Kangaroo Island - Nature's Magic Gift
Words and Images by Sandip Hor
It’s often hard to understand Mother Nature’s deeds.
For sure she creates beauty. Anything splendid we see naturally on earth is her magical gift, but at times she doesn’t mind destroying all of them by the turns of natural disasters like flood, earthquakes and bushfires. Perhaps she then realises how punishing her acts has been, so she begins the cycle again by recreating and bringing back things to their original glory.
While visiting Kangaroo Island in South Australia recently the essence of this natural phenomenon became meaningful to me.
After Tasmania and Melville in the Northern Territory, Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island, almost six times the size of Singapore. Located 110 km south of Adelaide and separated from the mainland at Cape Jervis on the southern edge of the state by a 15 km stretch of the ocean, this 4416 square km of land with its towering and colourful sea cliffs, lush rolling fields, foot-print free beaches, ribbons of native vegetation, thrilling wildlife, and boutique food and wine has long been a top bucket list destination with both international and domestic travel connoisseurs.
Encircled by 509km of the coastline, the island is 155km long and 55km wide connected to mainland by both air and ferry. While Kingscote is the island’s busiest town and home to a tiny airport where 30 minutes flights from Adelaide land, Penneshaw is another small town where a regular 45 minutes ferry service provides the sea-connection to Cape Jervis in the mainland.
Kangaroo Island is not a typical bus-tour destination. Its distinctiveness comes from its pristine and laidback environment, much different to any other Aussie destination. Anyone who has been there say it’s impossible not to feel relaxed. There are no traffic lights throughout the island and almost all of the 4000 plus locals’ hardly lock their cars and house doors making it a peaceful life for five odd police personnel on duty there.
It’s a very special venue where it’s possible to take selfies with endangered sea lions at the Seal Bay Conservation park, spot a little penguin in their colony in Penneshaw during an evening tour, encounter countless Aussie native animals and avian speciesa from kangaroos, wallabies and koalas to wedge tailed eagles and black cockatoos, get soaked by the beauty of the seafront setting at Vivonne Bay in the south, Western River Cove Bay, Snell Bay, Stokes Bay and Emu Bay in the north and Pennington Bay and walk through the wilderness at a national park and get amazed by the nature’s rocky creations – most certainly at the Flinders Chase National Park – home to Australia’s two iconic rock growths - Remarkable Rocks an impressive natural formation of orange-lichen-covered granite boulders by the sea and the Admirals Arch, a stalactite-covered eroded rock bridge outside of which sunbathes thousands of fur seals.
Boutique Food and Wine:
Not to be ignored is the boutique food and wine scene. The island’s unspoilt environments makes the land and surrounding water fertile platform for the evolution of finest products. So visitors have the chance to taste some of the finest seafood, lamb, honey and locally made wine, cider, beer and gin.
Everything was going fine here until January last year when dreadful bushfires ripped through almost half of the island. Bushfires during summer months are nothing new on the island as in other parts of the country, but what happened then was unprecedented according to a local. Fires did spread at alarming speed and continued to burn for some weeks destroying several homes, farms , businesses and vehicles and sadly taking away two humans and several thousand livestock and animal lives. It was an ecological calamity so big, the army had to move in and one of their key activity was to dig big trenches to bury the thousands of sheep and cattle killed.
On the western side where the 326 square km Flinders Chase National Park lies turned black. “Birds even stopped chirping then”, tells Nikki Redman, the omniscient tour guide from Kangaroo Island Odysseys. During the disaster, she like many others volunteered tirelessly at the affected national parks to save animal life. The nation salutes volunteers like Nikki for their conservation efforts.
Farming and tourism being the major occupation of the locals, this tragedy had a major impact on the island’s economy, all thinking return to formal glory not to happen soon.
Mother Nature thinks differently. Fast-forwarding twelve months, it’s now amazing to note how the entire ecosystem is bouncing back with huge splashes of greenery emerging from a blackened landscape.
While criss-crossing the island with Nikki I pleasingly see multi-coloured flora and fauna regenerating around the charred vegetation, kangaroos and wallabies crossing pathways, koalas peeping out from the top of eucalyptus trees and sea lions surfing along the wave in true Aussie style, hear golden whistlers and wattlebirds singing and spot wedge-tailed eagles and black cockatoos, a special offering of the island, up in the sky.
“We are in true recovery mode but need your support”, plea a local business person.
In my view, a noble way of supporting can be by visiting the place where in addition to observing nature’s renaissance, there is still enough unaffected by the bushfires to see and enjoy. It will not only extend support to Kangaroo Islanders but shall also help the local economy shattered further by the COVID19 pandemic. With no international travel at this stage, it’s perhaps the best time for Aussie travellers to explore a gem-destination in their own backyard not only to savour its splendours but also to appreciate the godly doings of Mother Nature.
Getting There – QantasLink (www.qantas.com) operates daily flights from Adelaide, otherwise by ferry with SeaLink (www.sealink.com.au) from Cape Jervis, located two hours south of Adelaide with coach services available to connect ferries.
Stay – All sorts of accommodation available from swag under trees to five star suites, Aurora Ozone Hotel (www.auroraresorts.com.au) at Kingscote and Sea Front Hotel (www.seafront.com.au) at Penneshaw are good choices.