Our trip to Kangaroo Island started early with a 0600 pick-up from our hotel. The drive to Cape Jervis took about an hour and a half, during which we saw lots of wild kangaroos, and from there we caught a ferry for the 45-minute crossing to Penneshaw where we met up with the rest of our 12-strong tour group. During the crossing we spotted a pod of dolphins playing at the bow of the ferry. Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off the coast of Australia, it is about 165km long and is renown as a pristine wilderness landscape; industry on the island is mainly agriculture, tourism, and fishing. Our two-day tour would take us to see several local businesses, wildlife sites, and natural wonders.
First stop was a eucalyptus oil distillery where we saw how one local farmer has given up keeping sheep and cattle and is now harnessing the native bush growing eucalyptus trees and harvesting the oil. We were quite amused by the farmer who kept saying provocatively that he was ‘exploiting the lands natural resources’ and saying he would be happy to argue that statement with any ‘greenies’ who wanted a fight. Nobody took the bait but we couldn’t see why and ‘greenies’ would have a problem. He is harvesting an abundant native plant which renews itself for harvest every two years, the shrubs need no irrigation or chemical inputs and processing the oil involves burning dead wood from the farm and surrounds, and water to create steam to carry the oil. The product is bottled and labelled on site and sold across Australia. Seemed pretty sustainable to us. The product information leaflet says the eucalyptus oil can be used as an antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal treatment; taken with honey it helps ease sore throats; inhaled in steam it is good for colds. It is also recommended as a stain remover, detergent, toilet/floor cleaner; paint brush cleaner and lubricant for seized machinery. Wonder product!!
After a buffet lunch at a local bistro we headed to Seal Bay where a local warden led us down to the beach to visit a sealion colony. We were outnumbered about 5 to one by sealions basking on the beach some of them with pups. It was another wonderful wildlife encounter in a trip that has been full of them already. Next stop was a Raptor Centre (very like the one in Ramsey in the Fens) where we saw a variety of Australian owls, Kookaburras and birds of prey – always a great thing to see. Last stop on day one was a tour of Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park where some of the group hand fed captive kangaroos and wallabies, we also saw koalas, parrots and a collection of very poisonous snakes. It was only a small wildlife park but they are doing a lot of good work breeding endangered species and protecting Australia’s native wildlife.
During out visit to Kangaroo Island we stayed at the Kangaroo Island Lodge for two nights, another couple on the tour, John and Lene from Denmark were also staying there, we had gotten on well with them during the day so that evening we met for a drink together and then enjoyed a very nice meal and shared a bottle of wine. They were only staying one night which was a shame but we did enjoy their company and have been invited to visit them in Denmark.
Day two of the tour started with a visit to a honey farm where we heard about honey production and tasted several honeys from different native gum trees, very distinctive. Kangaroo Island was designated as a protected environment for bees and it is strictly controlled. As a result, it is the only place in the world where a pure strain of Ligurian bees still exists, they were introduced by early settlers and have been protected from many of the pests and diseases that have so badly hit bees around the world. The honey farm we visited (one of over 20 farms on the island) exports queen bees around the world to bee keepers trying to re-establish their colonies.
On to Hanson Bay at the west end of the island for lunch and a walk through a grove of eucalyptus trees that are home to 40+ koala’s, we managed to spot about 10 of them dozing in the trees, it was our kind of wildlife, they don’t run away when you walk up to them! Very cute!
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving the coast at the west end of the island, in particular we visited the very appropriately named Remarkable Rocks, and very remarkable they were too. They are huge blocks of granite that over millennia have been eroded by wind and sea to create weird organic looking shapes – see the pictures to get a better idea. We also walked down a cliff to see Admirals Arch, a huge Arch carved out of the cliff by wave action. After a tea stop at the Flinders Chase Visitors Centre we drove back across the Island through the National Park enjoying views of vast areas of untouched native forest.
After another night at the KI Lodge we caught the ferry back to the mainland and returned to Adelaide for one night before heading in to the Red Centre to visit Uluru and Alice Springs. It is a busy life.