[New Zealand Fur Seal][At Remarkable Rocks] [Australian Pelican] [Black Swans]

Kangaroo Island Trip

October 2004

Pictures from our October 2004 Kangaroo Island Trip

We knew from our first trip that we would want to return to KI, and the visit of Jim and Brenda provided the opportunity. While we repeated many of the activities of the first trip, there were some differences as well this time around. Wednesday night Tim checked the weather forecast, and found that there was a high wind warning for the coast for the following morning, along with relatively high seas (2 metres) predicted. So, we started off from home about 7 am on Thursday wondering what the ferry ride would be like. We encountered moderate traffic in Adelaide, but none at all once we got down to McLaren Vale - it was a hazy, windy morning, but signs of spring were everywhere, with grape vines leafing out, flowers in abundance, and an extent of green that will only be a memory once the heat of summer arrives. We arrived early enough to actually get on the ferry before our scheduled ferry, and were soon off, bouncing about the waves. (We had learned while checking in that the new competing ferry, which only began service a month ago, had turned back because of the weather. The SeaLink staff thought that was pretty funny, that a little 2 metre sea would cause them to give up on the run.)

Once we got under way, a young couple who had been clowning around outside suddenly realized they had problems, so they came INSIDE to throw up! Which caused other people to turn green and follow suit. Eventually, it even got to Clara, who needed a sea sickness bag. But it was only a 45 minute trip to Penneshaw, and once we were on land, all were better. We headed off to the Visitor Center, so that everyone could stretch their legs on a non-rolling surface, have a drink and relax briefly. Then it was off to the Eucalyptus distillery, where we availed ourselves of their picnic area right beside their outdoor still and had lunch. While we were eating, we were amused to see a tiny male fairy wren keep flying down to the front mirrors on the van, and protest the presence of the "other" male fairy wren it kept seeing there!

After lunch, we took the tour through the distillery. We were lucky in our timing, since they were only doing the second distilling run of the season. In winter, the amount of oil in the narrow-leaf eucalyptus is only one third the amount found during summer - so they usually don't bother distilling in the winter. Instead, they concentrate on other endeavors, such as planting new areas of eucalypt and other native species, putting up fences, and working on other products. They are currently trying to develop uses for other native species - in particular, they have a type of tea tree which can be used to distill an essential oil (not the one commonly sold as tea tree oil) and a flowering bush (a species of heath) which they sell as fresh winter flowers (similar to a plant raised in Victoria for the same purpose, but this variety starts later, so fills a currently-vacant niche in the market.) And they still have their emus, producing emu oil products. Beyond this, they sell produce from other local producers (e.g., Clifford's Honey), as well as crafts (there were a group of relatively young girls at work filling jars with layers and designs in colored bath beads while we were there.) The girls also got to see and pet a joey kangaroo whose mother was killed recently - it lives in a pouch hanging over the back of a chair - at least when some of the resident kids aren't carrying it around!

From there, we continued on to the Clifford's Honey Farm, just to have some of their honey ice cream (more of a frozen honey custard) for dessert. Then it was time to head to Emu Bay (by way of Kingscote for petrol, as the Aussies would say), and then to our destination - Birubi House. As we drove in, Marg Hay walked over to greet us and show us around the house. It was perfect for the six of us, and we settled in easily. The girls immediately headed outside to play and investigate with their Auntie Brenda, discovering a vegetable garden in the back along with a rosemary hedge. There was a row of scarlet bottle brush out front in full bloom - these bushes proved to be a continual attraction for honeyeaters (both New Holland and Red Wattlebird variants), rainbow lorikeets and many other birds over the days to come. Here is a view over the fields to one side of the house.

Since we were just a couple hundred metres from the beach, we had to go exploring. As we got down there, it started to rain, so we headed back to the cabin - except for Clara and Uncle Jim, whom we discovered were missing once we arrived back at the cabin - we looked, and there they were, far down the beach! Eventually, they made their way back, having discovered some shells and sponge as well as tons of seaweed. Tim fired up the grill and Sandy prepared chicken shaslicks (an Australian term for chicken shish kebabs). After dark, we headed down to the beach once again in search of fairy penguins, but none were seen or heard. We headed back and the girls went to bed - and a little later learned we had been too early for the penguins, as the young started squawking and calling to their parents - from either side of our house! Some nested in the bushes on one side, and it seemed as if others were nesting under the deck of the house next door! We never did see these particular penguins, but we certainly heard them each night - they even woke Clara up once.

We decided we should make our big loop of the island the next day, as it was Friday, and might have fewer other tourists doing the same thing than on Saturday or Sunday. It was the tail end of school holidays though, so we expected a fair amount of traffic. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we set off along the Playford Highway for Remarkable Rocks that we saw very few cars - and Uncle Jim spotted an echidna beside the road right away, which necessitated what was to be the first of many photo stops over the next three days. We arrived at the Flinders-Chase National Park visitors centre to get a day pass, and try and photograph the plentiful Cape Barren Geese. From there, we made our way out to Remarkable Rocks, and were rewarded by having it nearly to ourselves. While there, we took a few pictures of Clara and Lucy, Clara, Lucy, the four of us and Jim and Brenda, on their 37th anniversary. The day was a bit hazy, so the rocks didn't take on their best coloration, but the water was certainly all the shades of blue that we remembered. Here, here and here are some more pictures of the girls enjoying themselves amongst the rocks.

From Remarkable Rocks, it was a short hop to Cape du Couedic, Admirals Arch and the NZ Fur Seal colony. We paused for lunch in the lower parking lot, then headed off to view the sights. The waves were quite high, up to 6 metres or more, resulting in some spectacular breaks against the cliffs and the small, rocky offshore islands. Aside: there was certainly one great difference from our previous visit to KI in the late summer - things were very green this time around, there was a lot of water in places (relatively speaking), and flowers were blooming everywhere across the island. The cliffs around Cape du Couedic were no exception. We had an enjoyable time watching and photographing the seals, and were particularly taken by the seals playing in the high waves, rolling over and over, or just lounging in an eddy. Here is a typical relaxed seal taking a snooze. And here is a young seal that was playing inside Admirals Arch. Here and here are a couple more seal pictures; this is a series of pictures combined into one showing an increasingly angry seal trying to protect it's lunch from some gulls.

Eventually, we headed back east, for a quick stop at the Visitor Centre to look at the displays of prehistoric animals, feel the pelts from all the various KI animals from echidnas to kangaroos, and do a little souvenir shopping. Then it was on to Seal Bay, where we arrived just in time for the last tour of the day, pleasantly free of any large tour busloads of people. We got to spend a long time on the beach with the Australian Sea Lions, and enjoyed watching them interact - the breeding cycle for sea lions is 18 months, so we had timed our visit well to see baby sea lions and their mothers, as well as the teenage and older animals. At one point, a large flock of gulls took off en masse, only to land a short ways down the beach near some other sea lions. Out guide mentioned that was an almost certain sign that a new sea lion pup had just been born, and the gulls were heading down to fight over the afterbirth. We noted a curious habit that all the non-juvenile sea lions seemed to share - every so often, if they were awake, they would lean back and put their noses to the sky - why, we don't know! Here and here are a couple sea lions resting; here is a sea lion "family photo."

We stayed on the beach until the shadows were quite long, then made our way back up the boardwalk to the visitor's centre and then headed north towards Kingscote. We drove into town, circled around, and decided that the Ozone Hotel looked to be the best bet for dinner out. Afterwards, we wandered over to the foreshore where the fairy penguins come in. We discovered some young penguins wondering about and making a racket calling to their parents. The penguins are quite used to people, and we watched some clamber across the rocks, and even noted a couple brave little penguins walking up the boardwalk and across the road! We stayed and watched a while, then headed back to the house. Along the way, we saw a number of possums, and possibly a bandicoot, either in or alongside the road. The girls went right to bed, but the return of "our" fairy penguins woke Clara as they worked their way past the house.

Saturday morning we had a fairly leisurely start, but eventually headed out with the intention of exploring some of the north coast of the island which we hadn't seen before. We didn't get very many kilometers from the house before we had to stop for a photo opportunity at a temporary wetlands area where ibis and galahs were taking advantage of the water. From there, we headed south and west across unsealed roads, and soon came across a car and a couple people pulled to one side, staring intently at something. As we passed, Brenda said "It's a huge lizard!" So, we had to stop and take a few pictures of the three foot long goanna which was perched on the bank. (See here, here and here.) We passed Stokes Bay and continued on to the Stokes Bay Bush Garden. Along the way, Brenda spotted a koala in a fork near the bottom of a large gum tree - so we stopped, and got out with cameras clicking - as it turned out, this was a very fast koala, and only Brenda was able to capture a good picture of the koala before it headed towards the top of the tree.

We then visited the Bush Garden, which was an absolutely amazing place - and coming in spring, we had perfect timing for the flowers (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for some examples) - and for all the birds the flowers attract. We toured the gardens, then headed back to Stokes Bay (yup, the koala was still in the top of the tree), and had a picnic lunch in the car park in front of a rocky beach. We had heard Stokes Bay was supposed to have a very nice beach, so we were a little uncertain about what they could have meant, given the proof in front of us. However, while Tim was preparing lunch, the rest of the crew headed off towards the rocks, and discovered a small, natural tunnel through the rocks, which lead to a stunning beach. (Here's Clara's poem about the discovery, which actually blends two days worth of actions into one.)

After lunch, we all worked our way through the tunnel, and the girls went swimming, while Tim went exploring down the beach (see here, here and here). Eventually, we had to leave this idyllic spot, since we wanted to be home in time for Sandy to start the evening's meal marinating (Tandoori Chicken) and still hop into Kingscote for the Pelican Feeding. So we decided to take a "short cut" which we thought would get us there faster by allowing us to travel more of the time on sealed roads. However, we're not sure that it actually was faster in the end - at least it allowed us to check out the koala one last time (STILL in the top of the tree), and we did make it in time for Sandy to get things started. However, Jim and Lucy decided they'd had enough driving, so they stayed at home while Tim, Brenda and Clara drove into Kingscote for the Pelican Feeding.

Pelican feeding at Kingscote is a daily ritual, and one the pelicans (and sea gulls) know well, and plan their day around. Both onlookers and pelicans were gathered well before John Ayliffe, the "Pelican Man," showed up. He does this all year round, even during the slack times in winter when there are no tourists, just to keep the birds in the habit. The seagulls left no one in doubt as to why he had to wear a hat, as one was constantly sitting on his head throughout the presentation. However, we had to wait a bit longer to find out why he was wearing chest waders as well. John talked about the pelicans (including a couple shots at the much smaller and less buoyant American Brown pelican, which can actually dive under water after its meals, unlike the Australian pelican). We also learned that pelicans can reach altitudes of 18,000 feet, and travel up to 1500 kilometers (so Aussie birds can visit their kiwi cousins) - but since they have less oil and insulation than many other birds, they cannot handle very cold water for long periods. The pelicans (and sea gulls) were remarkably well-behaved while he went through what must be his standard spiel. However, when he picked up the red rubber glove and put it on, what a commotion! The pelicans started jockeying for closer position, but it was the sea gulls who were instantly in flight, hovering in front of him like so many oversized hummingbirds - they knew that their turn would come first!

John held up bits of fish, and a seagull would take it - this continued quite a while, with minimal interference from the pelicans. However, once he started feeding the big birds, the pelicans would occasionally take more than the fish! He even had to shoo a couple of the birds out of the bucket. Eventually, he had done enough hand feeding, and we found out what the waders were for - he took the remaining partial bucket of food (garfish and whiting), and waded out into the bay - it stayed fairly shallow for quite a ways, so he could get well out from land. The pelicans hopped off the shore and followed him out - when he had them all gathered about him like a choir, he hurled the remaining fish into the midst of the pack - and what a feeding frenzy arose! As the fish landed, the pelicans tried to go down after it, but kept bobbing up. Meanwhile, John waded back in and got in position with another bucket of food. The pelicans noticed this, and came flapping and splashing back in, and not necessarily with a great deal of grace (John would intentionally toss food to them at an "inconvenient" point in their landing approach, trying to cause a crash landing! Eventually, the fun was over, and he tossed the last of the food - it was a fun 20 minutes, and well worth the $2 donation he asks to help pay for the fish.

Then it was off towards home. When we arrived, we had a brief discussion, and everyone agreed that we were having too good a time to leave, so Sandy went across the road to see if we could stay another day, and Tim called to rearrange our ferry. No problems were encountered, so we were all set for another day, as the sun set and we settled down to a great Tandoori.

However, the one wrench that this extra day did throw into things was groceries - we had learned our lesson last time - this time we brought all our food and drinks with us, so we wouldn't have to worry about the reduced shopping hours (and general availability) on the island. So, Sunday morning Tim and Jim took off on a combined shopping / sightseeing / photography jaunt. First, they dropped Sandy, Brenda, Clara and Lucy at the beach, then continued on to the temporary wetlands, where the black swans were cooperative in posing. Then on into Kingscote in search of a seven day market - which we found, and which was quite small - however, it had enough of the essentials to get us by. So then it was off exploring back roads - first around the area north of Kingscote, and then a shortcut "track" back towards Emu Bay - however, the track steadily closed in, and the guys decided they better turn around since they only had a relatively low-clearance two-wheel-drive van. They made it back in time for lunch, picking up the girls once again at the beach. After lunch, Jim, Brenda and the girls headed off down the beach once again. While on the beach, the girls made sand castles with bath tubs and "bath bombs" in the tubs - these were Hormosira Banksii, a type of seaweed which grows in strands that look like strings of greenish pearls. In years past, Tassie kids were urged to eat a bead a day to prevent goiter, due to the high iodine content. When they eventually came back, Clara was carrying a large sponge-coral as a treasure. Then it was time for naps, followed by packing, dinner, and a quiet evening.

Monday morning, we were up and going relatively early, in spite of our more leisurely ferry booking (not until 11:30), since we wanted to stop along the way for some more pictures, in particular a family shot for the folks back home. (See also here and here) We made it to the ferry dock in Kingscote more than a hour early, and got on the standby list - which allowed us to be the next to last car on the early ferry. Sandy was careful to ask the crewman what the waves were like today, and they assured her it was "smooth as glass" - which in fact it was. We had a very nice ride home, which helped erase the trip out from everyone's mind. (Here is a picture of the Sea Lion's sister ship heading back to the island; both ships fly the Australian Red Ensign signifying an Australian merchant vessel.) From Cape Jervis, we made our way to McLaren Vale for lunch, then home via a stop at Chapel Hill winery. Another fine trip to Kangaroo Island - and hopefully not our last - after all, Tim really wants to see Cape Borda once before we leave Oz!

The End

Pictures from our October 2004 Kangaroo Island Trip

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