Kangaroo Island – In the shadow of Tasmania

Every hillside seemed to open up a new scenery. A new sight. A new reason to stop the car and get out. Out into the wild. Eye to eye with this enigmatic island off the Australian coast. A place where land is turned into water, and water is transformed to land. Where the sky mirror salty desert and remarkable rocks scatter the shoreline. And when least expected – a jumping kangaroo.

Into the wild, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

My trip to Kangaroo Island started in Melbourne. As so many others, I was tempted to go to Tasmania, the easy-to-get-island just opposite Bass Strait. Luckily, I didn’t. By going just slightly off the beaten track, you are so often rewarded in unexpected ways. This was no exception. Surprisingly unknown, even to native Australians, Kangaroo Island was going to become the wildlife experience of my life.

Surprisingly unknown, even to native Australians, Kangaroo Island was going to become the wildlife experience of my life.

The two day drive from Melbourne, simply called the Great Ocean Road, was worth every mile. Reminiscent of the Pacific Coast Highway in California and Chapman’s Peak Drive in South Africa, it’s one of those epic road trips. It was like God had dropped a bunch natural wonders from above, in perfect strategic places for the passing passenger to indulge. Just between the morning cappuccino and lunch.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.

The surf mecca at Bells Beach charmed us with its long strip of dampen sand, before sending us off into the hands of the rugged coastline. We pushed the 4WD to the limit, serpentined along the ocean. Aireys Inlet, Lavers Hill, and Victoria’s Lookout. They all seemed small in comparison to what was about to come. The place everyone was waiting for. The Twelve Apostles. A parade of limestone rocks, created from years of erosion, shooting out from the bottom of the sea. Like rockets into space.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.

The ferry left Cape Jervis as the last sheep got loaded. I could see the island on the horizon. It twinkled in the morning haze, like a mirage in the desert. But it was real. Almost too real. A microcosmos of untouched nature, full of animals and peculiar nature. Koalas, porcupines, pelicans, penguins, and sea lions. Protected by water and a limited number of visitors, it’s the largest zoo in the world. With no fences.

Protected by water and a limited number of visitors, it’s the largest zoo in the world. With no fences.

Heading south, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Sheeps shipping, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Wild pelicans, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Koala, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

The air vibrated. It was getting warmer. A red-bellied black snake crossed the road. We headed south of Kingscote, the main city on the island. A cloud of dust behind us. Giant eucalyptus trees encapsulated the car. The nature was mesmerizing. Salt deserts surrounded by dried out lakes. Like the water disappeared overnight, leaving boats and devastated sailors behind. And the Little Sahara, a two square kilometer of naturally sand dunes, was as strange as everything else on the island.

Eucalyptus trees, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Dried out lake, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Beware the snakes, Kangaroo Island.
Little Sahara, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Admiral’s Arch, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

We reached the Remarkable Rocks in the afternoon. Situated on the northwestern tip of the island, the non man-made monument can be seen miles away. It oozed with mystery. The odd shaped rocks, balancing on the brink of a mountain, seemed to defy gravity. It was abstract art, copyrighted Mother Nature. Long before the resemblant works of Henry Moore were put to Tate Gallery in London.

Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

But what about the Kangaroos? Well, they are everywhere. With five thousand people living on the Island, it goes more than ten Kangaroos on every man. Their favorite spot seemed to be on the hills above Stokes Bay, grazing at the roadside just before sunset. Not used to human interaction, they are as shy as they are curious. Fortunately, a bit too curious not to run away if approached slowly.

I was suddenly toe-to-toe with a full grown kangaroo. She looked at me, followed every step I took, as I was an alien invading her island. I moved closer. Slowly. We both froze. I hold my breath. I could see the heart beating. I looked into the big black eyes. For a couple of seconds, we shared the same world. The same reality. She frowned. And ran away. Into the wild.

Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

All images © 2020 Erik Ekberger.

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