My book was due, and I’d had a twitch in my left eye for over two weeks. But my husband had a rare week off, so we decided to head somewhere we’d wanted to go for years – Kangaroo Island.
In our usual style, it was very last minute, and most places we wanted to stay were booked. We eventually found a small house to rent, but it was quite far away from everything and the owners told us we had to have a 4WD to access the property. We booked it anyway, and this turned out to be an incredible stroke of luck.
There was a long list of things we wanted to see on Kangaroo Island, but as soon as we got to our little house at Cape Hart on the rugged south-east coast, all our plans evaporated.
Our welcome was a 180-degree view of the Southern Ocean from the cliff top and a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles overhead. Our little wind-powered house was the only residence in sight and we had over 100 acres of wilderness to ourselves, adjoining the Lesueur Conservation Park. Everything fell away – my eye finally stopped twitching.
We did not see another human being for four whole days – only wildlife. Kangaroos (a subspecies of the Western Grey, which is smaller, darker and has longer fur), Echidnas, Tammar Wallabies, a list of birds too numerous to mention, Rosenberg’s Goannas, Black Tiger Snakes, and every afternoon a White-Bellied Sea Eagle visited us and glided on the thermals.
But it was the colony of Long-nosed Fur Seals (formerly known as New Zealand Fur Seals) that stole the show. On a rocky platform, complete with sea pools and flat sunny spots, were about fifty seals. Over the next four days I spent hours watching them and spotted at least ten pups in the group. Juvenile seals played endlessly in the pools and in the waves, while most of the adults tried to sleep in the sun. Pups cried out for mum, for milk, and large males fought and threw their massive bulk around. Fur seals are noisy and they stink, but they truly are one of my favourite creatures on this planet. I wanted to stay for months – forever. I made plans to ask the owners to sell the property to me so I never had to leave.
But there was one Kangaroo Island attraction that I didn’t want to miss – visiting the large colony of sea lions at Seal Bay. We booked in for a guided tour with one of the rangers and walked among sea lions snoozing in the dune system, and lying in the middle of the path. But it is on the beach that you experience the true size of the colony. The tour is well worth the long drive, and all the proceeds go to research and conservation. Australian Sea Lions are listed as endangered and declining, and Seal Bay is home to the third largest colony (about 800 individuals). Entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear pose the main threat to sea lions. Up to eighty percent of this debris comes from the land, including rubbish dumped by beach visitors. Other threats include being struck by boats, human disturbance, pollution, and overfishing which reduces access to prey.
Seal lions are incredibly beautiful creatures and a very rare species. They desperately need Australia’s marine sanctuaries to survive, and I really hope we can make changes and protect them.
We drove the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to our remote cliff top and visited our fur seals for the last time. It was time to pack up and fly home in the morning. I almost cried when we said goodbye.
When I travel, I often want to see everything, fit everything in, walk every track. I sometimes forget that the best wild moments come when you stay still. Waiting and watching in one spot in the hope of seeing a White-Bellied Sea Eagle. Sitting quietly and listening to birdsong. Sinking into the flow of the natural day.
It was an important break for me, and I know now that this is the kind of holiday I always want to have. No rushing around, no itineraries. Just the wild, plain and simple, and the presence to take it all in and be grateful.
You can find out more about Seal Bay here.
Report Rosenberg’s Goanna sightings here to help this vulnerable species. Kangaroo Island is their last stronghold.