Those slightly more advanced in years will probably remember a television programme called “Skippy” If unfamiliar with the children’s series, set in Australia, it centred around a marsupial ‘Lassie’. In each episode the hopping hero would solve almost every possible problem known to humanity.
His companion was a boy with the infamous line “What’s up Skip”? Each time he asked the question, Skippy would give a lengthy explanation in a series of clicks, that the boy miraculously understood. Regardless of the crisis; two children requiring a rescue from a well or a new mediator needed in the Middle East, Skippy and his pal would always resolve it in a 30 minute programme.
So on a slightly overcast looking day our little band boarded a Regional Express flight for the short 20 minute hop across to Kingscote Airport on Kangaroo Island, the Australian Galápagos with plans to rediscover the whereabouts of the Nobel prize worthy marsupial.
After a quick and trouble-free passage through both airports, our welcoming committee at Kingscote was Terry, our guide for the day. Working for Kangaroo Island Odysseys Tours, Terry, who was originally from Twickenham in England. He is an extremely knowledgeable guide, who is able to tell a story and it wasn’t any surprise to discover he had been a teacher in another life.
We received the highlights tour, driven around the main points of interest in a comfortable Toyota four-wheel drive vehicle. It was a pleasant day, but at least two days are normally required to visit the island and inevitably we missed out on several of the islands main attractions.
There was just enough time to see the ‘highlights’ however and it wasn’t long before we were gasping in excitement, standing almost within touching distance of a colony of Australian Sea lions.The sun was beginning to come out and they were catching a few rays after spending several days at sea feeding. The Southern Ocean beach provides a spectacular setting so is great for taking photos and watching the latest pups searching for their mum’s, crying out and attempting to suckle once successfully found. It was a David Attenborough worthy moment.
Terry had warned us not to get too close but when a young female pup looking for her mother waddled right up to us, his advice was to sit down, stay calm and let her come to us. As he had only moments ago mentioned their dental hygiene was worse than an extra in the “Walking Dead” and that a bite would mean a trip to hospital. It was therefore slightly disconcerting when also informed she might try to lick our hands or feet!.
We were soon back on the road again, passing through a landscape which at times seemed alien but yet strangely familiar with traditional English looking sheep farms fenced off by natural bush of eucalyptus and acacia trees. At times the shrub land seemed to close in on us, almost squeezing the thin ribbon of road, the vegetation growing up to the very edge of the tarmac. Terry explained the devastating effects of bushfires on wildlife but that it is a natural occurrence and even necessary for regeneration of the bush.
Despite keeping my eyes peeled, staring intently into the trees there wasn’t any sign of any koalas and so far we hadn’t spotted Skippy or any of his relations either.
This at least was soon rectified however as on our way to a bush picnic we saw our first kangaroos. Initially just one seeking some shelter from the sun under a tree but later several more from a distance. Lunch was far better than expected and it was at this point we found out our guide had originally trained as a chef and previously owned a restaurant. These guides certainly have varied backgrounds and an excellent meal of chicken and salad with local wines was gratefully received by all.
Kangaroo island received its name from the famed English explorer and cartographer Mathew Flinders. He discovered the island in 1750 and decided to supplement the ships rations with plentiful kangaroo meat. He and his crew slaughtered 31 animals using rifles and clubs and after transporting the meat back to the ship spent two days feasting. He then named the island in honour of the animals which provided the ship’s company with an unexpected bounty.
During the afternoon we posed on top of “Remarkable Rocks” which unsurprisingly are unusually shaped rocks sculpted by the erosive force of nature and perched high above the powerful ocean below. We then visited one of the three lighthouses on the island, including this one at Cape du Circuel. No longer in use and the old keeper cottages now offer holiday makers accommodation with a very scenic view.
There was also time to visit possibly the largest community of Kiwis in Australia, a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals grabbing a chance to worship the sun, play in the rockpools and get some respite from the waves crashing all around them in their spectacular surroundings.
We went in search of Skippy again before our return flight at the Kelly Conservation Area where we found plenty of the Australia’s iconic emblem. There was a group of around 20 wallabies grazing contentedly and they seemed quite habituated to humans.We were allowed to get quite close and although not the most obliging of models it was still possible to get some decent images.
Each time a roo (did you know there are wallaroos) was within earshot I posed the question “What’s up Skip”? A muted response was all I received, maybe they weren’t very community spirited but none showed any wish to foster any cross species co-operation. Then again who can blame them? It was now late afternoon and Terry assured us if we had a little more time in a few hours this group would grow to at least 300 roos!
The battle with time was already lost however and although we spent a thoroughly enjoyable day on Kangaroo Island we had to settle for our whistle-stop tour. Other groups staying overnight would have more opportunities to see koalas and one of nature’s more bizarre creatures the echidna. If they were especially patient and lucky, there’s even a possibility of seeing the other egg laying mammal oddity; a platypus. An overnight stay is definitely the order of the day and it was with some regret we boarded our return flight.
You probably already realise it’s been added it to my return visit list!