Kangaroo Island a natural adventure – 5 things not to miss!

Steve Larkin
(Australian Associated Press)

FIVE THINGS NOT TO MISS ON KANGAROO ISLAND

GET CLOSE TO WILDLIFE

Creep within metres of kangaroos and wallabies; spot koalas, echidnas and goannas; watch for a vast array of birds – all abundant in their natural habitat.

SEAL BAY

Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to colony of about 1000 wild Australian sea lions. They usually spend three days at sea hunting and feeding and then the next three days plopped on the shore, where tourists can view the sea lions from just metres away.

REMARKABLE ROCKS/ADMIRALS ARCH

Magnificent natural drawcards in the Flinders Chase National Chase. Remarkable Rocks are uniquely-shaped granite boulders formed by 500 million years of rain, wind and waves. Admirals Arch is a distinctive rock bridge near the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse which is home to a fur seal colony.

NATURE HIKES

The Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail has just been rated third by the influential Lonely Planet in its top 10 list of new places/attractions to visit in the world. The 61km, five-day trek is along the island’s rugged, remote and spectacular southern coast.

TAKE TO THE WATER

Swim with dolphins, take a marine adventure tour, or fish; swim at one of the island’s picturesque beaches such as Vivonne Bay, voted Australia’s best beach by Sydney University’s Professor Andrew Short after he surveyed some 10,000 major beaches in the country.

HERE’S WHAT YOU WON’T FIND

Traffic lights, fast food outlets, locked doors, crowds, stress.

HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL FIND

An array of wildlife – kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, echindas, seal lions, fur seals, eagles, and more. Dazzling nature. Immaculate beaches. Rare flora and fauna.

“It’s magical,” says naturalist, tour guide and proud local Nikki Redman.

“It’s just wow. An amazing experience – around each corner there is always something there.”

Redman is passionate and proud of her island, located off South Australia’s southern coast.

It’s the third-largest island in Australia, but there’s nothing in the way of fast food outlets, cinemas and nightclubs – amenities we’ve come to know.

There are three supermarkets and three pubs, spread over an island some 155 kilometres long and 55km wide.

And locals chuckle when visitors lock their doors – on an island near-bereft of crime, there’s simply no need.

Redman, a tour guide with Kangaroo Island Odysseys, once left the front door to her Kingscote home wide open when visiting another part of the island for two days. On return, her house was untouched.

The affable guide describes Kingscote as the island’s “big city” – about 1600 people of its estimated 4700 population live there.

Kingscote was established as SA’s first colony in 1836, some 34 years after the island was discovered by Captain Matthew Flinders.

Embarking from his ship, Flinders and crew members walked up to the island’s kangaroos, who had never seen humans before, and clubbed 31 of them to death. The seafaring skipper was so grateful for the new-found food source, he named the land Kangaroo Island.

The island has its own sub-species of kangaroo, related to the Western Grey. There are also 267 species of birds and 900 plant species, 45 endemic to the island.

Within 30 minutes of arrival on the island on a tour with Redman’s Kangaroo Island Odysseys, guests creep through bushland to within metres of kangaroos in their natural habitat. These marsupials can travel at speeds of up to 70km/h but mostly just stand looking at the curious humans.

Tourists such as Keith Deacon, a 59-year-old decorator from Leicester in England and his wife Mandy, marvel at the experience.

“We didn’t think you can get that close. We thought we’d see them from a distance, I even thought we’d need binoculars,” he says.

The Deacons and others on this particular tour, including Canadian retirees Tom Barker and Pat Robinson, later sneak through other parts of the island’s bush to within metres of tammar wallabies.

The tour party stop on the sides of roads – only 600km of the island’s 1600km of roads are bituminised – to watch echidnas, koalas and goannas creep into the bush.

“It’s terrific because we were hoping to see kangaroos and wallabies because we don’t have those at home,” Robinson says.

We also visit Seal Bay, where we walk within metres of some of the bay’s 1000 wild Australia sea-lions, one of the rarest seal species.

The magnificent sea-lions are plonked on the sand, resting after spending three days in the ocean hunting and feeding. After three days rest on the beach, they go hunting again while others breed in the sand dunes.

Redman also takes her tour group along Kangaroo Island’s stunning rugged coastlines, untouched by development. We stop at Vivonne Bay, named Australia’s best beach by Sydney University’s Professor Andrew Short after he surveyed some 10,000 major beaches in the country.

But for our tour guide, the highlight of the island is Cape du Couedic, the headland at the island’s southwest tip.

The cape is where you’ll find tourist drawcard Admirals Arch – a spectacular rock-bridge created by thousands of years of erosion and which is home to a fur seal colony.

A short drive from the arch is the aptly-named Remarkable Rocks – massive granite boulders dated to 500 million years old, which waves, wind and rain have crafted into distinct, unusual shapes.

The area is also launching point for the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail – a 16km, five-day coastline journey that opened last October and was recently voted by Lonely Planet as the world’s third-best new tourist attraction.

“People love what we do,” says Redman.

“The island is a two-day destination and our tours are about going through the wild and finding people as much nature as possible, and the beautiful scenery.

“And it’s not just going and taking a photo: I want people to experience it – smell, touch, see – and have that feeling of learning a little bit about that nature so you learn to respect it.

“I like everyone to take away that little bit of love for my island. And I think people really do have that love for the island when they leave.”

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Kangaroo Island island is 13km off the southern coast of South Australia. A 90 minute drive from Adelaide’s central business district, the island is accessible by plane or ferry.

Kangaroo Island SeaLink ferries depart from Cape Jervis and arrive at Penneshaw. On average, eight ferries to and from the island daily at various times. Standard one-way fare is 49 per adult, $25 for children. Standard one-way fares for passenger cars and campers is $98.

Daily flights, of 30 minute duration, are available through Regional Express airline, from $278 one-way.

STAYING THERE

SeaLink offers more than 120 accommodation choices on the island, from self-contained; hotel/motel; bed and breakfast; caravan and camping; hostel/backpackers.

The Aurora Ozone Hotel and Apartments is the largest accommodation in Kingscote, the biggest town on the island, with peak-season rates from $179 per night.

PLAYING THERE

Self-drive around the island, or take a guided tours from various operators such as Kangaroo Island Odysseys – www.kangarooislandodysseys.com.au.

The island is a natural playground: visit one of the many drawcards such as Seal Bay, Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch; swim with dolphins on a marine adventure tour; go underground at Kelly Caves; take one of numerous wildlife hikes; sneak through bushland to spy on kangaroos, koalas and tammar wallabies.

Adventurists are also catered for, with marine tours, sand skiing, quad-bikes – and so are foodies with various restaurants, wineries, a gin distillery and brewery.

* The writer travelled as a guest of Kangaroo Island Odysseys.

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