The Indian Pacific pulled into Adelaide around 3pm and we were due to leave on our tour around Kangaroo Island the following day so after a quick look around town taking in some of the sights (mostly churches and statues!) we got an early night.
We were picked up horribly early in a minivan by our guide Kate and drove south to Middleton Beach on the mainland for a surf lesson. Rather foolishly we had forgotten that this was part of the tour and had left our swimming gear at the bottom of our stuffed backpacks. As we have five whole days of surf lessons booked for January, as well as the fact that it was a very chilly morning, we decided to pass up on the lesson and took a walk along the pretty beach while the rest of the group got try their hands at staying upright on the boards.
After everybody had dried off we went for lunch in a nearby park before hiking up a lookout point (where we saw a really cool shingleback lizard!) in the Fleurieu Peninsula and walking around the cute village of Victor Harbour where we had some ice creams and
Finally we headed to the harbour to catch the boat to Kangaroo Island. The sun had come out and we piled onto two company speedboats for the gorgeous late afternoon trip over the waves.
Kangaroo Island is Australia's third largest island and is famous for its rich wildlife that has survived thanks to the island's isolation from European introduced diseases and animals that have caused havoc on the mainland. The name comes from the fact that the explorer who discovered it, Matthew Flinders, along with his crew, enjoyed a fest of kangaroo that they had killed after arriving there.
When we pulled into the tiny jetty we were met by another minibus and driven to the local shop where we bought some beer for around the campfire that evening and then drove off to a look out point at the top of Prospect Hill on the way to our hostel. The climb up to the lookout was pretty tough with 500 irregular steps to the peak of a small hill but the view from the top was well worth it. We were near the narrowest point of
the island which is only 1km wide and it was really cool to see the tiny strip of land bordered by vivid blue sea on both sides with luscious greenery in the distance.
In the evening we sat with a few beers around the campsite while Kate cooked some dinner. There was a large bush near where we were sitting and after a while we started to hear some very strange sounds emenating from it. First we heard birds sounding panicked before a growling and large rustling started. Obviously, being backpackers and therefore inherently suspicious of all Australian wildlife due to its high probability of dangerousness we were a little wary but after a while a very cute looking little possum popped its head out of the bush and looked at our food hungrily. We couldn't believe that this was the creature causing all the noise. We stayed up for a while chatting over a few beers before turning in for the night.
Our hostel was actually a farm and, although the dorm room we stayed in was actually very comfortable, the bathrooms were a little basic and, being outside, were occasionally populated by some wildlife. On the
first morning I had been in the shower (which had only one temperature - scalding) for a few minutes before I turned around and realised that a hairy evil looking spider was sharing it with me. I hurridley flicked him away and finished up as quick as possible. After breakfast we piled into the minivan and headed to the Harriet River. We spend a lovely couple of hours kayaking up the river in the cool of the morning before heading to a bird show at a small conservation centre. The guy giving the show was a little odd (a perfect example of how living on an island with more kangaroos than people can make you somewhat peculiar) but he clearly loved the birds he was showing us and had lots of fascinating information about all of them. The birds were all clearly happy at the reserve too as they were all untethered and would have been able to fly away at any point during the demonstrations if they so desired. He explained that they simply stayed because they had a good life there! We saw a cockatoo, an Australian kestrel, a tawny frogmouth, a barn owl (that Amy fell in
love with), some blue winged kookaburras and, my favourite, a magnificent wedge tailed eagle. We later saw some of these in the wild on another tour but that blog will follow shortly!
Next we drove to a gorgeous rocky outcrop into the sea where we clambered over rocks and watched the deep blue waves crash into them just yards away. Afterwards we headed to one of the highlights of the trip. There is a large colony of Australian Sea Lions that have taken up residence on one of the many gorgeous beaches of Kangaroo Island and the area has now been protected and can only be visited with a guide. Our guide told us the rules that we had to follow and led us down the long walkway to the beach. She told us how the seals will go out into the ocean and feast for three days before coming back onto the beach to rest for another three before starting the cycle over again. As a result all of the seals on the beach would be exhausted and full so we were not to approach them while they were resting and must view quietly from a distance so
as not to disturb them. Not a bad life for a sea lion I thought. When we got to the sand I was astounded by how many of them there were. They stretched all along the beach, lazing in the sun and occasionally waddling to the water's edge to cool off. It was so cool to be standing on the beach with an estimated 250 sea lions all just chilling on the sand like fat bearded backpackers. I felt right at home.
Next stop was Little Sahara on the south coast of the island where we had been told we could sandboard on the dunes there. I, like many others, had an image of dunes that were perhaps 10 metres high and gently sloped but when we pulled in we saw enormous piles of sand that towered above the landscape in the distance and suddenly felt a little daunted. We got the boards from the trailer and headed over through the silky sand. Just getting to the top of the dune was a challenge in itself, the beautifully soft sand shifting under our feet as we climbed and pushing us back down with each step up. Finally we reached
the top and Amy wisely decided to sit down on the tea tray style boards that virtually ensured you couldn't fall off. I say virtually ensured it because, inevitably Amy still managed to topple off. I, ever the cocky one, opted for the snowboard style board with feet straps and a much higher probability of broken limbs but only managed to eat sand for my first few attempts. We stayed at the dunes for a couple of hours, enjoying the sun and the view from the top almost as much as the boarding. After a while we did both get the hang of it and were flying down the slopes towards the end without falling off. You can see one of Amy's more successful attempts here:
Thoroughly exhausted and with sand in places that sand really shouldn't be we left for some dinner before driving to see the blue fairy beach penguins that inhabit one of the coves on the island after nightfall. They were incredibly cute and we had to use soft blue lighting in the dark so as not to scare them. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos for that very reason but it
was really cool to see the tiny little things waddling around in the dark.
The next morning we drove to Flinders Chase National Park to see Remarkable Rocks. True to their name, Remarkable Rocks are rocks that are quite remarkable. I do love the Australian matter of factness. The rocks are very peculiarly shaped natural formations on a granite outcrop over the sea. They have been slowly eroded over millions of years into the very peculiar shapes that are there today and we spent quite a while climbing over them and taking dozens of pictures. Afterwards we walked along the coastline to an old lighthouse, taking in the beautiful scenery and occasional wildlife along the way. In one short walk we saw a wallaby, some monstrously huge ants and a sand goanna.
Afterwards we went to see another seal bay, this time home to the New Zealand Fur Seals. Instead of a beach these furry critters live on rocky outcrops that we were able to view from walkways above the crashing waves. Further along the walkways we also went to visit the spectacular Admirals Arch, a natural arch in the rocks that looks back over to the Remarkable
Our final stop of the day was at a secret beach that we had to climbs through rocks to reach. Once there we were greeted with a sweeping arch of soft white sand with a pool protected from the waves by a row of rocks. We sat enjoying the sun for a while before jumping in the minivan for the long trip back to Adelaide.
Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession in the name...more history