Kangaroo Island. Day 1

Itinerary: Penneshaw - Kingscote - Seal Bay Conservation Park - Vivonne Bay 

SeaLink moving from Cape Jervi
SeaLink ferry (that has complete monopoly over water transportation to/from KI) took us from Cape Jervis across Backstairs passage in 45 minutes. We drove through Penneshaw (the first of the two most populated areas of the island) to the Penguin Centre. Apparently, the little penguins that make home on the rocky shores of the town, leave the coast in summer to fatten up for winter and get back to the island in the fall. So we headed to Kingscote, a neighboring second largest town for a gas and stomach fill-up.

We got a take-away seafood basket at KI Fresh seafood cafe and settled at a picnic area at a playground overlooking the shore. The food was simple and fish very fresh, good enough for takeaway, but nothing spectacular as you'd expect. While the Little Nomads, fed on local specialty - battered and crumbled whiting and snapper fillets, hopped around the playground, the Big Nomad and I went down to the jetty to discover colonies of birds: cormorants, pelicans, and others I couldn't identify. Apparently, a daily 5pm feed takes some planning on the birds' part and some of them were there 3 hours in advance!

The queue awaiting supper

Driving south to our cottage in the centrally-located Vivonne Bay took about 40 minutes. There are only 2 major asphalt roads on KI, crossing it from east to west, both going to/from Flinders Chase National park. The rest are minor unsealed roads (make sure you have a well-cushioned seat) that take you through farms, bushland to rugged coastlines and quiet bays. These are routes to discovery of incredibly varied landscape with many animals and birds crossing your way.

En route, we stopped a small sheep farm - Island Pure Sheep Dairy, which makes organic products from sheep milk. We tasted a few varieties of cheeses, yogurts and purchased some Manchego and mango yogurt. Fast-forward to the next morning when we opened the yogurts, we unanimously agreed it was the best yogurt the Big Nomad and I had had!

Seal Bay
Having dropped off our things at the cottage, having ahhh-ed and ohhh-ed at it, we headed to Seal Bay Conservation Park. Walking out of the visitor's centre, you catch a beautiful sight of the bush-covered hill rolling into white dunes and into the wavy ocean, peppered with black and brown dots of sea lions and seals. A boardwalk takes you down close enough to the sandy area with the resting seals. Coming down we had heard screeching noises, barks, screams, and some commotion at the beach and by the time we got down we saw a wounded male seal, badly bitten by another male. A guide told us that it'd most likely not survive and the conservation park staff did not interfere with the course of nature.

A few minutes after we joined a group for a guided walk  (for a fee, of course) with a hoarse-voiced exhausted-looking ranger (it was the end of the day), who took us down to the seal beach for a close-up look (and smell) of the animals. The colony is made up of about 500 animals with 100 seals resting after a 3-4 day hunt in the ocean and the rest at sea. It is the end of the breeding season and most female lions were accompanied by the cutest awkward pups.

10 minutes into the tour, the Little Nomad got pretty bored by seal life stories. He dropped in the sand and started digging. A close-by seal mom had watched him intently and then, all of a sudden, rose and started moving fast toward the Little Nomad, followed closely by a little pup. The tourist group froze for a few short seconds not knowing what to do. We had been told these awkward-looking animals ran faster than humans on sand and are quite aggressive when defending their young. The ranger told us to move swiftly but not run. We backed out slowly, 5m away from the mom who was waddling her way straight to us (in our hurry and confusion we left the plastic water bottle that can be see on the photo). Finally, the mom stopped and dropped herself into the sand hole dug by the Little Nomad. She wiggled a bit making herself more room and closed her eyes. We offered the ranger to hire the Little Nomad as an official Seal Holes Digger, but as I had said before they didn't interfere with the seals' lifestyle...

A pup looking for mom

Vivonne Bay beach
It was around 5pm by the time we climbed back to the park's centre. The Little Nomads were getting restless (a sure sign of tiredness) and the Big Nomad was ready for one of the succulent steaks we brought in the cooler. It is recommended to get off roads by dusk to prevent wildlife accidents. So we headed back to our cottage at Vivonne Bay. Its beach was proclaimed the best in Australia by a University of Sydney's professor and the expression caught on. It is also a fishing hot spot with many fishing boats and antlers trying their luck by the jetty.

The cottage was 200m away from the Bay and we could hear the waves breaking at the shore every single night. With its white sand and turquoise water, the beach had stronger waves that I had expected, but safe enough for the Nomads to enjoy jumping over them and swimming. Happy and hungry we came back to the cottage, fired up a BBQ and had a terrific simple dinner with salad, steak, and Dudley wine.

LaViv - the cottage where we stayed has many terrific features: besides its great location with proximity to the beach, it carries the character, heart, mind, and soul of people who built it. I felt like I was in my friend's guest house, rather than a faceless cottage where you'd stay and won't remember. It embodies the spirit of KI - eco-oriented, personable, creative, unique, and hospitable. When Cathy, the owner, stopped by she told us a bit the history of its construction, with her husband having planned, crafted, and built, she - putting in the finishing touches, and 3 kids pitching in when and how they could. There's also photo album that highlights the construction and I could feel that the owners truly love and care for this house.

The hours I had spent searching for accomodation in KI were not in vain - I can hardly think of a place, which would have enhanced our experience and our perception of the character of the island more! Aside from an obvious creative craft streak throughout the house, every nook and corner had surprisingly thought-through details. The line of organic products for all cases, KI eucalyptus oil for cleaning, KI honey and teas, tubs of lego, toys and books, dozens of elclectic cds, and dvds (which we haven't used) - there were so many niceties that would make time freeze - the exact reason why people come to KI!

Hand-carved rock by the entrance
Sun Room

No comments: