Fancy being flown on a tiny joy ride plane to an island with 15 other people and being left there for 24 hours? Well that’s pretty much what Castaway is – granted camp is already set up and there are two guys there who cook you an evening meal and over see things. But otherwise you are literally deserted on the island for 24 hours with a bunch of other people you have never met and more creepy animals than you can imagine.
We booked this trip without really knowing what it entailed, having been recommended it by some other backpackers and then being given a ‘free’ voucher for it by travel bugs as part of a package. But it was something worth doing even just for the plane ride – we’ll get to that in a minute. We paid $110 in ‘Local Payment’ and got the trip for ‘free’ ($159) but it all depends who you speak to, to what price the trip actually costs. There is also an extra option to stay a second night for $30 – but none of the travel agents tell you this!
Bruce the pilot is the first person you meet and he lived up to everything we had heard about him! The whole castaway thing was his own idea and is made possible because he owns a plane and leases the land for the island. You are taken to a tiny air field where Bruce keeps his little plane – and I mean little. It has a prop at the front and can only take three passengers plus Bruce, but each trip the plane is always full.
We had heard a lot about the flight but that still didn’t prepare me for what happened after take-off. Flying over the sea towards the ocean and Bruce cuts the engine and plunges us straight down! Being in the back and not able to hear what he is saying over the headset we were not prepared for it and the adrenaline was pumping through us. He then continued with the silly antics turning sharply to one side then the other, continuously shooting up then dropping down. It was what you’d call a joy ride and omg so much fun!
The island itself was called Middle Island and during high tide was cut off from other parts of the island to make it 1km by 3km. This small part was the bit we were staying on and could walk around. After landing on the beach, meeting the regulars and grabbing a tent we headed off to walk around the island. We headed on a path up to the lighthouse – feeling like you are being watched by animals every step of the way and with the path slightly overgrown it was a little sketchy. But after than we headed down to the creek and that was a beautiful walk – bright red/orange ground contrasted by turquoise blue water and raised patches of white sand. We were miles from Whitsunday’s but the landscape was dulled down version of what I imagine that to be like.
We were provided with kayaks and tubes to use in the water along with chairs and a fire pit for the evening fun. The two regular guys cooked our dinner of beef stew and we learnt that they had been there for 33 days! They hadn’t been back to mainland the whole time and have been living off the same food the entire time! They were just backpackers like you and me who had contacted Bruce at a point when he happened to need people to man the island. They are not paid but got free accommodation and food.
The night was a night of drinking and socialising with the other people on the trip that night – how good the night is just depends entirely on the group. Our night could have been better but at the same time it would have been a lot worse!
The next morning you have until your flight to chill out – you have to take your own breakfast to cook but they have pretty good camping cooking equipment. This was when we saw some more of the reptile of the island – a massive Iguana (at least we think that’s what it was) just wandering and chilling around the camp looking for food. It was huge and pretty creepy although we were assured it wasn’t dangerous. Not long after one of the regular dudes found a Breaded Dragon Lizard and after stroking it for a while actually picked the thing up! It was really tame.
We were taken back on the plane around the same time as we were dropped off. But before that Bruce took some group shots of us – this included putting the ‘hottest’ two girls on top of the wing of the plane! Our trip back was just as crazy, although this time as I said I wanted more he took my camera, place it on the dash board and then plunged downwards. Needless to say my camera shot in the mid-air and I had to catch it! The cabin lost all gravity at that point so it was literally floating which was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen!
Overall the trip lived up to everything we had heard – especially the plane ride. I would say it’s even worth the money just for the plane ride! The whole experience does depend a lot on who is in your group and how well everyone gets on. But still when else are you going to get a chance to be abandoned on an island for 24 hours.