Ever shifting: The sands and landscapes of Fraser Island [gallery]

FRASER ISLAND, sitting 200km north of Brisbane along Queensland’s east coast, is the world’s largest sand island at 122km long and ranging between 5 and 25km wide.

Its 400,000 acres are home to eight distinct ecosystems — moving from the mangrove, wallum, and banksia forests of the west and into the subtropical rainforest of the interior, skirting clear dune lakes and bouncing through ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ eucalyptus forests, before finally emerging on the wind-lashed coastal dunes of the expansive eastern beach, is literally a trip through time.

Fraser’s dunes comprise “the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world,” with the sand mass of the island being at least 800,000 years old. A single grain of sand, driven ashore by the prevailing southeasterly wind, will take 60,000 years to move from Fraser’s east coast to its west, a journey that takes just over an hour in our Land Cruiser.

Passing towering satinay trees, the crystal waters of Lake McKenzie, and the intricate patterns of wind and sand on the eastern dunes, I get the feeling that through the windshield I’m watching a geological and evolutionary time-lapse.

The indigenous Butchulla people call the place K’gari, which translates roughly as “paradise.”

This article originally appeared on Matador Network.