. As we walked to our room in the Boomanjin Wing, named after the island’s largest perched lake, I was again amazed at how seamlessly the outdoors flowed indoors. Our hallway was completely open, with birds swooping in and out and leafy palms growing up beside hotel room doors. The rooms are stacked in little clusters among the vegetation in a way that made me think of tree houses. A theme of green, burgundy and gold reflected the flora and fauna around the resort, and the curved tin roof over our veranda mirrored the rolling sand dunes of the island.
Our room looked out over a black tea tree lake with the sparkling straight beyond. With air-conditioner, a collection of ‘green’ products in the bathroom and our luggage arriving just a few minutes later, I had completely lost any prejudices I had about holidaying eco-style.
The resort is built to strict environmental guidelines, but you would never know this as it offers all the amenities of a modern resort, boasting four pools, three restaurants, two cafes, two bars, private villas and a natural therapies salon. Most of the materials used to build the resort were harvested from the island itself, utilising wood left over from the island’s logging days (it is now completely illegal to cut down any sort of vegetation, or take anything off the island, for that matter).
Vegetation used for landscaping was removed from the resort’s location during construction and then replaced, and even the jetty we arrived at was built from mixed eucalypt piles with satinay tree planks and beams. The resort recycles everything and an onsite worm farm turns sewage sludge, waste paper and kitchen preparation scraps into compost for a herb garden, which supplies the resort’s kitchens.
Now that the guilty greenie inside of me was satisfied, it was on to the good stuff. A quick lunch at Maheno, one of the two restaurants in the Centre Complex, renowned for its all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, and a dip in the calm Great Sandy Strait waters of the resort beach and we were ready for dinner.
The Seabelle Restaurant is home to the resort’s finest dining and offers a beautiful array of local fare, artfully combined with bush foods found on the island. The restaurant offers a fabulous bush tucker tasting as an introduction to some of the treats on the island. We were wary at first, but should have known this would be bush tucker with elegance. A knowledgeable guide took us through a delightful tasting of fruits, leaves, nuts and flowers while one of Seabelle’s chefs prepared combinations used on the restaurant menu. It was all delectable and thoroughly whet our appetites for dinner.
Naturally, dinner was exceptional – we were certainly overwhelmed by the innovative and somewhat ‘green’ options available. Yum! We ended the day as everyone should, with a sweet treat of bush tucker!
Dessert was another adventure into sophisticated bush tucker, with a macadamia nut and chocolate tart with mascarpone and a raspberry reduction, and a wattle seed and chocolate parfait – both the perfect cap to our meal.
The next morning we had an early start for the resort’s most popular activity, the all-day beauty spots tour. It is truly the best and easiest way to see the highlights of Fraser. The fully-equipped 4WD buses come with experienced drivers who double as knowledgeable tour guides able to answer any question you may have – from flora to fauna to the history of the island.
The morning included a trip to the Stonetool Sandblow, a dip in the crystal clear Eli Creek with an option to take a short flight to see some of the island’s more secluded sights, a stop at the famous Maheno shipwreck and a view of the mystical painted sands. Lunch was a fresh buffet at Kingfisher’s sister accommodation, Eurong Beach Resort.
Onto the second part of the trip and we headed out to Central Station. Once the base for the booming logging industry on the island, it is now a beautiful rainforest walk through a thick palm forest overlooking one of the many freshwater creeks, which is fed from the island’s massive freshwater store deep in the sand.
Now for the highlight of the trip, the beautiful Lake McKenzie with its deep sapphire waters fading to cerulean, lapping gently against a beach of soft white sand so fine it feels like liquid running through your fingers. The lake is a beautiful retreat in itself and was a prized resource to the Aboriginal people who once lived on the island. Being a perched lake, rainwater has filled it over thousands of years. Swimming in the lake gives you the softest skin and hair, and on top of that, the super fine sand works as the perfect exfoliant for your skin and cleans your teeth and jewellery. What could be greener? I am thoroughly convinced that I came back from that tour looking better than when I left.
With so many more things to do at the resort, like ranger-guided walks, canoe paddless, fishing clinics and guided trips, private 4WD tours, and whale watching in the winter months, it definitely begs for more than a weekend away. A weekend was all I needed though, to fall in love with this precious slice of paradise … and now I too desperately want to protect it.
Profile Magazine – http://www.profilemag.com.au/cms/news/news.aspx?id=807&fid=136