On Monday, May 7, I headed to Magnetic Island (known locally as Maggie) purely on the recommendation of one of my football teammates. The day didn’t get off to a great start. Firstly, I couldn’t have any breakfast because someone had stolen my Coco Pops (but left the box behind, which showed they hadn’t just been moved). Secondly, the bus broke down and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere for an hour and a half.
Eventually we arrived in Townsville and I got the 3.45pm ferry to the island. It was about 8km away and it took about 20 minutes to get there. I got the bus to Horseshoe Bay and checked into the YHA’s Bungalow Bay Koala Village – the only hostel in Australia with an on-site koala sanctuary. It was a lovely hostel, just a short walk from the beach, and a haven for wildlife including possums and wallabies.
On the first night, there was bingo in the bar, which was fun but I didn’t win anything. On the second night, there was a quiz. I resurrected the team Fat Kids Always Win At Seesaw with Amy, Hugo and three new faces. There were 12 teams taking part and we won without even needing to cheat, as we only dropped three points. It was the first time I’ve ever won a pub quiz. We won three jugs of beer, and were told that we would have got the prize for the best team name but they wanted to let one of the other teams win something.
The sanctuary was worth the visit. I discovered that it’s state law to pay to hold a koala (the money goes towards conservation) but unlike other places, there was no charge to hold and have photos taken with other creatures. There were six people in our group, and we walked around the sanctuary with a keeper, at a relaxed pace. I held a six-year-old saltwater crocodile called Barbie, a skink, a dragon, a turtle, and – I never thought I’d say this – a python. I wasn’t very comfortable with the snake, especially when it tightened its grip on me a bit more than I expected. We also met a wombat, a temperamental cockatoo and, of course, a koala. The whole tour lasted around an hour and three quarters, and finished with a short walk on some public land behind the sanctuary where there were hundreds of large and colourful butterflies.
The 3km Forts Walk, not far from the hostel, was renowned as one of the best chances to see koalas in the wild. I saw one, which I would have missed if someone hadn’t left an arrow made from twigs pointing in the direction of the tree. Although I’d hoped to see a few more, it was still a good walk, with some spectacular views.