MY BLUE HEAVEN
Moreton Island’s family resort Tangalooma offers a treasure trove of activities in a pristine aquatic wonderland
A funny thing happened on the way to Tangalooma … as a matter of fact, several funny things happened, which was to be expected considering we were sharing a small vessel with stand-up comics who were due to perform at the inaugural Tangalooma Laughs comedy event that night.
Comedians Greg Fleet, Chris Wainhouse, Mike Goldstein, Mike Goldman and Rob Brown deliver a running commentary on the fictitious history of every factory, cement plant, shipping yard and industrial area as we make our way from Pinkenba toward the mouth of the Brisbane River and into the azure waters of Moreton Bay, which makes the 75-minute journey to our destination breeze by.
As we disembark at Tangalooma just after sunset, we catch a quick glimpse of the wild dolphins being fed just off the jetty and as tempting as it is to stick around and watch, we have to get to our rooms.
Moreton is the world’s third-largest sand island and is about 44km long and 13km wide, with Tangalooma Island Resort and premises stretching about 2km in length. The resort opened in 1963 and in 1980 was purchased by Brian and Betty Osborne, who along with sons Jeff and Glenn still operate it today. In stark contrast to its inauspicious beginnings as a whaling station in the 1950s, Moreton Island is now a popular whale-watching destination.
The 302-room Tangalooma Island Resort has a range of accommodation options, from hotel rooms and resort units to family suites, beachfront villas, holiday houses and luxury apartments. Our accommodation is a luxury hotel room on the fourth floor at Kookaburra Lodge, 50m from the beach and a short stroll from the main resort. Although we’re assured the view is spectacular, we can’t see much from the balcony except the faint glow of Brisbane in the distance. Our room is fairly spacious and well-equipped, with a comfortable king-size bed ensemble, television and DVD player, bar fridge, airconditioning, kettle and tea and coffee amenities, and a small deck with table and chairs.
We have a quick shower before heading out to dinner and the night’s comedy, and it’s clear from the moment the tap is turned on that the words “water restrictions” have never meant much on Moreton Island. The resort’s supply comes from an artesian bore and as such I hadn’t experienced water pressure this strong since the early 1990s.
My fiancee Rochelle and I decide on a garlic prawn pizza ($25) from the bistro for dinner. It has a generous serving of fresh, local Moreton Bay prawns and is served promptly. We fit in a Moreton Island Iced Tea ($16) at the bar before Tangalooma Laughs kicks off in the giant marquee on the beach. The lineup is exceptional, with Fleet and Wainhouse in particular at the top of their game. After a few nightcaps we call it a day and retreat to our room.
When we wake the next morning we step on to the balcony to reassess the scenery and the view is as stunning as we were told it would be. In the few short minutes it takes to knock back a coffee, we notice a helicopter, a convoy of Segways rolling down the beach and a couple of all-terrain vehicles, as well as sea kayakers and parasailors. We head down to the beach for a closer look. After a walk/jog (a walk for me, a jog for my fiancee) to the wrecks – about 1.5km from our room – and a quick dip, we head back for a buffet breakfast, which has everything from cereal, toast and fruit to bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages and hot cakes, and at $30 for adults and $20 for children it’s decent value.
There are plenty of free activities at Tangalooma, including mini golf, croquet and beach volleyball, but we head to the pool for a quick dip and then laze about in deckchairs reading books. With the P&O Pacific Jewel docking off the island today, there is a huge influx of day visitors, so rather than attempting to book any activities we spend most of the day relaxing and manage to fit in an afternoon nap.
Because the resort is on the western side of Moreton Island, Tangalooma is renowned for its spectacular sunsets and with the Pacific Jewel still visible in the distance as the sun descends over the horizon, today’s looks particularly picturesque as we make our way to the nearby jetty to participate in tonight’s dolphin feeding. We take our place in the line and are informed we’ll be feeding Echo, a regular visitor to Tangalooma since 1993. When our turn comes we take our two fish and wade knee-deep into the water, and I approach Echo with equal parts trepidation and excitement. It’s not until I hand over his fish that I appreciate how remarkable it is to be handfeeding such a majestic wild animal.
After washing the lingering smell of fish off our hands, we check out the Fire and Stone restaurant, which serves a mix of spicy, Sichuanese cuisine – with a focus on fresh, local seafood at market prices – and Western dishes. I opt for the beef sliders special (three for $20) and they’re delectable, with tender slices of steak, tomato, cos lettuce and a homemade tomato sauce. Rochelle decides on the prawn Caesar salad ($23.50), which is satisfactory but could have benefited from a couple of extra prawns. There’s more comedy on tonight, and we pop by to catch Lindsay Webb and Rob Brown, neither of whom disappoints, but forego the nightcaps and head to bed soon after as we have a full itinerary the following day.
As soon as we wake and have breakfast, we head to the beach for our Segway tour. The self-balancing two-wheeled vehicles are equipped with chunky tyres to navigate the sand and the tilt sensors allow the rider to maintain balance while moving forwards, backwards and left and right. Within a few minutes, we’re doing fishtails, donuts and figureeights as we ride towards the wrecks and back again.
After our Segway tour, we get changed for our snorkelling trip at the wrecks. Our instructor Kayla gives us a quick safety demonstration and then we head to the beach, board the dive boat and make our way to the nearby wrecks, which stretch about 400m. Kayla tells us the visibility is as good as she’s ever seen, and we’re lucky enough to see a wobbegong, a shovel-nosed ray, parrot fish, a moray eel, tailor, bream, and an array of other tropical fish.
After a quick bite, we’re off on our final activity, the Desert Safari Tour. In less than 15 minutes, we’re at the sand dunes and waxing up our boards. It’s a gruelling walk up the dune and the effort-to-fun ratio will depend on your fitness levels and how much enjoyment you derive from getting a face full of sand while hurtling down a steep decline. Word of warning: if you have what could best be described as a Robin Williams level of arm hair, attempting to wipe sand from your face with your forearms is not a good idea.
When we get back to the resort, there’s just enough time for an ice cream while we wait for our ferry. As we head back to Brisbane, exhausted but relaxed, we marvel at how much we’ve fit into a weekend and vow to return soon.
The writer was a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort and Tangalooma Laughs comedy festival
( Clockwise from opposite page) Tangalooma Island Resort; diving at the wrecks, 1.5km from the resort; the author demonstrates the perilous art of sand surfing; and feeding the wild dolphins at sunset.