Kangaroo Island is an animal lovers paradise and the prospect of seeing kangaroos, koalas and sea lions were just three of the reasons we had to visit.
With its abundance of wildlife and nature, the unspoilt Kangaroo Island was high on our “best things to do in Australia” list. A day trip was not going to be enough for us, so we booked the Sealink Ferries Kangaroo 2-day Island Tour. We booked to stay overnight on Kangaroo Island which included coach, ferry and air transport, 1-night Kangaroo Island hotel accommodation in Kingscote and a 2-day guided tour of Kangaroo Island.
We arrived on Kangaroo Island or KI, as the locals call it, from the city of Adelaide on day 16 of our epic round the world trip. Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to visit in South Australia and we eagerly joined our tour bus to find out if the claims that the island was like a zoo without fences were true.
Being the third largest island in Australia and one of the best-preserved spots for wildlife encounters, we were excited to see animals in their natural habitat. Over 60,000 island kangaroos call this their home and so they should as they outnumber the 4,400 residents living here.
Our tour group was the right mix of ages and nationalities and our driver, Bruce, had a wealth of bad jokes but a fantastic knowledge of the island. No sooner had we departed the ferry than we were off to the first location on our tour encountering our first island kangaroos on the way. The excitement was real!
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How marvellous that our first stop on Kangaroo Island would be to visit the rare Australian sea lions in their natural habitat. As we approached the beach, it was great to see them basking in the sun and frolicking in the water. The bulls (males) and cows (females) lay on the beach seemingly exhausted while the pups enjoyed diving through the waves.
Our Seal Bay guide told us that only 12,000 remain in the wild and are a protected species. Therefore, access by the public is only with an official guide, and as you are relatively close to these magnificent creatures, you can understand why this rule is in place. I was standing by the walkway and realised that a pup and her parent were underneath it sheltering from the heat and to be so close was a fabulous introduction to the beauty of Kangaroo Island.
The walkway towards the golden sands of Seal Bay
Sea-Lions basking in the sunshine after a morning of hunting
Eucalyptus trees are not a common sight in the UK; however, we use the oil to clear head colds and sinuses and so a visit to a distillery on the other side of the world was interesting. We found out that the plant is the staple diet of a koala and how this traditional Kangaroo Island product is made.
We were shown past and present eucalyptus oil processes of distilling and told how the oil was Australia’s first overseas export. With a cute gift shop and tea rooms, not forgetting the resident emu who watched over the guests, this was a lovely visit to a local business.
The resident Emu keeping an eye on the guests
Vivonne Bay Bistro
Getting to Kangaroo island had been pretty easy, but as we had started the morning at 5 am, to catch the coach to the ferry terminal, we were now more than ready to stop for lunch. Included in the tour, we enjoyed a buffet-style selection in a rustic bistro setting in keeping with its surroundings.
Located in the beautiful Vivonne Bay, we didn’t have a chance to swim in the azure waters that encompass the area, but there are many beautiful beaches on Kangaroo Island to enjoy if you have the time.
Birds of prey who have been abandoned or orphaned are brought and looked after by Dave Irwin, cousin of the late TV personality Steve Irwin. They display them at Raptor Domain to bring awareness to the public of their existence and vulnerability.
The 1-hour shows are carefully curated, and if the birds don’t want to perform, they are left to their own devices. As bird lovers, we both enjoyed the interaction we had with the kookaburras, a species we had only ever read about before as they are indigenous to this part of the world.
The hawk was looking magnificent during his display.
The Kookaburra refused to sit on the leather glove.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at this wildlife park, after all, I had heard that Kangaroo Island’s animals all led wild, carefree lives and here we were visiting an animal park. Managed by two wildlife conservationists, they bring awareness of the 150 species of native Australian wildlife to a broader audience.
Hands-on experiences are available and for us feeding the kangaroos was incredible. They are incredibly gentle as they take the food from your hand but beware of the slobber from their mouths that they leave behind!
Of course, koala cuddling is one of the most popular activities in the park, but we preferred to watch and admire them rather than hold them.
As a child, I had a toy koala brought back from Australia for me, so I was over the moon to have a photograph taken with the real thing, and the bonus was that it was awake! A treasured memory that will last a lifetime.
Our previous night had been at the Ozone Hotel in Kingscote. Located opposite the seafront this basic, but comfortable hotel had been the perfect stop for one night.
We had taken a walk around the town this morning in search of the post office so we could send our postcards back to the UK and discovered a quaint town with several cafes and coffee shops as well as souvenir shops.
The beach area was good for a morning walk, and we saw a sign saying that pelicans were fed each evening at dusk by a resident. We had missed it but if you are in this area then check it out.
Watch the sun go down from Kingscote shore.
The Kingscote signpost highlighting pelican feeding
The clear water in Kingscote
It just so happens that we really love honey and so a visit to a working bee farm was perfect for us. Clifford is the founder and his children, and their partners are now all involved in this cottage industry.
Manuka honey may be famous in New Zealand, but here on Kangaroo Island, the Ligurian bee is the star, and its honey is delicious. Try the honey ice cream, honey biscuits and honey beer – you won’t be sorry.
Dominic came away with an action plan to learn how to become an apiarist (beekeeper) and set up in our UK garden. So far, it’s still just an idea!
I have to admit then when I came to Australia, I thought that I would be seeing koalas hanging off almost every tree, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Koalas are quiet, nocturnal animals who sleep during the day, normally so high in a tree they are hard to see. They wake for only 4-6 hours in the evening to eat eucalyptus leaves, their only food source. To spot one is like winning the lottery and so when we discovered that Hanson Bay Sanctuary was home to wild koalas, we couldn’t wait to explore.
Spotting our first Koala
As we strolled through the self-guided walk, we spotted our first koala. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see one in the wild in Australia. A dream come true! To be fair the staff tie a coloured ribbon around the trees that have the koalas in them, after all, they aren’t going anywhere until tea-time, the koalas that is, not the staff!
Feral cats are a big problem for the indigenous animals on Kangaroo Island. Introduced as domestic pets, they have turned wild and consume 1500 kg of native animal meat per day. Hanson Bay has fenced off 250 acres to protect the native animals enabling them to live without fear of attack and ultimately, extinction.
We spotted around eight koalas during our walk as well as a pademelon, a small marsupial and an echidna, a hedgehog-like creature with a long snout for foraging food. My first ever encounter with one of these strange creatures and out here in this sanctuary. Kangaroo Island was undoubtedly holding up to its claims of being a haven for wildlife.
Sleepy Time for this Koala
A Pademelon, a small marsupial that lives in forests
The curious Echidna foraging for food
Dominic spotting his first Koala
Following a 2-course lunch, at Hanson Sanctuary, we headed to the westernmost part of Kangaroo Island known as Flinders Chase National Park where we would discover the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
So you must be wondering just how remarkable a group of rocks could be. We thought the same thing until we saw them. Boulders of russet-coloured granite hewn into incredible shapes by the force of nature were like an outdoor sculpture exhibition.
Dali-esque in form the rocks looked as though they had been imagined by the artist Dali and made for a film set not hewn from the elements over the last 50 million years.
Cameras were everywhere, and we weren’t about to miss out on taking photographs of these rocks, and I think you would agree, they are remarkable rocks.
The Dali-esque Remarkable Rocks
A wander along the wooden boardwalk and around the cliff face takes you to Admirals Arch’s natural rock. The arch has taken shape due to weather erosion from the sea over thousands of years, and while it looks delicate, it carries the weight above it quite easily.
Fur seals can be seen here, and we were lucky to spot quite a few of them. These small dark brown seals feed at sea and return to land to rest and breed. The gulls also fly in and out of this area, hunting for their dinner.
A viewing platform allows you to look through the arch and out to sea and for me, it was a real privilege to watch animals behaving so naturally in their habitat.
Our time on Kangaroo Island had come to an end, and what a fantastic trip it had been. Our Kangaroo Island 2-day tour provided us with such a diverse range of activities to experience that I would recommend it to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in island life.
Kingscote airfield was our last stop on KI, and as we boarded our small propeller plane for the 15-minute flight back to Adelaide, we agreed our trip had been excellent. The flight itself was an interesting experience as no sooner had we buckled up than we were landing again, this was the quickest flight we had ever encountered, and the views of the island from the air were incredible.
Outside the airport, a taxi, organised by Sealink, was waiting to take us back to our hotel for our last night in Adelaide. Kangaroo Island had undoubtedly held up to all its promises and turned out to be one of the highlights of our 6-week trip to Australia.