I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
Visit my blog naturallysouthaustralia.com
Published November 1st 2021
It is the first day of my five-day trip to Kangaroo Island. I have driven the car onto the ferry and I'm looking around at the scenery, scanning the breakwater for birdlife and the entrance to the docking area for dolphins or seals. One of the crew mentioned they had spotted whales out in Backstairs Passage on the last two trips. No dolphins yet but a mixture of terns, cormorants and Silver Gulls on the breakwater.
The crew cast off and the ferry engages its powerful motors pushing the craft out into the choppy waters of Backstairs Passage, between the Island and mainland. I perch myself on the front of the boat and watch for Bottlenose Dolphins. These highly intelligent marine mammals often join the craft as it leaves Cape Jervis and on approach to Penneshaw. They ride on the bow wave for the sheer joy of it. An adult and young dolphin join us halfway to the island and another pair slide onto the pressure wave when we are five minutes out from Penneshaw.
Penneshaw is a quaint little coastal town and a good place to base a KI visit. There are guided penguin tours, powerboat rides to view coastal wildlife and a unique sculpture garden walk. Accommodation, fuel, a general store and a hotel provide all the essentials. However, I am just passing through on my way to the Sea Dragon Lodge near Cape Willoughby on the Eastern extremity of the island.
I take the Cape Willoughby Road out of Penneshaw. It climbs above the little port providing a wonderful view of the township and coast. The blacktop continues for another ten kilometres passing through lush farmland which supports sheep and cattle before the surface changes to a gravel road with farmland and scrub on either side.
As I round a bend, I have to slow down due to water across the road; the result of recent rains which have swollen the Chapman River and silted up the estuary. The water has also stimulated the wildlife and a large Rosenberg's Goanna crosses the road and pauses on the grassy bank above the water.
A sign at the next intersection points to the Lashmar Conservation Park and despite my desire to reach the lodge, it is never wise to miss an opportunity to get off the beaten track when the weather is fine. The track has more than a few ruts and wet spots but is quite passable for any conventional vehicle. It follows the path of the river to a camping area with amenities, trails and a small footbridge.
My excursion into the park is short as I need to get to the lodge before dark to check in and get some bearings. There are numerous wrens and honeyeaters in the trees along the Chapman River's banks and I catch a fleeting glimpse of a Tammar Wallaby. Near the mouth of the river, there are fantails, gulls, wattlebirds, Masked Lapwings, stilts and a kestrel hovering high above the scrub. Being Spring, a proliferation of native flowers and most of the shrubs and trees are in bloom.
I have only been on the island for a couple of hours, yet the infectious beauty and sense of adventure are overwhelming. On that note, I shall sign off on day 1 and continue my KI Safari in a future article.