Monday, January 22, 2018

KANGAROO ISLAND, Australia, Part 2: Hanson Bay, Seal Bay and Kingscote

Hanson Bay Beach, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Why do people go to Kangaroo Island? For the beaches and outdoor sports, for wildlife viewing and for the delicious locally grown fresh food.
Our fourth day on Kangaroo Island began with a visit to the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to book a guided spotlight tour for that evening. (Most Australian wildlife is nocturnal and best seen at night or at dawn and dusk.) We then proceeded to the turnoff for the dirt road to Hanson Bay, a pristine and beautiful beach that is also the beginning of a walking trail to the Kelly Hill Caves. Almost no one else was there–as was true for other beaches we had visited on Kangaroo Island. I couldn’t pass up the chance to put my feet in the Southern Ocean and found the water pleasantly refreshing–not nearly as cold as the Pacific Ocean on California beaches at home.
The trail at Hanson Beach overlooks the nesting grounds of hooded terns; visitors are cautioned to walk along the wet sand during the nesting season
The sand dunes on the far side of the bay are covered with hardy low growing plants adapted to the wind and arid conditions and where hooded terns build their nests.
Koala joey exploring on its own
That evening, after an early dinner on the veranda of the Wilderness Retreat, our lodging for three nights, we returned to the Wildlife Sanctuary for our nighttime tour. The sun was just setting and the animals were stirring. Dozens of koalas could be seen in the branches of the huge eucalyptus trees planted along the main avenue. We watched a young koala joey scramble down from his mother’s branch and practice climbing on its own. Then we had to jump aside to avoid two adults in a wild chase as one headed for his escape up a nearby tree. Never have I seen koalas move so fast.
The echidna or spiny anteater is one of two egg laying mammals; a baby echidna is called a puggle
As the day grew dark we moved into the fenced area to look for kangaroos, wallabies, possums and echidnas who live inside this huge area safe from foxes and other predators.
Tammar wallaby
When we spotted an animal, the guide and her assistant highlighted it with flashlights. As long as we didn’t get too close, the animals paid little attention to us. At the end of the evening we returned to our hotel under a Southern sky brilliant with stars and unfamiliar constellations.
In the morning we checked out of our hotel and headed back to the east end of the island, stopping again at the Hanson Bay Café to buy a supply of Kangaroo Island honey to take home as souvenirs. The honey, made from eucalyptus flowers, has a unique taste.(Elsewhere on the island one can visit the honey farm.)
Australian sea lions at Seal Bay
Our main stop of the day was at Seal Bay to see the endangered Australian sea lions. Hundreds line the beach. Walkways and platforms allow people to observe the sea lions. We took a guided tour onto the beach but still had to stay a safe distance away from the huge animals, which can move surprisingly quickly on their flippers across the sand.
Kingscote
From Seal Bay we drove to Kingscote, the largest town on Kangaroo Island (population 1,763). It is both the tourist center, with a variety of art galleries, shops, and restaurants along its main street, as well as being the island’s municipal center.
Cormorants roosting for the night at Baudin Beach
From there we continued to our B and B at Baudin Beach near Penneshaw, ending the day with a walk along the path on the bank above the beach. In the morning, we were scheduled for an early trip on the ferry. Our five days on Kangaroo Island had been full and relaxing. It was the perfect kind of vacation!

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