Coming to Tangalooma
I’ve been to Tangalooma once before, it seems.
I didn’t know it at the time the boat tied up to the dock and I got my first look at the white sand and the water that Wikipedia informs me falls somewhere between Paris Green and Harlequin. I originally typed azure, but that’s much too blue. A picture paints a thousand words. So maybe I should just let one do the talking…
But I was saying I’d been here before…
Upon my return from my week on Tangalooma, my mother informed me that my father and her had paid the resort a visit when she was pregnant with me. I might not have swam in the island’s warm waters or hiked up its gum lined dunes before, but I had heard the purr of the waves and the gentle rustle of coconut palms hopelessly out of their element.
But my first thoughts upon arrival on Moreton Island were of Dead Island…
Maybe I’d just been playing too much of the zombie shooter, but there were so many similarities. Palm trees, crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, ATVs humming in the distance, bikini clad tourists roaming the dunes, and the hot sun beating down from overhead.
All that was missing were the ravenous dead and a nail-studded baseball bat.
I shrugged on my pack and stepped out into warm Queensland air. Amidst a sea of photo snapping Korean tourists and mid fifties couples looking to kindle some fire in their marriages with cocktails on the beach, I managed to walk right past my old friend Ben.
But how was I expected to recognize him?
After collecting luggage and hauling it up to Ben’s mountain-top condo, it was time to become more acquainted with the island.
Our lunch of fried calamari, Polish sausage, sweet chili sauce, and cheese on English muffins would become a fixture of our diet over the next few days. Healthy? Not at all. But bloody delicious.
Snorkeling the Wrecks
With full bellies we trekked down the treacherously steep stairs from Ben’s house to the resort proper. The week’s festivities almost ended tragically early when I slipped on a step and nearly went ass over tit down the hill.
But I emerged unscathed and we made our way down the pristine beach and towards the ominous skeletons of the wrecks that act as both shelter for the island and artificial reef for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts.
Lathered up with sunscreen and wearing free snorkeling gear borrowed from Ben’s very cool friends at Tangalooma Water Sports, we waded into the deliciously warm water and began to swim out towards the wrecks. At first I could see little more than silty water and the occasional flash of silver as a fish darted away, but soon I emerged into a thriving miniature ecosystem.
Colorful fish swam in and out of jagged holes in the sides of sunken ferries. It was a most serene experience. The way in which nature has reclaimed these man-made monstrosities and transformed them into something that is almost beautiful. Where most of our actions seem only to harm the world around us, it’s nice to see that some of our actions can have a positive influence on the natural world.
I don’t know why, but snorkelling always seems to awaken some primeval fear inside of me. Put a respirator in my mouth and a tank on my bank and I’m perfectly at home in the water.
But put me on my stomach with only a cheap plastic tube between myself and drowning, and I go to pieces. From time to time I’d find some serenity and simply drift with the current, but then I’d get the taste of saltwater in my mouth and I’d flounder about like a horse trying to ford a river.
Suffice to say, Ben’s time on the island had made him infinitely more comfortable in the choppy seas than I am. While I splashed about haplessly and rushed through the whole affair, Ben effortlessly glided over bits of wreck I was too cautious to explore.
I paddled into the shore and emerged like a wet dog, invigorated but a little disappointed in myself for letting a brief spate of panic stop me from really enjoying the swim. I promised myself I’d be back to scuba dive the wrecks later in the week.
But that didn’t happen.
Fun in the Sun
What I came to love most about Tangalooma were the people I met through Ben. While guests of the resort would probably have a different experience than I did, I came to meet a lot of the staff as a result of Ben’s two plus years of employment on the resort. By the time I left the island, half of the staff assumed I was an employee.
One of the most memorable experiences I had on the island was on my second day there. Ben and I were fresh from my first brush with stand up paddle boarding and he spotted a crowd of staff members sunning themselves on the beach.
A half eaten pizza sat in the midst of the group and one of them lazily strummed at a guitar. Why does everybody know the first few chords of Stairway to Heaven?
While the guys discussed the logistics of a bit of beach cricket, gorgeous girls in bikinis sunned themselves and happily chatted away about the birthday party set to take place later in the evening.
Beach cricket ensued. We managed to lasso a few Japanese students in to act as fielders. They looked almost as confused as the Canadian barman who attempted to join in. He couldn’t quite grasp why we had to bowl overarm.
Against all logic, I somehow managed to out bat the much fitter guys on hand only to be run out when the aforementioned Canadian left me stranded by running on a half chance single.
While the men (and one of the women) played the Australian game in spite of the blistering heat beating down on us, the girls liberated an oversized beach ball from a few of the Japanese tourists and took it out into the water. It all ended in tears when the wind plucked the ball out of their hands and whipped it out into the ocean.
It was last seen heading towards Indonesia.
Soon enough the heat got to us and we sprinted down to the ocean to cool off.
I came to envy the lifestyle of the staff. Sure, they work hard, but when they’re done they’re not stuck in a dingy apartment. They’re not crammed onto a bus with a few dozen smelly commuters or forced to contend with drunken lads on the train.
They knock off and they walk right down onto a gorgeous beach. Over the course of my five days on the island I saw impromptu games of beach volleyball start-up every afternoon. People on their breaks would stroll down to the beach and eat lunch in the sun. Staff would spend their weekends snorkeling or scuba diving or simply sunning themselves on the beach in an attempt to cook out their hangovers.
They’re pretty much living the dream.
Over the course of my week on Moreton Island I got to know a lot of the staff.
I chatted about world travel with Robyn from the massage cabana. I stumbled drunkenly along the beach with J from watersports and Quinn from the bar. Attempted to crash tackle Ben with the aid of Daniel and Clancy from the porters and had a chat over beers with Nichelle from Tanga Tours.
On my second to last day on the island, Ben took me to have a chat with the resort’s HR staff about the possibility of me someday coming to live and work on the island for a while. The lure of living in something of a tropical paradise,working in what I came to recognize as somewhere between a group of friends and a family, and gaining some experience in an industry that interests me greatly is a pretty appealing prospect.
But we’ll see.
Not a review…
I went to Tangalooma with grand plans to try all of their activities and post a series of reviews, but that didn’t pan out. Ben gave me more of an insider’s perspective and the staff welcomed me into the fold with such warmth that it was ridiculously hard to leave when my time came to return to the mainland.
It was the same kind of camaraderie and community that I came to love about my time living and working in South Korea. How being a part of a microcosm can bring people of all different walks of life together and blend them into a close family. I obviously only got a glimpse of their lives while I was there, but it looks like a pretty sweet life to me.
That’s not to say I didn’t do anything with my time on the island. I soaked in as much as I could.
- I had two-hour long (and ridiculously good) massages from the lovely Robyn.
- I went on a whale watch tour (entry to come) and was amazed by the majesty of humpback whales.
- I engaged in the age-old combination of alcohol and night swimming in order to save a drunken damsel.
- Failed in an attempt to crash a Hen’s Night.
- Caught up with an old friend when he came to the island for (far too many) beers.
- Made some great new friends who just so happen to be from here in Sydney.
I came back from the island with a tan, a renewed urge to get out and on the road again, a potential job lead, and having met a lot of fantastic people.
I can’t wait to go back.
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