Kangaroo Island, SA

By: Anna Pastukhova, Photography by: Anna Pastukhova, Dmitri Lazariuc


Kangaroo Island gives you a feeling of freedom as soon as you step on its shore, as Anna Pastukhova discovered.

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Getting to Kangaroo Island is fairly easy; hop onto the ferry in Cape Jervis and 45 minutes later you step down on the other end in Penneshaw, KI's main port. The 16km long journey across the gulf is quite luxurious aboard the large SeaLink ferry, while relaxing in a comfortable lounge or taking in the views from outside and feeling that refreshing sea breeze on your face. About half way through the journey you begin to see the contours of the island and can’t help but wonder what it has in store for you.

With a population of around 4500 people, Kangaroo Island welcomes close to 200,000 visitors a year. However, don’t expect crowds of tourists similar to those in the gulf of Thailand — Kangaroo Island absorbs the travellers into its 4400sq km, allowing everyone to enjoy a quiet, private moment in its unspoilt surroundings.

HISTORY

Looking at a map of KI, you cannot help but wonder about the coexistence of the mixed French and English names, located on the island. As it turns out, in the early 1800s, both Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin met in Encounter Bay, just off Victor Harbor, while mapping and charting the areas around Kangaroo Island. After this meeting they decided to split the workload, with Nicolas Baudin mapping most of the south coast of the island, and Flinders, the north. That gave the island it’s unique naming combination, clearly present to this day.

WILDLIFE

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This is how locals refer to the island, and rightfully so. The island really is a saturated microcosm of what you see around the mainland of Australia. From countless kangaroos and copious birdlife to shy echidnas and curious dolphins — the island is swarmed with wildlife.

BOAT TOUR

For the lovers of marine life, a boat tour is a must. Spotting bottlenose dolphins is no challenge around KI, as many pods permanently live in the area. Their curious nature brings them straight to the boat where lucky tourists get to view these mammals’ playful nature, up close and personal. Dolphins also enjoy a bit of a play in the swell coming off the boat, so it’s not rare that pods will follow you around the ocean for a few kilometres before waving their tails to say goodbye.

Other sea mammals to keep an eye out for are Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals. They are best spotted closer to shore, lying on the rocks, and soaking up the sunshine between fishing swims.

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While on the boat, you can also enjoy the views of the highest coastal cliffs in Australia, which rise to 200m in some places. These cliffs define the island, making it a natural fortress. The layers of sedimentary rock in the cliffs date back millions of years, and show evidence of when the island, the mainland and Antarctica were joined as one land — Gondwana.

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If you haven’t spotted sea lions out at sea, don’t be disheartened. Seal Bay is home to Australia’s third largest colony of sea lions and is a must visit while on KI. An 800m boardwalk offers fantastic views of the colony, as well as breathtaking scenery in the distance. Being endemic to South Australia and the south coast of WA, the sea lions of Seal Bay are the rarest species of seals in the world because their breeding pattern makes population growth rather slow. The females have the longest gestation period out of all sea lions species, lasting 18 months, while only being able to have one pup at a time. This means that the breeding season changes time from year-to-year, but if you’re lucky enough to be visiting at the right moment, you’ll be able to watch these playful pups rolling around on the beach, practising their fighting skills. It is a truly unbelievable experience to be able to observe them in their natural environment, going on about their day-to-day business.

QUAD BIKES TOUR

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Once you’ve explored the island from the outside, it’s time to go inland. For an island that size, it’s not surprising that it has plenty to offer. Whether you’re a keen 4WDer or like to hike, there’s something there for you. Our pick was a quad bike adventure, and gee, did we have fun! With sand and gravel tracks, open grassland, winding tacks through the native bushland, and rocky climbs and descents, the island is a quad biking paradise.

After a couple of hours of fun using the quads, we decide to test our own quad muscles — climbing sand dunes. Little Sahara is the place to do it — with natural sand dunes rising up to 70m tall — it’s sandboarding heaven. The way down is fun, fast and exciting. Expect to fall over a couple of times, but getting dug into the sand is all part of the fun. The way up is much tougher though —knee-deep in the sand — it's a workout not for the faint-hearted. After an hour we feel like we’ve done our exercising for the day, so we head further.

About 25 minutes down the road is Kelly Hill Conservation Park, home to Kelly Hill limestone caves, which are perfect to explore any time of the year. In fact, the caves are known for their own little microclimate with a temperature of 16°C and humidity levels of 70 to 80 per cent no matter what the weather is outside. For people with the thrill for real adventure, there are caving tours which will have you crawling your way through an underground maze of smaller caverns.

REMARKABLE ROCKS

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If you ever 'Google' Kangaroo Island, you can’t go past the images of the Remarkable Rocks, a unique formation on the south-western corner of the island. The massive granite boulders are believed to have originated from volcanic activity over 500 million years ago, and the unusual shapes of the rocks have been naturally sculpted by unobstructed ocean winds and rain. The rocks sit atop a massive granite outcrop, about 75m above sea level, which makes for a perfect viewing platform to sit down and take a moment to stare into the depth of the Southern Ocean. Looking into the distance, thinking that the next bit of land on the horizon is Antarctica, really does make you feel like you’re on the edge of the world!

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Just a 10 minute drive from the Remarkables is Admirals Arch— a stunning rock, opening out onto the ocean, created by years of corrosion. It is a great spot to admire a colony of New Zealand fur seals, who have made the landmark their home. A lot less crowded, it is also a perfect place to enjoy a sunset, looking out towards the ocean, mesmerised by the burst of light coming in through the rocks and reflecting on the water. Just a short boardwalk up, and you’ll get to the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, which has been guarding the island’s southwest coast since 1909.

Unfortunately, every trip comes to an end, and when you’re on KI, there’s a return ferry to catch. Looking back onto the island as the ferry glides away, every visitor plans to come back one day.

With its prehistoric natural attractions and friendly locals, it really is a destination that will leave a soft spot in anyone’s heart. Enjoying a glass of red on the ferry, time goes by quickly and you’re now disembarking back onto the mainland — back to reality of the 21st century.

The full destination piece appears in Caravan World #574. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!