An island full of kangaroos, dolphins and seals ? It's Kangaroo Island !
Kangaroo Island started with dolphins. As soon as we emerged from our van, that is the first word we managed to hear, in between two strong gusts of wind. A local guy in his thirties spotted us instantly and came to us to share his tip: “Look on your left and you’ll see a family of dolphins.”
Our eyes widened in excitement and we uttered an appreciative thank-you before going straight to the shore he had pointed out earlier. Although skies were as grey as they could be, the waters of Vivonne Bay were just as turquoise as we had imagined, contrasting with the purple heather and red plants covering the stones we were trying to avoid trample.
We caught sight of a lonely boat in the bay, squinting our eyes to get a glimpse of the silhouettes we were actively looking for, when suddenly a distinctive dorsal fin surfaced, and another one, followed by at least four others.
We stood still, holding our breath as if letting out a sigh would have frightened them, but they were too busy playing with one another to notice these two silly humans on the shore, frozen as stone statues in the hope the magic of the moment would last. When they turned their backs and swam to the horizon, the magic was etched in our memories.
On the other side of the bay, powerful waves were licking the stones with an unexpected voracity, and they would have happily licked our feet too if we had let them. A thin rain shower suddenly ricocheted on our shoulders, putting a shiver down our spines, and we thought about our friends back in Europe who were probably picturing us sunbathing on a white sand beach. Instead, we were chilled to the bones, attacked by strong winds from every corner on a cold island in Southern Australia, but so much beauty was pervading all around that we wouldn’t’ have traded places for the world.
We finally took shelter in our dusty old van and rain was gone when the familiar seaside disappeared to leave room to a landscape straight out of the Saharan desert. A fifteen minute drive only had taken us from a windy bay to the sands of massive dunes, where the sound of waves crushing was only a memory, replaced by the laughter of sand boarding families. The sky had already turned into a deep blue above us, sending us a clear signal that we had changed scenery entirely.
We looked so ridiculously small that the dunes seemed to look at us in contempt, prompting us to attempt to climb them to prove our worth. Our feet sank into the burning sand, testing our will, but we managed to get to the top and from our vantage point, the dunes revealed their striking magnitude.
Being on top of a world of sand meant we had to come down eventually though, without going down to the bottom headfirst if possible, and we decided that it would be safe to remain on solid ground for the rest of the day when our feet reached the grass below.
Another short drive took us to the entrance of the Seal Bay National Park which, oh so surprisingly, had become the home of a huge colony of seals. Fulfilling our self-promise to stay on the ground, we opted for the 15AUD entrance for the self-guided tour instead of the 32AUD guided tour to the beach, bidding farewell to an up-close view on the furry mammals populating the bay.
We walked down a wooden bridge to a platform and right underneath us was a whole kingdom of hundreds of seals, most of them taking a nap while others were clumsily running towards the sea, joining the rest of their companions in a joyful swim, mothers being teased by their kids, youngsters’ growls disturbing the lethargy of their elders who, in turn, would growl back at them angrily.
The whole beach was a full-on live documentary and we had a hard time turning away. When we did, the sun was already pretty low in the sky, which was the cue for us to find a spot for the night.
We hit the road towards the island’s south-western corner, and stopped by a glade on the edge of the forest not far from Hanson Bay, making sure the road was close by and the woods far enough to avoid being caught in a wood fire.
There was still enough light for an evening walk and we left the car behind, when a cracking took us by surprise. Up on a mound, we saw two pairs of eyes watching us from afar and slowed down not to scare them away, but the kangaroos had better plans than monitoring us anyway and went back to grazing, although it took long minutes of staring at us for a baby roo to be completely reassured. An hour later, it was pitch black outside but we were still wide awake, mesmerized by the ballet of cute pademelon wallabies scavenging for food around our car.
When sun struck our windshield the day after, we were ready to see what else Kangaroo Island had in store and made our way to the Remarkable Rocks on a curvy road. There wasn’t a single soul on a few miles radius and we got to the rocks as if we owned the place, with no one else by our side than the wind.
The crevices dug into the rock provided cover as well as the perfect perspective from which to look at these strangely shaped rocks, drowning in some sort of red moss. Not too far stood the similarly red roof of the Cape Couedic’s lighthouse, protecting the bay and showing the way to our next stop, deeper into the coastline of the Flinders Chase Park.
Echoes of a dozen voices greeted us at a much more visited Admiral’s Arch, soon to be covered by the roar of the sea and some familiar growls we identified as coming from the arch’s lair itself. Down a few stairs, the arch was standing proudly over a bay, looking like lacework, and just below were a number of brown seals sluggishly resting away from the turmoil of the Southern Ocean.
A brazen mammal came out of the water at the same time we arrived and started a ruckus, waking up a dark fat male who didn’t seem too happy about this shameless mate, ready to pick up a fight when a wiser seal showed up to bury the hatchet. In the meantime, none of the other seals had bothered interrupting their snooze.
We resisted falling to slumber like our seal friends and spent the rest of the day roaming the trails of the Flinders Chase National Park, occasionally crossing paths with a disproportionate iguana, one too many flies and no snake, fortunately.
A good portion of our afternoon was also spent in front of a pond that was supposedly the ultimate platypus sighting spot but the multiple shushes of a 50-year-old lady whenever we dared move dampened our mood pretty quickly, and we got back in the car heading for the Northern part of the island, all the way to the Western River Cove.
A couple camping spots were waiting for us along with the ritual BBQs to be found in every Australian rest area. A Sydney family was already grilling sausages there and happily engaged with us, while another family was letting their dog play in the river that gave the area its name.
The vibe was pleasantly friendly and the fact that a perfect beach was awaiting only a couple miles away did make things even better, especially for a late sunset dinner or a full sunbathing morning the day after. The frosty winds of Vivonne Bay were a lifetime away on this flawless Australian beach and our raincoats were rolled into a ball in the bottom of our backpacks, where they belonged.
One more day on Kangaroo Island brought with it an amazing collection of pristine beaches, peace of mind and unanticipated experiences. The pool-like sea at Emu Bay did not prepare us for the sea of lavender fields on the road leading to the beach, as a lavender ice-cream for the afternoon break preluded a feast of oysters for dinner at the Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods restaurant in American River.
Our last night on the island had come too fast. Kangaroo Island had delivered on so many levels that we weren’t ready to say goodbye so soon. As a last present, the sky above the American River Bay began to adorn the most beautiful colours, painting a splendid canvas for the black swans swimming next to the boats moored in the port.
A moment later, a dorsal fin showed up in the distance, followed by three graceful dolphins coming and going in the bay. That night brought the curtain down on our stay in Kangaroo Island in the best way it knew how. It had started with dolphins in a bay, it ended with dolphins in another, and beauty had been the only key word in between.
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