The thing about coming within half a step of planting your foot on a massive carpet python is that evolutionary instincts jump into the driver’s seat before your brain can process the impending collision. Evasive action occurs quickly. Yet the slumbering serpent is unperturbed by the sudden backpedalling of a dozen hiking boots. It lies motionless, soaking up the dappled light filtered through the forest. Composure regained, we slip past and continue our hike, instincts primed like never before.

I had expected surprises on Fraser Island – or K’gari, the Indigenous name it’s officially known by – but the biggest revelation is what the snake is sleeping on. Ironically, it’s the destination’s most obvious feature.

This is, of course, the largest sand island in the world. Every square metre of the 123km long and 22km wide ribbon – from the beaches to the inland hills and every road – is sand. It’s a land without topsoil, without natural grass, without vegetable gardens, without anything that hasn’t evolved to grow out of the nutrient-poor ground…

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