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Why outdoor camping makes you see things differently

Getting close to nature at Lake Tinaroo for an overnight stay, gave me a chance to see things differently.

By i.c Golina

Lake Tinaroo

Where do I begin? a few months back, I was listening to a work colleague of mine, how he enjoyed his time camping at Lake Tinaroo on the weekend with his friends. He continued to state, how wonderful it was to go camping and simply having a great time at this camp site – having a drink or two, sitting by the camp fire while enjoying the night-sky filled with millions of stars above. It sounded just so peaceful to me. As I continued to listen to his adventure, I was filled with adrenaline and couldn’t wait to go camping. It sounded like heaven on earth to me. I haven’t gone camping for over 15 years. I must admit, I totally missed the freedom and close connection with the nature. Being a keen camper and camped in so many locations throughout far north Queensland – from further south, as far as Townsville to far north as Cooktown. Having 10 days off from work, I decided that it was time to spend couple of days camping on my own exploring and experiencing many things that I have missed for so long. Yes, it was time for me to go on a self-drive adventure tour around Lake Tinaroo which is a short drive away from city of Cairns.

I left Cairns in the early hours of the morning before sunrise to Ravenshoe township, where my countryside home is located. Here I  unpacked few things and added few camping gears. As I start to drive towards Ravenshoe, which is the highest town in Queensland state, it was misty, raining, cold and foggy. For any campers, this is not a great weather for outdoor camping. I took the risk of going whilst I had the time and the opportunity to take some photographs of the wildlife in Tablelands, especially at Tinaroo campground area. Travelling along quiet country lanes, windy and dusty pathways and tasting some of the local produce in picturesque villages along the way and walking along some of the ancient tracks in the footsteps of pilgrims draw me back in time what it was like during those tough and rough years. The beauty of a self-guided adventure amongst some of Lake Tinaroo’s most spectacular landscapes is that you can travel at your pace. This is what I wanted to experience and expected. 

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Road to camp grounds

With 8 official camping sites across Lake Tinaroo and beyond, these camping trips offer a leisurely way to explore the countryside on self-adventure drives, just 2 hours drive away from Cairns city. Lake Tinaroo have fully checked routes with maps and directions and with visible sign board along the way on each camp sites. Danbulla National Park has the largest camping grounds in Far North Queensland, which Lake Tinaroo has it all. From its pristine wilderness of forests, wildlife, lakes and mountains to  small country towns, diverse landscapes and more adventures than you could possibly imagine. Lake Tinaroo offers a multitude of ways to experience and enjoy Danbulla National Parks spectacular natural area.

Camping Sites

The campgrounds can be easily accessed and used by day-use visitors and if you plan to camp for a night or more, it is compulsory that you book your camping spot online. Booking online is easy and your required to state which camping ground you will be camping, to ensure to track back if any issues may arise. Once you have booked, you’re then given a random unique number identification and a tag which you have to collect before entering the camping site. The tag needs to be tied onto your tent or somewhere it is visible for the ranger to see and check if necessary. This permit allows you to camp legally and also to avoid any penalties, which rangers patrol the areas on regular basis and unexpectedly. Booking online with Queensland National Parks is easy and is available 24/7. To avoid disappointment and penalties, I booked my camping spot online. ‘Yes’, I was on my way to the campsite – Fong On bay. To reach this campground from Tinaroo dam’s main entrance, was about 20km of drive through some bitumen and dirt road. When I finally turned up at the campground, it was like I had hit the jackpot, the weather was perfect. It was sunny and not a sight of storm appearing. The location of the site was beautiful, located right next to a very big lake. Apart from the short distance of dirt road which made it unpleasant for my low-level vehicle but I reached my camp-destination without any mechanical problems. I didn’t have to pitch-up a tent as I used my car as my sleeping tent. Once, I lowered the two back-seats folded forward, it was a full-length sleeping space from the back of the boot to the back of the two front seats. After organising my sleeping space, I felt my spirit was very high at this point. This campground does not have an allocated sections – like some camping sites at Davis Creek near Mareeba, so it is virtually, first in, best location. Apart from, meticulously clean amenities (toilets only), you’re to supply your own hot and cold shower buckets which the campground only have shower cubicles but without any facilities. I was pleasantly very surprised to see how clean the toilets were and how well the campground was maintained compared to the public amenities in the Cairns city ground and picnic areas. 

Camp grounds at Lake Tinaroo

After I settled, I went for a short walk to scan the whole camping area, along with my lens. Fong-On bay is a huge camping ground area so you have to drive around the area to find a best and suitable spot to erect your tent. This particular camping area is mostly a ‘speed boat’ paradise, where many campers come to display, enjoy and test out their speed boats. I have seen, why they come to this particular location because of its vast calm lake. Shortly after, I started a camp fire and cooked dinner early before sunset as I wanted to capture the sunset at this campsite location. As I just finished washing the cutlery, the sun started to go down which created a perfect picture moment. This is what I came to see and it certainly presented itself amazingly for me to capture. As I begin to prepare myself to relax for the day inside the car, the weather started to turn and spots of rain descended on what had been a good start to my camping trip.

Camp Fire
Sunset at Lake Tinaroo

As I settled down to bed, the rain started to get very heavy. During the course of the night, it started to get very heavy rain and wind which kept me up most of the night. However, as the morning began to break, I noticed that it was just a another perfect morning and the sky was crystal clear with no heavy clouds hovering above. At this point, I knew, it was going to be another beautiful day without any concern. Without any delay, I got out my camera to capture more of the sunrise as it starts to ascend above the pine trees which spread its array of colours over the lake. I could truly witness the true extend of the sunrise at this campsite which created a beautiful scenery to photograph. Just like the sunset before the nightfall, the sunrise certainly presented its morning glory in a perfect way for me to capture the beauty of this natural phenomenon.

Sunrise

Apart from the sunset, sunrise, cleanliness of the campground and the spectacular natural area, there was an abundance of wildlife. I must say, this was the highlight of my camping trip. The Fong On bay certainly spit out the true dwellers of the lake. I was totally in my photography glory and tried to use my amateur photography skills to capture this living creatures inhabit this gigantic lake. To avoid disappointment and not to miss out on any action, I couldn’t stop clicking on my camera. Every turn was vital to me and it was truly an amazing experience.

Being surrounded by wildlife both at day and night time was an unique experience. It is something that I missed for so many years. This short camping experience has given me back something that I love doing. It has brought me back so many great memories of camping and I should to do it more often. Yes, I had a great time camping alone. I will certainly be returning again but to a different camping location to experience other campgrounds and its attraction of wildlife.

Wildlife at Lake Tinaroo – Fong On Bay camp site

From a personal perspective: 

Travelling is not only about traveling in style or luxury. It is about challenges and experiencing different form of travels. Whether you are travelling from air, land and sea to backpacking or simply driving and camping along the way, each journey creates its own unique experience. I tend to experience different forms of travels either independently or in groups. This gives me true challenges in life that I dare to experience. Camping in Lake Tinaroo certainly gave me a different perspective on how see city life to camping life. I must admit, I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it.

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