KANGAROO ISLAND Your escape to Eden
This glorious isle, only a short hop from Adelaide, is possibly the best wildlife destination in Australia
̏Kangaroos are just the start. To say the island is a fine place to observe native fauna is an understatement˝
Somewhere special? The clue is in the name. Sitting pretty just off the coast of the South Australian mainland, Kangaroo Island is one of the greatest wildlife destinations in the country. It takes only 30 minutes to reach by air from Adelaide – or, for road-trippers, a mere 45 minutes by ferry from Cape Jervis – but in ecological terms it’s a land of its own.
Kangaroos are just the start. To say it’s a fine place to observe native fauna in its natural habitat is an understatement. “It was a different world,” says Nick Baker, reflecting on his trip earlier this year. “Being an island, it’s got species that on the mainland are more dispersed or harder to see. It was brilliant.”
As a passionate wildlife-watcher, Nick was in his element here. The broad 4,405 sq km isle plays home to everything from wallabies, sea lions and brush-tailed possums to rare birds, fur seals and little penguins. “It’s also one of the best places in Australia to see koala, bar none,” he adds, “so make sure you keep your eyes open.”
The animals that lent the place its name have evolved slightly differently to their mainland counterparts (“It’s a subspecies,” enthuses Nick, “it’s darker, and doesn’t need to hop so fast”). There’s a rather grisly story behind the island’s name, however. It received its title after the British explorer Matthew Flinders ‘discovered’ it in 1802 and filled the bellies of his hungry men with kangaroo meat. You’ll be pleased to hear the island’s menagerie is treated with considerably more love and respect these days, although the many stories tied in to the explorer era add extra cultural interest to a trip here.
A special spot
The island has long been a magnet for wildlife experts, and you’ll find a wealth of hugely knowledgeable guides. Arranging to spend a day or two in their company is highly recommended. Be sure, too, to explore the island’s beaches with a wellladen picnic basket. The local honey, oysters, crayfish and delicious lobster are particularly renowned.
If you have the time, the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail – a 61km five-day trek – is a phenomenal option. If you’re cherrypicking the best bits, don’t skip on the marine life: the colony of sea lions at Seal Bay, the seals at Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks, and the island’s dolphins. “I see bottlenose dolphins regularly but I was blown away,” explains Nick. “We chugged along the coast for half an hour looking at wedge-tailed eagles, then rounded a headland and there was a huge pod or 40 or 50 of them, bobbing around in shallow clear water. It was the best dolphin swim I’ve done anywhere in the world, and the ethics of the operator were brilliant.”
If you’re looking for a corner of Australia that’s going to serve up unforgettable outdoor encounters, there’s nowhere better. “I had a particularly magical evening as the sun was setting, watching the galahs coming down to feed and kangaroos bouncing all around us,” recalls Nick. “It was beautiful – really, really special.”
Live the wild life Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to see Australia’s native wildlife; (bottom) the stark beauty of the Remarkable Rocks