South Australia travel diary: Kangaroos, koalas are just the tip of the region's teeming wildlife

On Kangaroo Island, 4,500 people coexist with an array of wildlife, flora and fauna. The island is Australia's third largest, and is a great place for naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts and children to see many animals in their natural habitat. On a walk through Lathami Conservation Park, you might see wallabies taking shelter from the days heat, and protecting themselves from eagles that our guide tells us, swoop down to prey on them. The animals, which seem to be a cross between a kangaroo, rat and rabbit, are tough to spot at first, but soon you learn to distinguish their angular faces amidst the woody undergrowth in which they can be found during the day. For the most part, they’re not scared by the humans hovering a safe distance away, though they can be protective of their joeys, who have just moved out of the pouches and out into the world.

The same can be said of the other wildlife of the island. There are kangaroos, which look curiously at the human interlopers that have made their way to spot the large mammals, but also koalas, echidnas and more. The echidna — a spiny round ball with a long snout — is tough to spot, but if you’re lucky you will see them while making your way through the island. We spent a day on tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island, and our guide Luke, did a great job of pointing out the different big animals, but also the bird species that make their home on Kangaroo Island. The biggest national park on the island, Flinders Chase National Park is home to different species of animals, and is a great place to spend some time hiking as well. He did warn us though, that platypuses which are also found only in Australia, are incredibly tough to spot, and that’s one animal we didn’t see throughout or two week long trip to Australia.

 South Australia travel diary: Kangaroos, koalas are just the tip of the regions teeming wildlife

Feeding wallabies is one of the things you can do at Gorge National Park

Two seals play at Seal Bay in Kangaroo Island

Two seals play at Seal Bay in Kangaroo Island

An echidna is out for a stroll and a feed in the mid-day heat

An echidna is out for a stroll and a feed in the mid-day heat

The best way to experience the topography of the island though is to make your way through it on the back of an off-road vehicle, as you tear through mud, rock and dirt, stopping to see kangaroos and koalas in their natural habitat. We spent two hours with Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action as cut a wide circle around the island, ripping past rustling foliage and learning to change gears while also keeping an eye out for the animals that we were hoping to see.

Not to be missed is Seal Bay, where numerous wild Australian sea lions come to shore to rest and spend time with their pups. Besides the animals, who are close enough to snap numerous photos of, there’s gorgeous scenery to take in, though be warned, it can get quite windy, so be adequately clad.

Pelicans at ease on the shore near Kingscoate

Pelicans at ease on the shore near Kingscoate

Back on the mainland, in and around Adelaide, there are other options for those looking to see, and feed the animals. The zoo, which is close to the CBD, has a pair of giant pandas (the only ones in the southern hemisphere), but a better bet is Gorge Wildlife Park, which is a where you will see everything from white kangaroos (they exist) to bats and more. An added bonus is the ability to feed the kangaroos and wallabies in the park, and get clicked with a koala bear, who will find the eucalyptus branch you’re holding on to far more interesting than anything you will do.

The remains of a wallaby on the ground at Lathami Conservation Park

The remains of a wallaby on the ground at Lathami Conservation Park

A kangaroo mother and joey in Lathami Conservation Park

A kangaroo mother and joey in Lathami Conservation Park

Wild koalas can be spotted all over Kangaroo Island

Wild koalas can be spotted all over Kangaroo Island

Home to exotic animals not seen down under, you can also spot peacocks, lemurs, reptiles and two very curious camels. Its fitting that the park has a range of creatures on display, as it was started by a family taking in exotic pets that people could not take care of. From there, the park has grown into a haven for animal lovers, and a safe home for the animals themselves — as they are looked after and cared for by the conscientious team.

A trip to South Australia would be incomplete without seeing the teeming wildlife, especially since so much of Australia’s wildlife has evolved differently, into animals that cannot be seen elsewhere, except in captivity. At Gorge Wildlife Park, and locations all over Kangaroo Island, you get to see the animals up close, and appreciate their special adaptations, that have allowed Australia to become home to so many unique species.

In part 2 of this South Australia travelogue, we look at wine tourism.

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Updated Date: Dec 28, 2017 16:01:19 IST