Kangaroo Island and More

We have had just the best day today!!!! Kangaroo Island has been fantastic. We had literally never heard of the place before booking on this cruise and research online wasn’t hugely informative. It’s the 3rd largest island in Australia, behind Tasmania and an island north of Darwin. Its about 150km long and 55km wide and about 16 miles off the coast of South Australia. It has a host of wildlife, lovely beaches, foodie treats and the largest National Park in South Australia (Flinders) and one of the largest in the whole of Australia.
We wanted to see as much as possible and so unusually we had booked a Cunard tour: a nine hour extravaganza called The Best of Kangaroo Island. Queen Mary 2 could not dock on the island so we had to tender ashore. It wasn’t far thank heavens, putting us ashore in Penneshaw, an idyllic holiday beach village.
Some more history of the place: it was discovered by the Europeans in 1802 by Captain Matthew Flinders, the naval cartographer and explorer who discovered so much of South Australia. He and his crew had been severely lacking in meat so they were delighted to find kangaroos ashore with no fear of man. They promptly sorted that out by slaughtering loads of them, although they did name the island after the source of their dinners. Because the island remained largely uninhabited for a long time, it has never been home to rabbits or foxes like mainland Australia. Nowadays over 1/3 of it is totally protected and as a result a number of endangered species find their homes there: the Australian sea lion; the long nosed fur seal; wallabies, KI Kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, goanna lizards. At one point there were very few kangaroos left but today there are between 100,000 and 200,000.
There are only around 4,500 residents which gives each one around a square km each. There is definitely an air of unspoilt natural paradise about the place. At some point in the past, bees were imported and then protected, and aDSC00415s a result the island hosts a particularly pure type of bee, that has been used to strengthen bee genetics throughout the world. The island is covered in eucalyptus forest, grassland and coastal dunes home to exotic grasses and flowers.
We first drove the length of the island to Flinders National Park, a huge area. We were hoping to see kangaroos along the way, surely with so many, we must see them! All we did see were 2 Waseroos, dryly pointed out by our tour guide and driver, Craig, who was by the way, excellent. Waseroos are what KI residents call kangaroos who, how shall I put it, have come off the worse in a collision with a truck! Not a hopeful start…..
Flinders was particularly densely forested in eucalyptus trees of all sorts, including some types only found here. The oil has a huge variety of applications from cough medicine to floor covering and disinfectant. We drove through the park to the Remarkable Rocks. These are truly remarkable. So remarkable indeed that you have to smile, at Captain Flinders’ ironic stiff upper lip, noting them as such on his map. Remarkable rocks in every sense of the word. They are a sort of natural volcanic Stonehenge, standing atop a bald granite dome on top of a cliff overlooking the Southern Ocean. On closer examination, these huge rocks are weathered by waves, water and wind into extraordinary shapes and sculptures, very Henry Moore. We wandered around, clambered into some holes in them, crouched under overhands and arches. Just an amazing place in the most stunning location imaginable. Aborigines believe the whole island and this site in particular has great mystical resonance and I can certainly understand why.
Next stop was Admiral’s Arch, a huge natural arch down on the shoreline set amongst rocky coves and home to a colony of long nosed fur seals, It was fun to watch them all resting on the rocks and diving in the crystal clear water.
Above the arch is the lighthouse of Cape de Couedic, a lovely limestone structure, one of several that mark the island.
We returned to the park headquarters for lunch and as we walked through the trees, at last, a childhood ambition was fulfilled: up the trees were a whole load of koalas!!!! They were all fast asleep, clutching the eucalyptus trunks, generally perched in the fork of the tree. Apparently they are extremely fussy about the type of eucalyptus they will eat. Not that many. In fact, there is a real dilemma ahead for the 50,000 odd koalas on the island as their desired eucalyptus are due to be chopped down in the next few years. Drastic action is necessary. Koalas are not actually bears. I’m not sure if I knew this or not. Their closest relative is the possum and they are marsupials. I was so thrilled to see them in the wild at last.
Had a good lunch at the park centre and then we set off again for our next stop: Seal Bay. This is a huge protected beach, set in sand dunes, where a colony of Australian sea lions can be found. We were lead down to the beach by a naturalist guide who explained a lot of facts about the sea lions. There were cubs on the beach who were learning to swim. Yes, they have to be taught to swim, it doesn’t come naturally. Sea lions walk on their four muscular flippers, not like seals that essentially flop along on land like huge slugs. They can run for short distances at around 30km per hour apparently!!!! Yikes! Amazing to watch them cavorting through the waves. Took loads of photos.
On our way back to the coach through the undergrowth, we came upon 2 kangaroos!!!!!! Could this day get any better????? They were very alert by didn’t seem to be unduly spooked by us. Not massive ones. So excited to see them too. We also saw a huge iguana lizard and black parrots.
Returning up the coast, we had a final stop at Pennington Bay, a wonderful white sand beach pounded by the turquoise blue surf. A beautiful sight.
A long day., It was 7pm before we got back to the ship. But a very good day. A superb tour with a very good guide. He told us so much about the island. It’s an interesting place, very unspoilt and I hope they can keep it that way. If you get the chance to visit, I would recommend it. Its like a place out of time, somehow like a slice of 1950s childhood. Apparently no one locks their cars or houses; there are only 4 policemen on the whole place; everyone takes part in some form of volunteerism, from a huge force of countryside firemen, to health services. There are huge areas without mobile signal, no cinema, no public transport…… but many many clubs and societies, activities every night of the week.
We were totally exhausted by the time we returned. We grabbed a quick dinner in the buffet and then went to the cinema for the 8pm showing of The Age of Adeline. A strange film. Quite enjoyable but it somehow misses the mark in many ways. We sailed sometime after it started. Retracing our steps again to Melbourne where we arrive on Thursday.