Bungalow Bay Koala Village: Best Island Hostel In Australia
When we read about Magnetic Island, a lush green mountainous expanse, home to many an Australian animal, and only 20-minutes by boat from Townsville, we knew we had to visit it.
We are definite island hoppers having spent 2 months living on Fraser Island in a tent!
There's something special about still being on the same planet as everyone else, but feeling just a tad detached from the goings on and ups and downs of normal life.
Researching all Magnetic island had to offer, we stumbled upon Bungalow Bay Koala Village, and of course, the thought of getting up close to some furry Koala goodness (among many other amazing creatures), combined with the fact they offer a great budget camping option, we were really excited to head over, and set up our tent for a few days.
We used Fantasea cruises (passenger and vehicle ferry) to transfer to the island, an absolute steal at $13 a ticket (one-way).
On the island, everywhere (its a pretty small place) is served by the bus route, which can cheaply move you from the ferry to all the main points of interest. There are also taxi's, hire vehicles and the popular mini moke.
Bungalow Bay is located in the beautiful Horsehoe Bay, where we witnessed a ridiculously vibrant sunset sky and enjoyed some top-notch takeaway burger and chips.
Beautiful Camping and Bungalows
Technically a YHA hostel largely frequented by backpackers, we camped alongside many different people, from families to couples and friends, with its spacious and natural setting in the bush, amongst palms, open green space and of course, abundant wildlife.
Accommodation ranges from camping to cabins, with lots of outdoor and undercover spaces to relax, ample room to set up your tent or camper-van, plus facilities (laundry and bathrooms) and a well-stocked camp kitchen. The kitchen is pleasantly large and cleaned regularly, which is really good to experience when you live your life on the road as we do.
With the beach nearby, plus small cafes and restaurants, and everything else only a short drive or bus-ride away, its the perfect spot to feel like you truly are on an island; bush walks, mountainous tracks and numerous stunning bays, there is so much to see and do, with Bungalow Bay the perfect base from which to do it all.
As we set up our tent on a powered site, a roo hopped by us, the first of many we'd see in the coming days. This brought back memories of our time at Melaleuca Surfside in Port Stephens, where the resident rescue roo Josie would keep us company (and try to eat our guide ropes).
That place too had the same feel, one of being very mindful and conscious of the environment in which its operating, treating it kindly and allowing it to thrive whilst allowing others to enjoy it.
There are signs near the well-kept and large kitchen, asking you to kindly not feed the resident animals: wait until 4.30pm in the afternoon and you get to hand-feed the Lorikeets!
A Responsible Wildlife Tour
On our first day, not long after setting up camp, we booked ourselves onto the next wildlife tour. Tours run 3 times a day ending at 4.30pm.
For $29 (adult price) you get 2 hours with a knowledgable guide who takes you through the small animal sanctuary, allowing you to handle and interact with an array of exotic animals. For an extra $18 you can be photographed holding a koala, alongside your family or friends. You can also bring your own photography equipment in, but just be sure to let the guide do their talking and respect where you put your lens!
I was most looking forward to seeing my first crocodile, and the only other animal we had yet to see in Aussie, a wombat.
The tour group was small which we really liked.
We are very conscious about attending animal-oriented tourist outlets, because we believe animals should be kept out of the wild for solidly valid reasons, such as providing sanctuary and conservation to an at-threat species, or keeping a sick animal alive that could not survive in the wild.
Its important to then utilize these facilities to educate others on these animals so that they care a little more about the natural world around them and the role they play as the keepers of it.
We appreciate that when well-managed and organized, animal sanctuaries such as this one at Bungalow Bay, are pivotal in cultivating an informed respect for these animals, but in a selfish way, we also love that for a brief few moments, we got to carefully handle these stunning animals.
Set slightly away from the other camp buildings, surrounded by bush, the sanctuary is home to only a few animals, which really appealed to us; less animals means more focus and time on their individual care and well-being.
This is not a zoo in any sense, and there is none of the usual sadness when you see vibrant animals living a life of miserable captivity. This is not anything resembling that.
It appears as a well-maintained haven for a range of animals, many of which are living so openly during the day, you wonder why (or how) they haven't yet escaped. But we mused, they clearly have all they could want or need in Bungalow Bay.
I got to hold Pebbles the koala, whom whilst not the first one I've held (since our random rescue of a baby from a road-side) this interaction was in much better circumstances.
Her heavy little body supported by my hand and held still, she was as docile and seemingly content as you would expect of the famously relaxed Australia native. Yes, the urge to rock her like a baby was big, but we were succinctly instructed on how exactly Pebbles should be held, with her welfare clearly of primary concern.
We observed as we held the different animals, some which appear threatening, either with dangerous looking spikes or sharp claws, are all actually, fundamentally vulnerable. They are literally soft and smooth in fact, and many of them, are so small, timid, and completely unassuming.
They are vulnerable to other animals but most importantly to us.
We are the ones who have taken over the running of this planet but we are not secondary to the beautiful variety of species that we inhabit it alongside.
We felt this acutely whilst at Bungalow Bay, as we walked from one side of the camp to the next, we were greeted by a possum, a group of nibbling wallabies and a bush-stone curlew (a funny-looking long-legged nocturnal bird). The nature here is of course widely tame, used to humans and the little tasty treats we inevitably leave lying around for them.
But still, it feels so good to be living amongst, if only briefly, such an array of animals, whom all live side-by-side, mostly in peace, and approach us with a curious yet reserved respect.
Treating Animals How They Treat Us
If we regard animals the way many do us, we would treat them with slight fear and curiosity, but ultimately we'd be kind and gentle, and of course, many of us already do this. Many of us are animal lovers and desire to be close to nature, in fact, what's the first thing many of us say out loud as we slowly approach a wide-eyed creature?
We say 'It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you'.
Amongst the mentality of regarding animals as they would us, there is a complete absence of mindlessness, malice or the prioritizing of ones own needs over those of the small and large, furry and spiky beings, whom we share the environment with.
Bungalow Bay re-instilled this in our minds, despite it being something we have always believed, so we really hope it has the same effect on other visitors.
A Comfortable Stay with A Conscience
This place was a real experience, but also one where the comfort of the accommodation is not sacrificed in the face of the wider ethos of the place.
We camped happily for 3 days, and had everything we needed. Despite a freak weather-front of windy rain, we never felt like we wanted to leave. In fact, we had some of the best experiences of nature, from seeing a wild koala, to holding a crocodile, to watching the most richest red sunset.
In fact, our Magnetic Island visit turned out to be one of our favourite excursions in our whole time in Australia.
You should probably check it out, because we think you might just love it...
*DISCLAIMER: All these thoughts here are our own, and we only ever review things and places we love. Bungalow Bay kindly allowed to us to camp for free. We both purchased the tour tickets and photograph holding a Koala ourselves*
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!
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