The native wildlife of Kangaroo Island
The call of the wild: South Australia
It's the native wildlife that makes a family holiday to Kangaroo Island worth doing, writes Mark Daffey.
Itís our first morning on South Australiaís slow-paced Kangaroo Island. As we gaze across the swells of the Backstairs Passage we soon spot a pod of dolphins swimming idly by and notice signs warning pedestrians against treading too closely to a colony of little penguins that nest in the hollows of the sea cliffs opposite us.
Since the abundant wildlife was our main reason in deciding to come here, itís a promising start.
What animals can you find on Kangaroo Island?
Itís highly unlikely Matthew Flinders would have foreseen the marketing fillip he
gifted to Kangaroo Island when he christened it during his global exploration voyages
more than two centuries ago. The islandís only natives back then were of the furry
and friendly kind.
So friendly, in fact, that they practically hopped into the
sailorsí cooking pots.
History almost repeats itself at our Rocky River campsite in
Flinders Chase National Park. The plumpest possums Iíve ever seen stroll about at
will; theyíre so bold that I have to forcibly herd them away at times.
One pair almost bowls over our boiling camp stove while my wife cooks dinner,
determined are they to chase each other away so they can feast on the spoils.
It soon becomes evident that the animals here are accustomed to people;
wallabies hop around the campsite and an echidna practically shrugs its shoulders
when our son Finn bends down to pat it.
We rise early one morning to see if we can find the elusive platypus.
Kangaroo Island kangaroos (which are endemic to the island), Cape Barren geese
and drowsy koalas are almost completely unfazed by us as we hike through the native
wilderness to the Platypus Waterholes from the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre.
Platypuses are most active at dawn and dusk, and are also timid creatures that
scurry and hide at the slightest hint of danger, so we arrive at the string of
billabongs just after sunrise.
Telltale water bubbles break the surface Ė
that they are present in the pools Ė but unfortunately we donít see any of the
What to see and do on Kangaroo Island
We spend a couple of days in the national park, hiking out to the Rocky River mouth
on the wild west coast and driving down to Cape du Couedic to see Admirals Arch and
the Remarkable Rocks.
Finn finds the contortions of the Remarkables perfect
scrambling over, into and through, and the boardwalk and stairway to the arch appeal
to his energetic side.
However, heís less keen on the stench rising from the New
Zealand fur seals lazing on the rock shelves.
Itís his second experience of seeing seals on the island.
Seal Bay Conservation Park
is located midway along the south coast and itís here where a 600-strong colony of
Australian sea lions has settled in.
You can see them from a distance via a viewing
platform thatís accessible along a lengthy boardwalk. Better yet is the guided walk
onto the beach, where you can creep within 20 metres of these hulking beasts.
Earlier weíd visited Raptor Domain,
where Finn was fascinated by the owls, kestrels,
falcons and wedge-tailed eagles that were paraded in front of us and gawked in
wide-eyed astonishment as funnel web spiders, scorpions and tiger snakes were
released inside the Venom Pit.
After lunch we move on to the Little Sahara sand dunes nearby where the three of us
slide down the blustery slopes on sandboards, amazingly keeping our feet and avoiding
munching on mouthfuls of sand.
But as always, itís the wildlife that the kids canít get enough of, and all sorts and
species are found at the Kangaroo
Island Wildlife Park just outside the town of
There are native quokkas, cassowaries and a saltwater crocodile, along
with exotic interlopers like albino peafowls and kaleidoscopic macaws. The koala
interaction sessions are hugely popular, and visitors delight in handfeeding
the many kangaroos and wallabies prowling around.
Hidden Gems at Stokes Bay
Our last night of camping is on the north coast at Stokes Bay where the seas are
calm and the roos are plentiful.
The beach is accessible down a short,
from the caravan park and camping ground. The beach doesnít immediately reveal its
charms Ė not, at least, until you notice an arrow directing you towards a hidden
passage through the headland Ė guiding you to a gorgeous stretch of sand a kilometre
Finding our way through the maze was half the fun, the kids exploring
Indiana Jones arriving at the Treasury in Petra.
The tideís out and Finn immediately sees the potential for a game of beach cricket
before we wade out into the shore breakers for a bodysurf. The clouds close in as we
scamper back to our camp to witness one of the islandís more bizarre daily rituals.
Every day at 5pm, a natural raconteur generically known as the Pelican Man stands
behind a rostrum handing out fish, squid and octopus to a ravenous assembly of
Australian pelicans. Local resident John Ayliffe delivers a polished monologue thatís
both informative and entertaining, and he has the crowd chuckling away throughout.
By the end of his brief presentation, he has us hankering for more. Much like the
island itself, really.