(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Thu 2 Dec 2021, 3:12 PM
With the Covid 19 vaccination rapidly progressing throughout the world, more and more international borders are re-opening and avid travellers are piling up their bucket list with Australia still ranked high up there.
In the tourism world, the island nation is best known for its myriad of beaches, lush rainforests, red-soil deserts, rocky outcrops and many scintillating cities all engulfed by its easy-going 'G'day mate' culture that uniquely links the ultra-modernity of the urban fabric with the laid back feel in the countryside.
However, when the quest is for an Aussie location, naturally amazing but physically isolated and not crowded with traditional tourists, then Kangaroo Island comes to mind. From my recent visit there, I found it to be very different to the rest of the nation in terms of the atmosphere, pace of life and character.
Located only 110-km south of Adelaide in South Australia and separated from the mainland at Cape Jervis on the southern edge of the country by a 15-km stretch of the ocean, this site appealed to me like a time capsule of Australia as it was once with plants in abundance, native animals and delicate eco-systems unchanged for thousands of years.
The island is six times the size of Singapore but occupied by only 4,000 people. So parts of the island can be just yours. With not much avant-gardism around, the surrounding ambience is still pretty laid back. The absence of traffic lights, fast food outlets like McDonald's or KFC, nightclubs, shopping malls or any high rise buildings totally disconnect daily life from typical urban elements. Locals' hardly lock their cars and house doors making it an easy job for the five odd police personnel guarding the residents. This doesn't mean a shortage of decent amenities for visitors. The island boasts some good hotels and eateries to make the stay comfortable and gastronomically delightful while efficient mobile service and Wi-Fi provide connectivity with the rest of the world.
Unquestionably it's one of Mother Nature's wondrous creations. She has set it up with towering and colourful sea cliffs, lush rolling fields, foot-print free beaches, ribbons of native vegetation and thrilling wildlife.
The presence of abundant wildlife inspires Kangaroo Island to be referred to as Australia's zoo without fences. So encountering Aussie animals in their own habitat has become a unique attraction of the destination.
First comes the kangaroos, they are in profusion across the island. They move around fast from one location to the other. So it can be adventurous to chase them to be at the ideal location at the right time for the best encounter. Back in 1802, a large number of them greeted English explorer Matthew Flinders who seized 31 of them as fresh meat supply for his hungry crew and in gratitude named the southern discovery as Kangaroo Island. Besides kangaroos, there are wallabies, goannas, koalas and echidnas roaming free in the wilderness, while endangered sea lions, long-nosed fur seals and little penguins crowding at some seafront locations. The island is home to several species of birds, including the rare black cockatoos and one of the world's largest birds of prey, the magnificent Wedge Tailed Eagle.
If luck favours, it's possible to pose for a selfie with a wild koala dozing on a low-height branch of a lofty eucalyptus — a thrill which perhaps can't be experienced anywhere else in Australia. Another amazing experience is to be close to families of the sea lions when on a guided tour at the Seal Bay Conservation Park located on the island's southern coast. Innumerable sea lions can be seen there lazing in the sun, nursing their young ones or like an Aussie surfer playing with the waves.
The land and water on which the wildlife live and survive are equally beautiful. The various seafront locations alongside the 509-km of coastline not only offer spectacular settings but great sandy patches suitable for playing with sun, sea and sand, Vivonne Bay in the south, Western River Cove Bay, Snell Bay, Stokes Bay and Emu Bay in the north and Pennington Bay in the east are some of the most popular ones.
One-third of the island is national parks that provide avenues for walking and hiking through stretches of lush green vegetation. Dominating the western front of the island, the 326 square km Flinders Chase National Park is a venue not to be missed. This sanctuary is where nature surprises visitors with two iconic rock growths — Remarkable Rocks an impressive natural formation of orange-lichen-covered granite boulders by the sea and the Admirals Arch, a stalactite-covered eroded rock bridge outside of which sunbathes thousands of fur seals. Both are natural treasures of the island and the nation.
The history of the place is equally exciting. After Flinders' discovery, the land was initially foot printed by American sealers and whalers, French navigators and English colonisers, until South Australia was formally established as a British Province in 1836. Kingscote now the island's main hub became the capital and remained so for four months until it got shifted to the mainland in Adelaide. Farming was the principal occupation of the local people and it matured further with the soldier resettlements after World War II. Few buildings, lighthouses, graveyards, memorials and relics still remain as poignant emblems of the early era.
Not to be ignored in Kangaroo Island is the generous food scene. The island's unspoilt environments make the land and surrounding water a fertile platform for the evolution of premium products. So visitors have the chance to taste some of the finest seafood, meat, locally made beverages and honey, the island being the home for the world's oldest Ligurian bee sanctuary.
At times Mother Nature doesn't hesitate to destroy her own creations by the deadly acts of earthquakes, floods, landslides and other disasters. Kangaroo Island became a victim of this natural phenomenon early last year when devastating bushfires ripped through almost half of the island, terminating infrastructure, vegetation and landscape and most disturbingly killing several native animals and livestock. The calamity was so spreading that Flinders Chase National Park turned black. Locals then perceived the return to former glory may not happen again.
Mother Nature thought differently. Fast-forwarding over eighteen months, it's now amazing to see how the entire ecosystem is bouncing back with huge splashes of greenery emerging from a blackened landscape. It's a big bonus for visiting Kangaroo Island as there are not many places where Nature's renaissance can be witnessed that intimately.
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