Sand tobogganing down Moreton Island's dune

BY JESSICA MARSZALEK
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2009

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There's something terrifying yet exhilarating about screaming down a 90-metre mountain at 60kph with your nose five centimetres away from the ground.

The wind whips through your hair as you hurtle towards certain doom but sand tobogganing down some of the world's tallest stabilised sand dunes on Moreton Island is thrillingly fun stuff.

Sand tobogganing sees participants lie, sit or stand on specially-made sand boards before sliding themselves down a sheer drop.

As the 10 of us trekked up Big Sandhills – imaginatively named for the massive sand hills – it seemed as though we were taking one step forward and two steps back.

Our view stretched out to a beautifully blue bay – and heartbreakingly so far up.

But despite the gruelling climb that caused our muscles to ache for days, it was impossible not to continue to climb up two, three, four, or, as one man did, 14 times to relive the rush.

Moreton Island is the world's third largest sand island and, just a 75-minute boat ride from Brisbane, it's a great place to pack some adventure into your weekend.

And as a born-and-bred Brisbane girl, I was ashamed to admit I'd never visited the place as I climbed aboard our tour's 4WD.

I was joined by four Swiss and three Korean tourists as keen as I was to explore the massive sandy playground.

Moreton Bay Escapes and Bushwacker Ecotours do day and overnight tours to Moreton Island where a guide with local knowledge can show you the best sights, picnic spots, swimming holes and the highest sand tobogganing hills.

There is an established camp site, complete with a kitchen and camp fire so you needn't worry about wrestling with a tent, or dragging eskies and camping supplies across on the barge.

It's also perfect for those without access to a 4WD.

It may seem a weird way for locals to travel, with such tours normally associated with international backpackers, but it's a novel experience to see your own city through the eyes of a tourist.

Our first stop was the island's iconic lighthouse where our guide, Haydn, pointed out turtles swimming in the shallows and told us the heartbreaking story of the old lighthouse master, Thomas Griffin.

After two of his children died only days old, his wife Mary Ann died in childbirth delivering their son.

But he died at age eight after being kicked by a horse and, tormented by his grief, Thomas left the island.

Mary Ann now lies buried at the base of the lighthouse after her remains were found at a Queensland museum, mistaken for Aboriginal bones.

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After trekking back down the hill we found an isolated picnic spot where the tour's three Aussies gave a crash course in beach cricket to our international friends whose over-arm bowling attempts provided much amusement.

A nearby fresh waterhole was a perfect place to cool down before heading back to camp.

But as we drove, there was something about the way the beach seemed to be shifting that attracted our attention.

Tens of thousands of soldier crabs in regimented little armies scurried across the sands – and our feet – before disappearing in downward tunnels.

We saw more on our way to the island's famous ship wrecks – a popular spot for snorkelers.

Fifteen vessels sit around 100m off the coast, deliberately sunk 40 years ago to provide a safe haven for fishing ships.

Depths between two to 10 metres provide good visibility and a chance to dive down for a closer look at the man-made caverns below that teem with marine life.

Our group took rice to feed the schools of tropical fish, one of which apparently mistook my forehead for a tasty treat, delivering a swift little peck.

Later we ate out own dinner after a beach sunset while the boys got in a few more rounds of beach cricket.

Adjourning to the camp fire with a couple of beers our guide looked to impress the international travellers with his didgeridoo-playing.

That was until one of the Swiss guys had a go – surprising all with an authentic indigenous sound, complete with circular breathing.

We left the tour the next day with new friends, funny stories and our minds made up to return soon.

IF YOU GO

Moreton Bay Escapes and Bushwacker Ecotours organise day and overnight trips to Moreton Island. Day tours start at $A149 and overnight tours start at $A239 for students. Tours include transport from Brisbane or Surfers Paradise, accommodation and all meals. Visit moretonbayescapes.com.au.

For more information on Moreton Island, visit experiencebrisbane.com.au.

- AAP

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