Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville. Approximately 93 miles long and between 900 metres and 35 miles wide it was originally known by the aborigines as Karta (Island of the Dead). It has a total population of about 4,260, many of which live in the capital, Kingscote.
The first lighthouse in South Australia was built on Cape Willoughby at the eastern tip of the island in 1852, originally being serviced by keepers and their families who lived some distance from the lighthouse at the only place in the area with fresh water. Now it is fully automatic and is a tourist attraction. This is where we had our first close encounter with a kangaroo, a Big Red.
A ferry leaves from Cape Jervis on the mainland and takes about an hour to cross to Penneshaw . By coach it is about one and half hours to the ferry terminal from the centre of Adelaide. Penneshaw is a village with about 300 inhabitants and a couple of hotels, one of which was only 100 metres from the ferry.
We were shown a map of the island by the manager of the car hire company who forcibly told us which roads we were not allowed to drive on and explained, in no uncertain terms, that we were not to drive after 7pm: ‘You will not be insured if you do!’ This was because of kangaroos, which had no road sense, crossing the roads in the evenings and causing untold damage to a car in the event of a collision.
On the first afternoon we drove to Cape Willoughby, the ‘normal’ paved road ending some five miles from the lighthouse so that we found ourselves driving on loose gravel with the consistency of marbles. Twenty miles per hour was the maximum safe speed as the car sashayed from side to side, which was very exciting – especially when we took a different route on our return and found ourselves in the middle of the bush on red dusty marbles!
Exploring the island, and keeping a close watch for kangaroos, we walked on a beach with sea lions, saw the fantastically shaped and aptly named Remarkable Rocks, and went down into a deep cave to see wonderful displays of stalagmites and stalactites, where the guide switched off the lights to leave us in the stygian darkness of the cave.
We toured wildlife parks where we had our first contact with Koalas who were sitting in low trees with their Joeys playing around them, and entered an enclosure at an animal sanctuary where kangaroos and wallabies came to eat from our hands, the food thoughtfully provided, for a dollar, by the owners. Cockatoos screeched as we passed and one even said ‘G’day’ as we passed its large cage.
This is a truly wonderful island in all respects, and well deserved of its name, but after three memorable days we had to head back to the mainland to continue our tour of Australia.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at email@example.com.