Saturday, July 26, 2014

Down Under, Day #5 - Kangaroo Island VIP Access, Seals and Birds

On Day 5, we woke up bright and early in Adelaide and caught a 6am bus to Cape Jervis. A little over 2 hours later we boarded the ferry for a 45-minute ride across the Indian Ocean to Kangaroo Island. 

A few facts about KI:
  • KI is Australia's 3rd largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It is roughly the size of Connecticut.
  • Nearly two thirds of the island is wildlife reserve and national park. The island is pristine, without graffiti or litter. The residents take great pride in their island.
  • Many of the roads on KI are not paved - we had to take a couple of detours because recent rains had turned the dirt roads to potholed mud.

The sea was really rough that morning, and the ferry rocked a LOT. I got a little queasy, but survived without being sick, thankfully. When we arrived at KI, everyone started filing off the ferry and we thought we were probably going to be on a bus with the majority of the tourists on board. Little did we know... We made our way with the rest of the group down to the waiting buses. A driver holding a clipboard asked "Stephanie Bunce?" When we said yes, he said "You're with me. And you're the only ones with me." It was just the two of us, plus our driver Robert, on a 52-passenger bus! We couldn't believe it and thought he was kidding. But nope, we got a VIP personalized tour, because nobody else signed up for the two-day tour. We were surprised they hadn't cancelled on us, but according to Robert, that wouldn't be good for their reputation, and we reserved months in advance - it wasn't our fault we were the only ones. 

This is ALL OURS!
Robert, our great driver  and tour guide for the trip
We had prime seats, right in front!
The view from the front of the bus - eucalypt trees everywhere.
When Robert found out we were Americans and what Stephanie does for a living, he got very excited and decided to take a detour to his little town of American River, KI, named for a group of American sealers who camped there for 4 months in 1803 and built the schooner Independence from local timber. This was the first ship built by Americans in Australia. When we turned down the road to American River, there was a large replica of the ship on the side of the road, complete with an ancient version of the Stars and Stripes.
Hey, I recognize that flag!

After a quick lunch, we made our way to Seal Bay, home to a colony of Australian Sea Lions, where a guide led us down to the beach and up close to the sea lions. The view was absolutely beautiful, though it was quite chilly and windy on the beach. We got about 15 feet from some of the sea lions - they can be mean if they feel threatened, so that's as close as we were allowed. We saw nursing pups, juvenile males and females, and one slightly older male. They were so cute! 
An osprey flew overhead just as we got to the beach. According to our guide, seeing a osprey is good luck.
A rainbow and sea lions on the beach - amazing!
We had to leave Seal Bay to make it to the Raptor Domain Birds of Prey show. I would have been content to stay longer with the sea lions and miss the birds, but Robert assured us that we would really enjoy the show - and he was right. We saw different types of owls, two kookaburras, and a couple of wedge-tailed eagles. I got to hold a kookaburra, and Stephanie held the yellow-eyed barking owl and one of the eagles. It was really interesting to learn about the birds, and it was very obvious that the guides love their birds and birds love and trust them.
Caspar, a barn owl
Ellie, the barking owl
Tilka, a wedge-tailed eagle, I think
Banjo and Clancy , two kookaburras - do you know the song?
Jedda, a wedge-tailed eagle
Stephanie holding Rex, a wedge-tailed eagle
After we left Raptor Domain, we headed to Kingscote for the evening pelican feeding. On our way, we saw these very unusual trees and the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. I was looking at the water and saw seals playing and jumping near the coast. When I pointed them out, Robert asked if we wanted to stop and take a picture (of course - what kind of question is that?!). Stephanie turned around and asked "Is that alright with all of you?" to the back of the bus, and we laughed and stopped for a brief photo opp. 
Our last stop for the day's tour was the Pelican feeding in Kingscote. Every day at 5pm, about 40 pelicans gather on a pier for a tasty fish treat. One of the Pelican Man's first questions was "Do we have anyone from Texas here?" He was quite surprised when I said yes - I wonder if he's had many Texas visitors. He went on to make a joke that even though everything is bigger in Texas, that KI has bigger pelicans. Ha ha ha... He grabbed his hat and bucket of fish and had to ward off the eager seagulls to feed the pelicans. What unusual birds! God really is creative - check out the yellow around their eyes and the blue and yellow accents on their pink beaks! And their antics were so fun to watch. They nipped at each other, squawked, and pecked to be in the front of the line for a fishy snack.  

0 comments: