One of the highlights of the Very Best of Australia promised to be the trip to Kangaroo Island. It involved 2 days there with lunch on one of the visits. It was highly recommended and one of the places we were looking forward to; the bushfires soon put paid to that.
No-one could have predicted at the time of our booking that the seasonal bushfires would impact on Kangaroo Island to the extent that they did. As the Australian summer placed the thermometer into overdrive the bushfires were out of control in some areas. Global reports commented not only on the human cost but the wildlife too. One of the most heart-warming stories reported was that of the woman taking her shirt off and running toward the flames to rescue a Koala. It’s little squeals, perhaps of pain perhaps of relief at being saved, were one of my permanent memories of the devastating fires. That and a family hosing their home, hanging on for dear life to save everything they had, spraying the flames was futile but massively fuelled by hope.
So Kangaroo Island, as the world was to learn, was unable to host any visitors. Our trip was in jeapordy and if this was a key visit what would take it’s place? Distant Journeys are an experienced outfit in this regard and did all they could to appease our concerns, but they were clear from the beginning we would not be going to this island. Missing this was threatening our trip but a quick check with our insurance company soon quashed any ideas about cancelling so we awaited with interest what would happen next. And that was an additional day in Adelaide with a visit to a vineyard and an extra day in Melbourne. The wine tour was pleasing but neither seemed promising but I should have had more faith in the organisers behind our trip.
Our visit to Adelaide started with a panoramic view of the city from Mount Lofty then we were transported to Cleland Wildlife National Park. While not Kangaroo Island, this hidden gem was to delight those with animals in their heart over and above our expectations. We were handed a little bag of food pellets which promised the exciting prospect of getting up close and personal with all of the major Australian mammals, animals and marsupials. We entered the park with the complete freedom to wander aimlessly and explore these animals in their own environment.
Almost instantly we were drawn over to a collection of Kangaroos nibbling on the grass. They seemed unperturbed by our approach their ears the only signal that they had already heard the rustling of the little food bag. I was astonished to be able to walk directly up to the Kangaroo. I noticed a rather long bony leg protruding from her pouch, suggesting a joey might be in there and would come out. The mother bent down inserting her head inside as if coaxing her offspring out to see the visitors. But she was a little shy, I started up the video in anticipation. Then the little legs started to emerge in slow motion, followed by a head, its little body and long tail, she slowly edged out to see what all the fuss was about. A few moments glare in the cameras was enough for this reluctant visitor as she prepared to return to the cosy protection of her mother’s pouch. To those Australians that saw this video the size of the joey appeared unusual to still be reliant on her mother’s pouch. And I’m glad as a mother we don’t have that with our children. It was an incredible catch on camera.
The Lion extended his hand with food and the Kangaroo came forward gently nibbling the food from his palm and pausing while it was replenished. She had soft downy fur, her forelegs scrawny and her tail long, powerful and stabilising. Most of the females ventured toward us but the larger sandy coloured male scowled mistrustfully as we billed and cooed at the ladies. If it was to stand tall with it’s ears back we had to run like hell; thankfully he stayed disinterested but watchful nonetheless.
With the wonder and awe of the Kangaroo still seducing our senses we headed around the path to see the remainder of the park. The Emu’s rarely looked up and were unresponsive to bag shaking or the throwing of pellets, although others were more successful and had managed to feed them. Their feathery coats were brown and black with the appearance of being wet or waxy and they had two white marks with blue spots giving the impression of eyes at ether side of its head but which were actually located nearer the beak. We were mesmerised as they moved graciously amongst the grass.
Next the Tasmanian Devil scurried along the edge of the area it was contained within, looking nothing like its cartoon caricature this little creature had a bright flash of colour from its head to its tail. The Avery with native birds were largely unremarkable until the vibrantly coloured budgies caught our attention hopping from tree to tree and a parakeet waddled over to see what all the fuss was about. The large wombat, similar in size to the badger, with a wide square face was sleeping, laconically stretched out in the sunlight she roused to the the shake of the bag but clearly had little interest in food as she failed to move. The Dingos were of a similar disposition, sheltering from the strong sunshine against a large tree, viewing the visitors with little more than a passing interest. All of these animals had huge areas of a natural environment to thrive within. The park was silent, other than the calls of the animals periodically piercing the quite stillness of the place.
At 11am we were to make our way to the Koala sanctuary where we could get up close to the Koalas. The park had 28 rescued Koalas from Kangaroo Island but we were unlikely to see any of those. While we waited information about other animals we might see and on the Koalas helped to dampen the impatience to get the visit started. Two Koalas were meeting and greeting, one quite large and robust, clung to the tree and munched confidently on eucalyptus almost ignoring the visitors and their cameras. The handler was able to provide answers to questions while the Koala appeared totally unfazed by the whole thing. Our Koala was a little timid, reluctant to leave the arms of the handler, she was placed on the tree but almost immediately tried to reach out to the Lion before being taken back by the handler. Her furry, punk style hair over her ears were tinged with white were larger than expected, this is to compensate for poor sight. Their eyes like small beads of hazel were narrow and almond shaped. Unlike the Kangaroo her fur was dense and wiry with downy softness underneath, if you were able to get into the lower layers. Lily had had enough as she scrambled back into the handlers arms and we were left in awe at the friendliness of this little creature despite her timid character.
Our wildlife visit completed with wallabies, rock wallabies, possums, storks, pelicans, swans and even the dolphins in the Swan River in Perth was more than we could have hoped for. The regret at not visiting Kangaroo Island was forgotten as we delighted in sharing our photos, videos and experiences of the park with our fellow travellers. This was one of the highlights of the tour so far. You will realise this when you remember I was looking forward to the wine tour and have not even mentioned it.