Tasmania is, of course, Australia’s largest coastal island. Kangaroo Island ranks 3rd. Ruth and I kind of wanted to go to Kangaroo Island on our recent trip because we hadn’t been there, but it didn’t work out. Just before we left, Ruth’s friend Marny was asking about our plans and had a fit when she heard that we weren’t going to Kangaroo island. It was her favorite part of the trip to Australia.
It seemed too late to change our plans and include it, but we figured that there might be a one-day trip available despite its distance from Adelaide. There was. It was also bookable. It left Adelaide at 6 am and ended there at 10:30 pm. Kangaroo Island wasn’t our favorite part of Australia, but we’re glad we had this sampler. What we didn’t especially care for was its seeming sameness. What we did like were the animals and a couple of spectacular rock and ocean views in Flinders Chase National Park.
Flinders Chase NP, which is the size of Singapore, and other nature preserves take up one-third of Kangaroo Island, which is 96 miles long and divided, they say, into 7 distinct regions. A 3-day minimum stay is suggested for visitors. We had only one. A handout that I acquired at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre said that it’s “a paradise all year round” and bragged about its springtime wildflowers. We were there as winter was approaching. The same handout said, “In winter, you’ll see the diverse colours and shapes of fungi, and orchids begin to bloom.” We saw neither.
What we did see were lots of sheep, fallow fields, and occasional eucalyptus forests. Kangaroo Island has lots of farms. Food production is its biggest industry and broad beans and lentils were mentioned as big cash crops. There are about 4,500 permanent residents but KI’s largest town, Kingscote, has only about 1,800 people. We didn’t see it. The closest we came to it was the island’s airport, which has several 30 minute flights to Adelaide daily.
For one-day visitors, the thing that is most memorable about Kangaroo Island is its wildlife. It was part of mainland Australia until about 12,000 years ago. Low sea levels caused it to be populated with an amazing variety of wildlife that was eventually cut off from contact with mainland animals of the same species. Much of them, like the island’s platypuses, are in Flinders Chase National Park. But not all. Our first stop was the Seal Bay Conservation Park, where a ranger took us onto a beach for a close-up view of many of them. There used to be a large number of native Australian sea lions and long-nosed fur seals on Kangaroo Island’s south shore along the Southern Ocean, but they were hunted to near extinction. Now protected, their numbers have grown to about 12,000.
We also visited a koala preserve with the opposite problem. There were no koalas here until 1923. There are now about 50,000 of them on Kangaroo Island, which can sustain only about 30,000 of them because of the damage they do to eucalyptus trees. Sterilization is solving this dilemma.
Because many of the island’s animals are nocturnal and lots of its roads are unpaved, drivers are constantly warned about hazards. We saw short-beaked echidnas along several roads. Locals call them living rocks. Rosenberg goannas scamper about as do Tammar wallabies, bandicoots, etc.
Kangaroo Island is shaped like a dog’s head. This dog has a treat bag around its neck. I liked it but probably won’t go back.