Hervey Bay is the main jump-off point to get to Fraser Island. With it’s white sand beaches, rainforest, crystal clear lakes and off road driving and boozy camping, Fraser is one of the main destinations on everybody’s east coast route.

However we went against the grain, and after a lot of debate decided we were not going to fork out nearly $200 on a day tour. Call us spoilt but we’ve seen a lot of idyllic beaches and rainforests already, with more to come in Asia (not forgetting our trip to the biggest rainforest in the world…) with so many ties to Australia we will not doubt have the chance to do it properly another time.

Besides, it is whale watching season and Hervey Bay is the place to be to see migrating humpback whales!

Whale watching

The friendly owner of “The Friendly Hostel” recommended a boat trip for us – half the price of others as the owner had just recently bought the business. ‘Shayla’ the catamaran, only takes about 30 passengers and we felt pretty smug when sailing past the huge three-tier tourist boats packed with people.

Stefan actually did most of the sailing in the morning!

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Keeping an eye out for whale “footprints” (patches of ocean that suddenly go completely smooth and indicate a tail flap below) and an hour out to sea we had our first sighting. Apparently the whales are inquisitive creatures and we were encouraged to wave bright colours and shout as loud as we could to bring them closer…. We didn’t spot another boat doing the same all day, but despite looking like idiots it seemed to work. It wasn’t long before we had whales poking their heads out of the water right next to the boat to take a closer look at what all the commotion was about.

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The whole day was fantastic, with whales swimming under the catamaran to give us a feel for their huge 40 foot length; plenty of flipping tails and we even saw some dolphins swimming alongside another pair of humpbacks. We were a bit sad that we didn’t see a whale breach the water but just seeing these creatures up close was pretty special.

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The motor turned off and the sails up, we slowly cruised back into the bay under the red sunset.

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Face to face with a Great White

With Fraser Island definitely off the itinerary we borrowed some bikes from the hostel and went off for a day’s cycling.

We were somewhat distracted by this place:

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And were spellbound! This is both the best and weirdest museum we’ve been to yet, even better than the Coca Museum in Cusco with its junkie installation and shrine to Whitney Houston.

Vic Hislop is a self-titled “giant shark hunter” and this is basically his shed, papered with newspaper cuttings of shark attacks from the last 40 years. Amongst the yellowing papers are shark teeth, shark jaws, shark leather, shark blood, things that have been pulled out of sharks, things that have been bitten by sharks, photographs of bodies mutilated by sharks, giant 250 year old turtles that have been found and the crowning glory: a frozen 18ft great white.

Which is looking slightly rotten after being carted around the country in Vic’s Mobile Shark Show for the last 30 Years.

Add to this some truly bonkers home made videos of Vic wrestling huge great whites into tin boats and pulling human remains from shark’s stomachs, peppered with some fantastic eighties graphics and words that bounce around the screen *on fire* and before I knew it I’d watched the full 50 minutes and was sticking around for more.

Luckily for me there was also his latest hit: “Why Whales Beach Themselves”…. You guessed it: because of sharks.

Vic was also the guy commissioned by Damien Hirst to catch and ship the sharks used in his works.

And to think we would have missed this amazing (mad) place if we had gone to Fraser….!