Australasia | Australia | South Australia | Kangaroo Island – More Koalas More Rocks More Seals More Kangaroos
Southern Australias Kangaroo Island
The day begins with a wake-up call for 5:15 a.m. at the Ambassador hotel in downtown Adelaide. Its the Calypso 500 Car Race weekend, so this charming capital city of South Australia is packed with race fans. The Ambassador is a 165-year-old hotel and the old girl shows some signs of wear. Novelties include a slightly-larger-than-phone booth size elevator that has the old manual double doors, and a maze like stairway system where you can exit through one door, enter through another, and find yourself back in exactly the same place. But, Im not waking up at five in the morning to watch a car race, fun as that may be. Im up to go to Kangaroo Island, Australias third largest island after the main continent itself.
The hotel has prepared a light breakfast for me to eat in my room before the shuttle picks me up and takes me to the central station to pick up the ferry-boarding pass. Its a bit of an administrative mystery to me why they cant just issue them on the bus, but an hour or so later, we are on our way to Port Jervis, 120 kms south. On our way, we see dozens of kangaroos out for their morning breakfast near the side of the road before boarding the Sealink catamaran for the 50-minute crossing.
Originally, I was going to cycle down to the island and make it part of my ride along the Great Ocean Road, but after re-evaluating the distances and the time I had available, I decided to do a one day tour. After spending the evening at Henley Beach where scenes from the movie Shine were filmed, it will be a long day, but hopefully worth it. As a wildlife fan, one of the main reasons I want to go to Kangaroo Island isnt the Kangaroo, its the Koalas in the wild that are in abundance here and Seal Bay an Australian Sea lion colony where you are permitted to walk among the animals on the beach under the supervision of a ranger.
Dave, a transplanted Kiwi with a penchant for rambling on monotously and endlessly about the history of Australia and Kangaroo Island, is our driver and guide for the day. Im not a coach tour type of person, and even more, I like to actually spend some time just looking and seeing the scenery go by, so I bear down wishing I brought my earplugs or CD player. It might be that our previous driver Bruce plied us with offensive humour such as Why do American negroes buy Pontiacs? Because it stands for Poor old nigger thinks its a Cadillac. No kidding. He actually told that joke. Dave was just boring and playing bad poetry by some Englishwoman about a Platypus. Even long time residents almost never see the Platypus on Kangaroo Island. Anyway I decided to make the most of this brilliantly sunny day and shoot some video for a possible presentation on my return.
We arrive at Seal Bay at approx 11 a.m. and are met by a park ranger for our walk among the Sea lions. We walk down to the beach and there are at least fifty in the immediate vicinity. Mostly they are lying around relaxing in the sand, but theres always some moving around. A couple lurch out from the sand dunes where they spend the night, a few head out to sea not to be seen for three days, some surf the waves or play in the water, mothers suckle their pups, and males challenge for territory. Were cautioned to stay in the group and avoid a few bits of bona fide sea lion shit in the sand, being warned we wont be allowed back on the bus if we step in them. Im pretty sure nobody was interested in either stepping in the stinky parcels or being banned from the bus, even with the endless prattling on of facts and figures. Its a brief experience, but enjoyable in each of its precious moments.
After a brief BBQ lunch, we are off to the Koala Sanctuary. With their slow moving seemingly harmless nature, and an almost humanlike scratching of ears, there is something universally endearing about Koalas. Lets face it. Theyre cute as hell! We walk along through a grove of Eucalyptus trees, spotting them perched between branches. Some are very high up in the trees, but there are a few that delight us with their close proximity. Unfortunately, we are only allowed about ten minutes at this stop one more reason I really should not do coach tours.
Next, we drive to the Remarkable Rocks. Theyre a strange outcropping of boulders, weathered and eroded by millions of years of rain, wind, surf, and sun. Some are hollowed out caves, while others are simply geometric shapes with holes and carvings in them. Children scramble among them playing hide and seek, teenagers chill out watching the surf far below crash against the shore. The turquoise sea laps against the beach in the distance and the blue sky stretches out forever. Directly south about 5000 kms is the next landfall Antarctica.
Our almost final stop of the day is another seal colony and rock structure. This one is the Admirals Arch, a granite structure eroded from the natural limestone of Kangaroo Island, and among and below are hundreds of New Zealand Seals. Its an active colony with several young males barking and battling each other in preparation for the day when they will be of breeding age. We return to the interpretation center and a few tame kangaroo search for food and let me pet them.
Finally, we spend some time in the port for a bite to eat and our fourth and final opportunity to purchase some souvenirs. It will be eleven p.m. before we are back in town, ready for another day in the south of Australia.