Friday, 3 April 2015

Kangaroo Island, Australia



Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, possums, sea lions, echidnas, goannas and platypus. Kangaroo Island has them all. I have spent a lifetime seeking out Australian animals, in a casual 'looking out of the car windows' kind of way, and I can confidently say the best place to see them all in one place is Kangaroo Island. The only large animal not found on the island is the emu.

It took us half a lifetime to get there. We almost made it when the boys were little but got put off by the cost of the ferry. It was the early '90s and either we were poorer or the ferry was more expensive: I can't remember which. In recent years, we have twice had accommodation booked and deposits paid. Each time a family illness prevented us from going. This was 'third-time lucky' territory. If we didn't make it this time we were giving up forever.


We finally made it and it was worth all the effort. Kangaroo Island is extensively promoted in the overseas tourist market and I can see why. It was fabulous!

The view from our veranda - you can see a couple of kangaroos in the distance.


We spent a week, staying at Eleanor River Homestead near Parndana in the island's interior. Every morning and evening we were visited by kangaroos, mostly mothers with joeys, happy to be patted and hand fed from our store of carrots. They each had a personality of their own and within a day or two I was able to tell them apart. One pair were always around, they would look up at me with pleading, expectant eyes. I was determined not to over feed them, but it was almost impossible in the face of such overpowering cuteness.



These guys were just super cute.

A few facts


Kangaroo Island is off the coast of Sth Australia, about 110 km from Adelaide, the capital of Sth Australia. It has a permanent population of 4,600 people and an area of 4,405 sq km (1,701 sq mi). Australia's third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island, it has a rich history, spectacular coastline and wildlife - lots of wildlife. There are four towns: Kingscote, Penneshaw, American River and Parndana. Only Kingscote, the oldest settlement in Sth Australia, has more than a few hundred inhabitants.

Kangaroos


Kangaroo Island kangaroos are found only on Kangaroo Island. They are closely related to the mainland's western grey kangaroo but are slightly smaller and stockier.  You can't miss them - they are everywhere. However, if you want to maximise your chances of seeing lots of them don't stay in the coastal population centres; stay in the interior.  Even during the heat of the day, when kangaroos typically retreat into the bush, we could often see small mobs grazing in the paddocks around our inland homestead.



Koalas


Look up! There are thousands of koalas on the island but they don't make much noise or move about a lot so they are easy to miss. The best place to be sure of seeing them is the 'Koala Walk' at the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Volunteers search the trees twice a day and place little flags to mark their location. The walk takes about half an hour; we counted ten or twelve koalas.

We also saw koalas at Murray Lagoon on the edge of  Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park . Do the Curley Creek hike from Seagers Rd - and don't forget to look up!

On our last day, we even found a koala sitting in a tree next to the long driveway leading to our homestead. 

Note: Anyone who read my last post will know that if you want to see loads of koalas in a small area there is nowhere in the world like  Raymond Island, Victoria.


If this little guy looks familiar it is because I thought he was so cute I used his photo on social media with my post on Raymond Island, but I took the photo on Kangaroo Island

Fairy Penguins


The population of Fairy Penguins has diminished considerably in recent years. Sadly, the cause seems to be the increasing numbers of fur seals - click here for an explanation.

There are penguin tours which leave from Penneshaw but with fewer and fewer penguins it is hard to say how long the tours will continue.  To be honest, while it is a bit commercial and packaged you can't go past Phillip Island for penguin viewing. At the right time of year, King Island in Bass Strait is fantastic, but it is a lot more difficult to get to.

Echidnas


The Kangaroo Island echidna has distinctive blond spikes. The owners of Eleanor River Homestead assured us there were echidnas in the nearby bush. As with most bush animals, finding echidnas is luck of the draw. We didn't see any at all but the owner of the bike shop where we bought D's new bike after our bicycle catastrophe (click here for the story) told me she had seen echidnas everywhere when she was last on the island.  Look for them in the bush and walk as quietly as possible. They are very timid - it is easy to walk straight past them without knowing they are there. 


We found this little guy on Raymond Island a week or so after we left Kangaroo Island

Platypus


Platypus are elusive. There is no getting around the fact that they are very difficult to find. In a lifetime of looking I have only ever thought that I might have, maybe, just once caught a glimpse of a platypus and it is quite possible I was mistaken. If you want to see a live platypus my best advice is go to a zoo. Taronga Zoo in Sydney has a great Platypus House but even there you need to be patient. They spend a fair amount of time hiding in their burrows.

The Platypus Waterholes Walk which begins at the Flinders Chase National Park Visitors' Centre leads to a group of pools which are home to this shy little creature. Don't expect to see one though - we didn't. Maximise your chances by being there at dusk or dawn, stay very quiet, be patient and hope - then, if you are lucky, you might, perhaps, maybe catch a glimpse of one or at least imagine that you have.

Note: The whole walk is about 4.5 km on an easy track. You can drive to the waterholes but the dirt road is severely corrugated making for a bone-shaking trip.

One of the Platypus Waterholes - you can see platypus burrows in the bank at the back but, sadly, no actual Platypus

Seals


There are large colonies of  sea lions and fur seals on the island. The sea lions at Seal Bay can only be seen by taking either a guided or self-guided tour . However the fur seals at Cape du Couedic can be seen from the boardwalks near Admiral's Arch in Flinders Chase National Park. There is a small charge to enter the park.


Seals enjoying the sun at Cape du Couedic


Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks


No blog post about Kangaroo Island would be complete without mention of Admirals Arch and The Remarkables - dramatic rock formations at Cape du Couedic in Flinders Chase National Park. We were there on a rare, fine day without too much wind. This is the Great Southern Ocean at it's most dramatic - nothing but thousands of miles of open sea between us and Antarctica.


The Remarkables - seen from a distance.


The Remarkables - closer up.

Looking out across the Great Southern Ocean from The Remarkables

Looking through Admirals Arch

The Great Southern Ocean coastline near Cape du Couedic

Lighthouses, wineries and other animals


Our animal spotting was not confined to kangaroos, koalas and seals. We found Rosenberg goannas at d'Estrees Bay, black swans at American River and pelicans at Kingscote - enough to satiate even my appetite for wildlife spotting. David joined in my searches with good humour but in the end I think he was glad to leave. He does enjoy a good lighthouse though and there were several on the island to give him a break from looking for animals. I also agreed to visit as many wineries as he wanted. We had some wonderful winery cafe lunches and returned to Sydney with far too many cases of wine. 

A Rosenberg goanna at D'Estrees Bay

Magnificent black swans

Where we stayed and what we ate


We stayed at Eleanor River Homestead, a two bedroom cottage, near Parndana. It was comfortable without being luxurious and perfect for seeing lots of kangaroos. It's location roughly in the middle of the island made sightseeing a bit easier since there were things we wanted to see at both ends of the island.

We self-catered for all our evening meals. There was a pub at Parndana, but not much else and it was a long drive to the restaurants in Kingscote. We did have some lovely winery lunches though. I can highly recommend the cafe at Dudley Wines Winery. The food was unexceptional, but the view out across the Great Southern Ocean was stunning.

Getting there


There are regular flights from Adelaide to Kingscote and a car and passenger ferry service from Cape Jervis. The accommodation at Cape Jervis is limited. We stayed at Victor Harbor the night before we caught the ferry which is about 40 minutes drive away.

Tips, tricks and things to know


  • Hire a car and stay for at least three or four days. Kangaroo Island is much bigger than you might think. You can't see it all in a day or two. It takes several hours to drive from one end of the island to the other without stops. The main highway is sealed but most of the roads are dirt. You won't need a 4WD but you will need to slow down.
  • If you want to see lots of bush animals, get out of the towns. Flinders Chase National Park is a great place to see wildlife. If you are there around dusk you can't avoid seeing kangaroos, but please slow down, the kangaroos have a disconcerting habit of waiting by the side of the road until you are almost on top of them and then hopping across in front of the car. 
  • The only place we saw lots of kangaroos during the middle of the day was on our way out to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. Look in the bushes next to the road. We found many large kangaroos resting in the shade there.
  • Be cautious about buying the Kangaroo Island Tour Pass. At $68 per adult and $185 for a family of four it is expensive. Be sure you want to do the tours it includes. If you are not a tour person then you probably don't need the pass - we didn't.



34 comments:

  1. The one rock at the Remarkables looks like an eagle! I think the echidnas are super-cute. I'd like to see one of those in the wild. Looks like a great trip!

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    1. Hi Andrea, It's funny everyone loves the echidna. I'm a koala person myself although I have to admit the echidnas are cute, especially when they pull themselves into a ball,

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  2. Hi Lyn, I've heard about Kangaroo Islands but I thought the only thing you could see there were kangaroos :) Duh! It's interesting to learn that it's home to many kind of wildlife and that there's lots of natural beauty to be found -- and wineries, wow!. I just want to say that that koala on the tree jus stole my heart. Ahh...It's the cutest thing. I'm sad though about the dwindling population of the fairy penguins. Thank you for taking us to Kangaroo Island.

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    1. Hi Marisol, Don't worry about the Duh! - I used to thing that Kangaroo Island was called that because it was shaped like a kangaroo, which it isn't. It didn't occur to me that it may just have lots of kangaroos - so I think my 'Duh' outdoes yours - lol.

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  3. Another place to add to my bucket list! I saw a platypus in the wild the first time I was in Queensland, I just didn't realize how rare it was.

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    1. Hi Rhonda. You are so lucky. They are rare but more than anything else they are really timid. I only know a couple of people who have ever seen them in the bush.

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  4. It is amazing all of the wildlife at Kangaroo Island. We used to see platypus when I lived in Tumut, NSW and always found them to be amazing. Great photos and info.

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    1. Hi Paula, I envy you. I have never seen a playtpus outside of a zoo, except for a brief glimpse.

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  5. Never heard about Kangaroo Island, but it seems like an amazing wildlife sanctuary. That "goanna" looks very much like an Iguana. I have never seen one in real life. Thanks for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard this week.

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    1. Hi Anda, I think Iguanas might be a bit bigger than most goannas or maybe I'm thinking of Jurassic Park style iguanas.

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  6. I love the brown kangaroos! They are much cuter than the grey ones we saw on the mainland. And who can resist a koala? The other animals are incredible. What a diverse ecosystem. Truly a treat to read this post.

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    1. Hi Betsy. You would be surprised at how many different species of kangaroos and wallabies there are in Australia. I'm pretty sure there is even a species of wallaby in New Zealand but don't quote me on this.

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  7. OMG, I know Echidnas are spiky but they are SO cute! As are the koalas! The whole place looks absolutely gorgeous, and since I've never been to Australia and may never go there, I didn't even know it existed. Thank you for sharing your experience, and for all the wonderful links that help expand the experience of imagining I'm there.

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    1. Hi Jolanta. You are in good company. Everyone seems to love the echidna - they are cute.

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  8. I've been wanting to visit Kangaroo Island for a while now. The island has a reputation as a gourmet island with some fabulous food being produced there too. Sounds like a great places to see all the Aussie animals too...I do love seeing koalas in the wild!

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    1. Hi Jenny. Because we were staying inland we didn't get a chance to sample any restaurant meals except at lunch time and most of the time not even then but I'm sure the food is wonderful.

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  9. On our last trip to Australia, we ponied up for an all day tour of Kangaroo Island that included a flight from Adelaide to Kingscote. It was a small van tour with a guide knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and geology. We really enjoyed our day. I took one of my best photos ever of a fur seal family (at least my narrative is that the two nuzzling adults and one baby were a family) and I am featured in a VERY cheesey photo my husband took of me pretending to hold up a rock formation at the Remarkables.

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    1. Hi Suzanne. You and the rest of the world have been photographed holding up that rock - I know the one you mean. If it ever threatens to fall down we can just schedule all the tourists and it could be held up 24/7 - lol.

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  10. Wow, awesome! I love all of the wildlife here. It would be so cool to see kangaroos and koalas in the wild - they're so cute! Thanks for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust :)

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    1. Hi Lauen. They are even more adorable in real life.

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  11. Wonderful wildlife on Kangaroo Island - glad your third attempt was successful in visiting the island. I must say though it is advisable to not feed any wildlife anything - let's keep the wildlife wild.

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    1. Hi Susan. I did feel a bit guilty about feeding the kangaroos but kangaroos are fed and patted all over Australia and these particular kangaroos were being fed each day by the owners of our cabin. Kangaroos are very different to American wildlife (eg: bears) for whom feeding presents real dangers. Kangaroos eat grass so they don't lose the ability to hunt and they don't pose a threat to people if they become too tame.

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  12. So, it's confession time. I grew up at Mount Compass and went to high school in Victor Harbour and I have never been to Kangaroo Island. Shameful, I know. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters and all of them went at one time or another either on a school excursion or maybe with the Scouts or Girl Guides, but somehow I missed that to. But, while my home is no longer in South Australia, I have family and friends there and I promise myself that one day I will go... Thanks for the lovely photos.

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    1. Hi Yasha. It was a lot harder to get to Kangaroo Island a few decades ago so you're excused - but it is a wonderful place.

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  13. I love seeing all the wildlife especially those adorable kangaroos and koala. I've heard of Kangaroo Island and I've always pictured kangaroos like the ones you showed hopping around. It's great to know there are other things to see too and the wineries and interesting rock formations would just be major bonuses.

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    1. Hi Mary, It is a great place to be a tourist. The only downside for us was that the time of year we went the paddocks were very dry and brown - almost grey.

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  14. Kangaroo Island sounds like a gem. I like that all the animals are roaming free. I do hope I get to visit it in person someday. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed your pictures.

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    1. Hi Carole. Kangaroo Island is a stunning place to visit. I loved every minute of it. Glad you liked the photos.

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  15. Looks like your visit to Kangaroo Island was worth the wait!

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  16. I have yet to see a kangaroo in real life. Maybe I should head to kangaroo island! Great photos.

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    1. Hi Nat, D and I are in the Hunter Valley for a few nights. It is only two hours drive from Sydney. Yesterday we saw about ten kangaroos in the bush near our B & B villa.

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  17. Of all the places that we visited in Australia, I think that Kangaroo Island is my favorite -- for many of the same reasons why you enjoyed it. We stayed in a little cabin on Hanson Bay, and I spent many hours (fruitlessly) hanging out on the beach hoping to spot a penguin. We were much luckier with all the other wildlife except we never did see a platypus either. Like you, I was rather amazed at how much the ferry cost.

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    1. Hi Michele. Sorry you didn't see any penguins. I did much the same thing in New Zealand once and finally scored a couple of yellow-eyed penguins but there were many hours of waiting involved. I wrote a post about it - http://www.thetravellinglindfields.com/2014/02/test.html
      I have persuaded D to go to Bombala in a couple of months. It advertises itself as 'Platypus Country' - I'm not holding my breath though.

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