The very name of it sounds unreal, like a place out of an old Rankin Bass cartoon. But no, it’s very real and as soon as I discovered that it was one of the best-preserved spots in Australia for wildlife encounters, I was hooked. But the entirety of the experience was about so much more than just seeing some ‘roos in the wild; my two days spent on Kangaroo Island quickly became something very special and unique, thanks in large part to how I decided to see the island.
Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo is a short 70 miles from Adelaide and is easy to reach via ferry or plane. We opted for plane and as we arrived early in the morning we were thrilled to be met at the tiny airport by our guide for the duration, Craig Wickham, CEO of Exceptional Kangaroo Island, the most comfortable way to explore the fabled Kangaroo Island.
As you know I’m a luxury traveler so when my partner and I decided to spend some time in South Australia, I knew that there really was only one way for us to go. For nearly 30 years, Craig has been showing visitors around his island in as luxurious a way as possible. He can do anything, given enough notice, but truly specializes in small group, high-end tours of the island. Given our short time on the island it was a perfect match and my gut instincts on trusting him proved right.
Given how many amazing experiences we enjoyed during our brief visit, I’ve decided to split them up into separate posts. So today I wanted to start things off with some more information on what you can expect to see and do when you visit this remarkable natural zoo. Later I will share stories and photos from my individual experiences while on the island.
Why is Kangaroo Island so popular?
Thanks to its geography and government protections, today Kangaroo Island is one of the best-preserved wild habitats in Australia. Many people call it a zoo without fences and for good reason. Some of the animals you will see on a visit include kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, penguins, echidnas and more. I’m a wildlife guy and I have to admit that the promise of wildlife viewings really is what drew me there in the first place. I was worried though that like so many other areas around the world that the opportunities to see animals in the wild would be rare. Happily I was very wrong.
With Craig as our guide we left the airport and immediately set out to find some kangaroos. Accessing a private farm to which Craig has permission to visit, we jumped out of the truck to find ourselves in a Jurassic Park-like, primeval landscape. Once a working farm, today the grasses and trees have started to reclaim the land, drawing the kangaroos to this beautiful spot. Within seconds we were standing in amidst small groups of kangaroos in all states of activity, from sleeping to jumping about. I’ve seen kangaroos before, but nothing prepared me for this. There were no fences, no gates, no zoo workers to hand the ‘roos bits of vegetables to munch on. No, this was the real deal, this was wildlife at its best – in the wild. Not unlike a safari in Africa, standing there the minutes ticked past as I stood utterly transfixed by the subtle beauty of the kangaroos. I’m sure Australians will laugh at this, but it really was a remarkable experience; and that was within the first hour of our visit.
Over the course of the next two days we saw koalas, wallabies, seal lions and more, all in their proper homes as they have been for millennia. It was surreal, exciting and unlike anything else I had done in Australia. But the wildlife isn’t the only reason why Kangaroo Island is so popular.
The island itself is also incredibly gorgeous, featuring huge expanses of shoreline completely untouched by mankind. It was upon one of these overlooks that Craig magically brought out a table, chairs and a full picnic lunch (with white linen service), which we enjoyed on a picture perfect day. It really doesn’t get much better than that and that moment is one of the best we have ever enjoyed as a traveling couple.
So what about that luxury…?
After seeing photos of me trekking up rocks and tramping through fields you’re probably wondering about the luxury adventure part of the equation. I answer this in two ways. First, I believe that visiting any remarkable place like Kangaroo Island is luxury travel in its own right, just based on the nature of the experience. But Craig and his team at Exceptional Kangaroo Island take things up a notch and offer unique itineraries for a wide variety of guests.
What this means is that Craig, or one of his amazing guides, take care of you from the moment you get off the plane to the moment you leave. Throughout the experience you get one-on-one attention and are led by some truly excellent guides; people who are passionate about their work. There are also small moments of luxury throughout your time on island, from morning tea served with all of the extras to that amazing lunch I described and of course overnight accommodations. There are several luxury hotels and lodges on island such as Southern Ocean Lodge and Stranraer Homestead and even some comfortable hotels like the Kangaroo Island Lodge. Because we were only there for one night we missed the quotas for the more luxurious stays, but the Kangaroo Island Lodge was a great option. Clean, comfortable with nice meals and super attentive service; it’s hard to ask for much more.
As I said, this is merely my introduction to Kangaroo Island and the stunning experiences we had there. I hope you enjoy reading about them in the weeks to come as I share what traveling around this famous island is really like.
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