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Oprah jets in for island adventure

Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey ride into the Wildlife Sanctuary on Hamilton Island as Oprah touches down in Australia.
Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey ride into the Wildlife Sanctuary on Hamilton Island as Oprah touches down in Australia. Lee Constable

SHE drove around Hamilton Island on a golf buggy with her best mate; hugged a koala and watched the sunset from Whitehaven Beach.

For talk show queen Oprah Winfrey soaking up the surrounds of the Whitsundays was better than any picture in a magazine.

Oprah began her Ultimate Australian Adventure yesterday, flying into Hamilton Island at 1.25pm.

“I will be telling everybody that it is better than anything in a book or a magazine,” she said.

“It is a really long trip but it is worth it.

“The people here are really friendly.

“Oh my God, it is so beautiful,” she said.

Once her private jet had landed, Oprah made a quick dash from the airport to her luxury resort, qualia, for a costume change from her Akubra to a yellow beaded top and pants, more suited to the heat of the tropics.

Once she was refreshed from her plane ride, Oprah, with best friend Gayle King, drove a golf buggy from the resort to the Wildlife Sanctuary Animal Zoo, where she got up close and personal with a koala.

On her way to the sanctuary she stopped and spoke with tourists and fans who swamped her buggy as she tried to drive.

However, Oprah was not overwhelmed by the tourist and media frenzy. Instead she took the time to speak and say hello to those she met along the way.

Oprah was definitely in holiday mode as many people who got a rare glimpse of her said she seemed relaxed and laidback.

Along with greeting fellow tourists and fans, Oprah met with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh before checking out the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Joining Oprah on Hamilton are some of the 300 audience members who got the surprise of their lives during her show's 25th season premiere in September, when she announced they would join her on a trip to Australia.

One of those lucky audience members is Gillian Muir, of Alberta, Canada.

“Everyone in Australia is very friendly,” she said.

“I think (Oprah) has changed people's lives through what she does on her shows.”

Ms Muir said the experience has made her realise people are all the same the world over.

Sydney woman Vesna Stojanovska, who is holidaying with her two sisters on Hamilton Island, said it was wonderful to be sharing a holiday destination with Oprah Winfrey.

“It was really great to see her driving her own buggy and that she stopped and spoke to people – it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

It's believed Oprah held a private party for 93 guests on Whitehaven Beach last night. She was expected to check out of qualia this morning.

The Australian Adventure programs are scheduled to air in the US in syndication in January 2011 and in Australia on Network Ten in prime time January 2011.

Oprah will hold a public appearance at a civic reception in Melbourne's Federation Square tomorrow.


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