Kangaroo Island 101

Kangaroo Island (KI) is mere 13km off the coast of South Australia across Backstairs Passage. Its area of 155km x 55km is a micro-universe of mega-fauna: different landscapes and environments offering an amazingly pristine land with wildlife wonderland, dunes, spectacular scenery with emerald ocean waters and sandy beaches, rugged mountainous coastline, forests, and bush.

KI was separated from mainland Australia by a rise in sea level over 9,000 years ago. Aboriginal people occupied the land at least 11,000 years ago; however, they disappeared in 200 BC. The exploration of the island is attributed to a Frenchman Nicholas Baudin. Shortly after, his English counterpart Captain Mathew Flinders named the island after his crew feasted on kangaroo for the duration of their 4-month exploits.

A collection of whalers, sealers, convicts and deserters made their home here and in the early 1800s. Soon KI a reputation of the most lawless and vicious places in the British Empire till 1827 when the worst offenders were captured. The island developed slowly with an estimated population of 1,113 in 1947. But after the end of World War II, the Government established a War Service Land Settlement Scheme where ex-soldiers would be settled and encouraged to farm the undeveloped land on the Island's central plateau. 174 soldier settlers and their families came to the Island, and by 1954 the population had increased to 2,167. Currently, the island is home to about 4200 residents.

Snelling Beach on the north coast

In the past few decades, KI re-emerged as a top eco-tourism spot. 1/3 of the island is under fierce protection of either national or conservation parks. They offer the state’s best opportunity to view and interact with unique Australian native wildlife. The island’s local produce is a unique as its wildlife and includes (but isn't limited to) honey produced by a pure strain of Ligurian bees (a gentle Italian bee that was first brought to the island in 1884 from Liguria), jams from indigenous fruits, sheep-milk cheeses, local wines, eucalyptus and emu oils, etc. Many residences are self-sustaining, running on solar batteries and rain water. I also got a sense of a tight community with most restaurants and stores using locally-made oils, soaps, and other similar products, offering fish freshly-caught themselves or by a neighbour, meats from a local farm, and serving wine from the next-door winery.

Rugged Cliffs of Weirs Cove

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