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  • Writer's pictureMichael Waterhouse

Kangaroo Island Adventures

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

Thank you for reading my first ever blog post! I visited Kangaroo Island at the start of October and thought I'd share my story of my short visit to the amazing island. I visited there 10 years ago with my sister on one of those short two day package trips and even though we had a great time I'd always wanted to return since I'd taken up photography to see the place with a new set of eyes. I've been lucky enough to travel overseas a couple of times this year to Canada, Cuba, New York and Hong Kong so I thought I'd push my luck and squeeze in a cheeky trip over to KI before the end of the year, although this little holiday was definitely going to have to be done on a budget so camping was the go. I also wanted to try out some new camping gear that I'd had a while but hadn't used yet and also my new 4WD car. With annual leave on short supply I decided on the October long weekend and the start of Spring. We're lucky here in SA in that we're pretty much guaranteed good weather for most of the year. Especially when compared to the British weather I'd grown up with! So the start of October it was, what could go wrong? The island was bound to be looking lush and colourful with the arrival of the sunny spring weather, right? In my head, perfect camping conditions were on the agenda but winter was dragging its heals somewhat. We had terrible weather earlier in September and I was actually quite glad that we had that and we'd finally got the bad stuff out of the way! So I was buying some fishing supplies the weekend before in preparation for my trip and the helpful shop assistant who happened to be a KI local was giving me some tips on fishing spots and happened to mention the massive weather front that we were going to be getting here. Typhoon and monsoon were a couple of words thrown in to the conversation. So now I'm starting to panic somewhat. Especially as I'm going to be camping. I kept a keen eye on the forecasts and wild weather lashed the state plunging the place in to darkness for hours from Wednesday afternoon with the worst of the storms due on the Thursday. The forecast did however predict an improvement on the Saturday when I was due to make the crossing on the Sealink ferry and the weather gods were smiling on me that day. I got across there and managed to set up camp on the afternoon on the western end of the island.

Base Camp

Western Ki Caravan Park

I wanted to spend a few days over on the western end of the island so that I could get a few sunsets and sunrises in at Admirals Arch, Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse and Remarkable Rocks. The drive over from Penneshaw revealed an island full of colour after the recent rains and the place looked absolutely stunning. I decided to stay at the Western KI Caravan Park which is only a short drive to Flinders Chase National Park and is a great little spot. I highly recommend this place to people with families as they have short walks allowing visitors up close viewing of wildlife in their natural surrounds. You can see koala’s, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and an extensive range of bird life just roaming about the place. The animals are bit cheeky though. I was asleep on the first night and thought I could hear someone rummaging through my things in the next room of my tent but in my sleep delirium I wasn't sure if I was just dreaming it. The next morning I checked my things and something had opened my (unopened) packet of bread and had had a midnight feast. I'm thinking it was probably a wallaby as they are small enough to get under the gaps in my tent unless they have very flexible kangaroo burglars on the island!

Kangaroo at Western Ki Caravan Park

Western Ki Caravan Park

Anyway, on to the photography. The sort of weather that was forecast for my stay on the island was intermittent rain, strong winds and cloudy skies. As a photographer, this isn't necessarily a bad thing as this sort of weather can often add drama into the images we capture, with interesting light especially for sunsets and sunrises. You only really want clear blue skies if you're after capturing the typical postcard images that are popular with tourism companies although I was hoping to get a few of those types of images during the day time. My first evening was spent at Remarkable Rocks. The place really is unbelievable and beautiful. Giant rock sculptures sit atop the the edge of the coastline offering excellent compositions in any direction. This was also my first introduction to the ferocious winds that were blowing in from the west which made taking photos that little bit more difficult and were a constant for my time over on this side of the island. They also made camping in a tent interesting to say the least. When you're inside a tent trying to sleep, 50kph winds can sound pretty powerful. My Oztent stood up to the task though and I'd feel confident camping in future with the tent if I ever encountered strong winds again. A couple of images from my first evening.

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Over the next three days I headed through Flinders Chase National Park to the coast where I photographed these stunning locations at dusk and dawn and had some beautiful light as the clouds were constantly changing as the winds blew across from the west. Photographing Admirals Arch was probably the most difficult in the conditions as the wind was funneled through the natural tunnel and I was constantly wiping spray from my lens. Sharing the location with New Zealand Fur Seals all around me more than made up for the rough elements though. I was even lucky enough to have a clear night at the end of my stay at that side of island so I could photograph the stars over Remarkable Rocks. I've got to add that driving at these times requires complete concentration on the road ahead if you don't want to hit any animals. I had a few close calls and I reckon driving in these conditions is an exhausting experience.

Remarkable Rocks

Admirals Arch

Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse

Flinders Chase National Park

Flinders Chase National Park

During the day I sort of made it up as I went along. I had an idea of the places I wanted to see but wasn't sure if everywhere would be accessible after the recent storms. As I was in my 4WD I didn't have to worry in the end and it's great having the freedom to drive where ever you like knowing you're not going to get stuck anywhere. The road to Cape Borda was closed to normal vehicles for instance. That was good fun making my way up there in the mud! Although I will add that you don't need a 4WD to see most of the island. Even the unsealed roads are usable if care is taken. I visited Stokes Bay, a beautiful spot covered in yellow fields with a gorgeous white sandy beach only accessible via a series of caves. Cape Borda light station and cottages is a unique, pretty and remote place and the museum is well worth a visit. The drive there has views of the breathtaking coastline of Harvey's Return. Closer to where I was staying is Hansen Bay. You drive down a small dirt road for quite a while and come out at what can only be described as paradise. You just can't beat arriving at somewhere like that and being surprised by the sheer beauty of the place. I did a spot of fishing here but only caught a few crabs and some small salmon. Another afternoon was spent at another stunning location (there's a bit of a theme here), Vivonne Bay, and its turquoise coloured water. I fished off the jetty for a few hours and then took a few photos as the sun went down. I still wasn't able to catch my dinner!

Stokes Bay

Scotts Cove Lookout of Harveys Return

Cape Borda Lighthouse

Vivonne Bay Jetty

I left the western end of the island and made the trip over to Antechamber Bay where I set up camp with the intention of photographing nearby Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. On the way there I stopped off at Little Sahara and Seal Bay Conservation Park. Little Sahara has to be seen to be believed. Such an awesome place tucked away amongst rugged landscape, it somehow doesn't seem like it belongs there. There were families having so much fun boarding down the dunes. You can hire the sand boards from KI Outdoor Action. which is right there on location.

Little Sahara

Next stop was Seal Bay Conservation Park, the only place in the world where you can enter a wild colony of Australian sea lions. This is the place where the animals come back to rest after foraging for food for days out at sea. There are incredible views of the extraordinary coastline and the sea lion colony spend a lot of the time on an untouched dune system that you can walk through on a boardwalk. If you book a guided tour you can walk right down onto a pristine sandy beach and get right amongst the animals. The visitor centre here is a fantastic place to learn about these animals and the great work that these people do here with this threatened species.

Seal Bay

I arrived on the Dudley Peninsula and set up camp at Antechamber Bay for the last couple of days on the island. What an absolutely amazing place to spend a couple of nights. It's located on the road to Cape Willoughby and you drive for about 30 minutes on a sealed and unsealed road into Lashmar Conservation Park. The campground is divided into 2 sites – East and West, and is located on the pristine Chapman River. And it is spectacular. That afternoon I set off to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse to check out the place for a potential sunset shoot. After arriving at this magnificent, remote location I realised that access to the lighthouse and the direction in which the sun was going to set was going to make it difficult to capture a decent image so I decided to head off and find somewhere else for that evenings shoot.

Chapman River, Antechamber Bay

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse & Cottages

I decided to head towards American River but on the way I pretty much stumbled across Pennington Bay and drove down the little dirt road to check it out. Once I came out at the beach I knew I'd found a great location. The place is absolutely breathtaking and the light was changing and looking like we might be getting a decent sunset. It didn't disappoint! The light down there that evening was glorious and because I wasn't in a national park I was able to get my drone out and record some video footage from up high. The added bonus was being able to see Pelican Lagoon in the distance in land from where I was, a truly beautiful view!

Pelican Lagoon

Pennington Bay

On my final day I was due to travel back on the ferry at 17:30 so that left me with 2 full days and one night to explore more of the island. I wanted to have a look at Kingscote, Emu Bay and American River with the intention of getting a bit of drone action in. Emu Bay is another gorgeous little place where you're actually permitted to drive on the beach which was great fun as I had the place to myself. My favourite place in this area though was Discovery Lagoon, the place is just magic. The camp site looked superb and I'm sure it would be a fantastic place to stay amongst nature. The lagoon was obviously full after the recent rains and the place just looked magnificent with the trees coming out of the water.

Emu Bay

Discovery Lagoon

The weather had cleared up by this point and we had clear blue skies on the Wednesday evening so I decided to head back across the island in the hope of shooting the Milky Way over Remarkable Rocks. I was in luck. The wind had died down a bit and the clouds stayed away. I knew the moon wasn't going to visible that night so conditions were ideal although there is always something erie about being out at night on your own in the the pitch darkness.

The Milky Way over Remarkable Rocks

On the final day I drove to Kingscote where I was surrounded by pelicans. They thought I was going to feed them when I put my drone on the ground and pretty much swarmed me. I'm used to pelicans running away from people but these guys were super friendly. It's amazing what food can do to some animals! Kingscote is the largest town on Kangaroo Island and would be a brilliant place to stay if you wanted a base for your holiday that had every amenity. I ventured a bit further round the coast towards Beatrice Point and flew the drone for a while over the yachts and photographed the old jetty ruins.

Kingscote Old Jetty

Pelicans at Kingscote From here I started to make my back to Penneshaw for the ferry crossing but I had one final stop off I wanted to make. I'd seen American River from a distance driving around and with my drone but I wanted to see it close up. The small town was the first place on the island to have guest houses built so the first holiday makers from the mainland stayed at American River all the way back in 1892. To say that the place was scenic would be doing it a massive injustice and it's hard to describe just how majestic the whole location is. It is an aquatic reserve home to all manner of birds and wildlife and is also perfect for fishing and sailing. I managed to record some drone footage of the area before setting off for leaving and I also sneaked in a bit of drone filming over Penneshaw before my ferry arrived and then boarded that big boat. It was quiet for that return crossing so my car was straight on and straight off at the other end in Cape Jervis.

Penneshaw with Cape Jervis over the water

In summary, Kangaroo Island just has to be seen to be believed. It's probably my favourite place in Australia now because of the diversity of places it offers. It's got something for everyone especially if wildlife and the outdoors are your thing and you can stay in luxury or camp under the stars. On my next visit I'd like to sample more of the local cuisine that the island is famous for but unfortunately on this trip money was tight so I brought all my food with me. And for a 6 day holiday the whole thing was very cheap indeed with the return ferry crossing being the most expensive part. You could honestly spend a month there and not see everything properly so I'll definitely be returning sometime soon.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog and I'll be writing some more in the near future.

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