Story by Alison Cotes - News.com.au
THE Swiss Family Robinson never had it so good. Castaways on a deserted island in the novel of the same name, they were extremely resourceful, making a comfortable house in the treetops and having exciting adventures, and thousands of children of my generation wanted to do exactly the same.
But on Pumpkin Island in the Keppel Group of the Great Barrier Reef, it's all there waiting for you, and you don't have to hew wood or draw water, or do anything at all except cook your meals, which you take with you, either as DIY provisions or as huge catering gourmet packs from the Keppel Bay Marina.
Then it's 40 minutes on the Pumpkin Xpress from the marina, and you're on your own deserted island, castaways in paradise.
I've been to almost every island on the Reef, and Pumpkin is now in my Top 5 (and I'm not telling what the other four are). It has all the attributes that you expect on the Reef, such as sunsets and perfect weather and snorkelling and white sand and palm trees and pure turquoise water and dolphins and ... you know what I mean.
But it's also unique in that you really can feel as if you're the only people there. With only five cottages, hidden in the bush well away from each other, you can find your own little patch and avoid seeing anyone.
We stayed at the honeymoon cottage, Pebble Point, at the very tip of the island, with beaches and rock pools on both sides. In two days the only people we saw were a mother and toddler wandering along the beach below the veranda. We swam (or would have, had the water been a bit warmer) just steps away from our cottage, and at low tide could have swum across to Little Pumpkin Island, which looks like a stranded humpback whale.
We ate aged grass-fed beef from Banana Station, which we cooked on the gas-fired barbecue on the deck and which was preceded by oysters (which we didn't prise off the rocks, although we could have), crabs and prawns.
Sometimes you just don't want the dream to end.
In the distance, we saw the blow of a whale, and owner-managers Wayne and Laureth, who live on the island, reported there had been quite a few lately. They don't offer whale-watching tours, but if you go out in a tinnie you may be surprised at what you see. That's before you've caught enough mackerel and sweetlip for dinner.
October and November are the best months for these fish, and it's also turtle mating season, and we saw quite a few huge females in the water.
One not-to-be-missed experience, which I'm determined to do before I die, is what's called "sex on the reef" the annual coral spawning in November, where millions of corals release eggs and sperm in a mass synchronised event, creating what looks like an upside-down snow storm in rainbow colours.
It occurs four or five days after the full moon. This year's projected dates will be available on the greatbarrierreefinfo.com website any day now.
But even without coral spawning, Pumpkin is my kind of island. It has the most impressive list of ecological credentials you could hope to see, and is completely carbon neutral, functioning off the grid with only natural solar and wind power. It was awarded the Advance Ecotourism certification in November 2009.
Each cabin has its own rainwater tank for pure filtered chemical-free water.
It is indeed a very special island, and I urge you to look at the website to see what else it offers. It's suitable for families and couples, and when I win the lottery I'm going to hire the whole island for my birthday next year, and take 30 of my very best friends. And we may never come back just as long as Kylie keeps sending those catering packs of Banana Station beef and crabs every second day.