Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kangaroo Island: Bountiful Nature Preserve

Floating in the deep blue sea south of Adelaide is a magical place called Kangaroo Island, a nature preserve without fences. My dearest and I were introduced to the unusual antipodean wildlife at the Pelican Lagoon Research Centre where Dr. Peggy Rismiller studies echidnas (she is the world’s expert), tiger snakes and goannas. Accompanied by a visiting scientist from Germany we wandered through a dry but rich terrain of termite hills, stunted eucalpyt trees, ant mounds and the odd hopping kangaroo. A metre-long Rosenberg goanna was snared, a transmitter inserted and a big H painted on its back for Hal (Hans and Ally). Lunch was a feast including tasty kangaroo-tail stew, roo burgers, feral olives, wild lettuce, marinated kunzia berry and pickled samphire seaweed.. Ah, living off the land!

The island (much bigger than we anticipated at 150-km long) is ringed by glorious beaches where a hot sun beats down and huge waves pound onto wide swathes of soft, pure sand. Although a long weekend, usually we were the only people in the entire cove. At Duck Lagoon (dry) we saw many “fuzzy butts” or koalas sleeping in the tall eucalypt tree. Koalas are an introduced species whose exploding population is killing gum trees, which in turn affects the water table (not good in this 17-year-long drought). Each morning we rushed from breakfast at the Kangaroo Island Lodge to watch as a flock of Australian pelicans and sea gulls were fed on the foreshore. The enormous birds lumbered along on their large webbed feet and fought for and gulped down the thrown fish.

One afternoon we visited Seal Bay, an incredible refuge for about 700 Australian sea lions who live here year-around. We watched from a boardwalk as mothers nursed little pups and giant bulls roared and fought amongst themselves for sexual supremacy. Then we visited a rookery for little penguins. Trails led from the ocean to numerous burrows were the penguins rest during the night.

All too soon we were on the ferry returning to the concrete canyons of the city.
& & (for ferry service)

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