We had a 6:20 am pickup scheduled for our trip to Kangaroo Island, so we were planning to get up at 4:30am, but Jess woke up at 3:30am (which wasn't so bad, as she'd gotten 8 hours sleep). She responded to a couple of work e-mails before Jer woke up at 4am. Jess had crawled back under the covers to stay warm, so Jer brought her OJ, tea and peach-mango yogurt in bed, while he had his plain yogurt and bacon-flavored ramen cup. Jer also had his not-so-great tabbouleh and Jess had her tasty muffins.
Jess headed outside at 6:15am to wait for the Sealink ferry coach, and Jer joined her at 6:20am. Around 6:25 am, we saw the coach go by on the other side of the street. Jess headed across the street to a pay phone, but before she could make a call Jer hailed her as the coach had come back for them.
The drive from Adelaide to Port Jervis took us along the Fleurieu Peninsula, past wineries, orchards and farmland. The landcape was green and lush, but the hills were craggy, not rolling, making the area look a bit less hospitable than at first glance. In addition to farm animals (horses, cows, sheep and alpacas), we also saw our first kangaroos on the coach. We only got a glimpse, but we later learned they were Western Grey kangaroos.
The Sealink ferry ride across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island was very smooth and fairly quick (about 45 minutes). We then located our coach, and as soon as everyone was seated, we were off!
Our first stop was Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, one of five remaining in Australia. Emu Ridge produces eucalyptus oil from the plentiful Kangaroo Island narrow-leaf mallee tree. Also, the proprietor's wife raises orphaned animals, so they had a baby Kangaroo Island Kangaroo (Luna) and a baby Tammar Wallaby (Bob) in the shop; they were both about 7 mos. old and adorable. Luna stayed in her "pouch" (a canvas bag), but Bob was happy to be passed around in his "pouch" (a ski cap). When we expressed amazement at people keeping such animals indoors, our guide, Kalen, showed us pictures of his pet kangaroo, Rupert, with his dog, Charlie.
Up next was a barbecue lunch at Vivonne Bay Bistro, where we had soup, followed by chicken, sausage and salads. It was all very tasty and not too heavy. We chatted with our fellow tourists and made friends with a German university student who was traveling alone.
After lunch, we made the one-minute drive to Raptor Domain, a birds-of-prey demonstration put on by Dave Irwin (Steve's cousin) and his assistant, Bart. We saw lots of cool birds (not all of which were raptors), including a frogmouth, an Australian kestrel, two kookaburas (Jer held one), a barn owl (who sat on Jess's leg), and a couple of wedge-tailed eagles. It wasn't a long demonstration, but it was really well done.
Our next stop was the inaptly-named Seal Bay, where a national park guide took us down to the beach to see the native Australian sea lion colony. We learned that sea lions hunt 24 hours a day for three days, then return to land to rest, so the ones we saw sprawled on the beach were having a well-deserved rest. It was amazing to see so many in the wild, especially all the pups larking about. While it was hard to tear ourselves away, there was yet more to see on Kangaroo Island. On our way out, we spotted a black tiger snake, which wanted nothing to do with us (and the feeling was mutual!).
Parndarna Wildlife Park, in the center of the island, was our next destination. A small zoo for Australian animals, it is also a sanctuary for injured and orphaned local animals. Among the imports were wombats (which are cute and faster than they look), cassowaries (which are funny-looking and a bit scary, as they have a talon on each foot and can be aggressive) and a variety of parrots, cockatoos and other pretty bird. The local animals included sleepy koalas, Kangaroo Island kangaroos (which we got to hand-feed!), little freshwater crocodiles, echidnas and potoroos. We also got to snuggle a baby Kangaroo Island kangaroo and a baby Tammar Wallaby (again).
Our last stop of the day was Island Pure Sheep Dairy, where we got to see the "ladies" being milked, before watching a video about their cheese and yogurt production. We were then encouraged to try their two yogurts (plain, which tasted grassy, and honey, which had just a hint of sweetness) and four cheeses (we loved their Manchego, though the feta was also excellent).
Kalen then dropped us off at our hotel, the Island Resort, giving us instructions on how to find the best fish 'n chips on the island. We checked in and were given the key to our room, which was plain and simple, but clean and quiet. (The desk clerk gave us a room away from the noisy Korean family and their unruly children.) We set our bags down and then followed Kalen's directions to Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafood & Takeaway, a fish shop next to the Caltrex gas station that also cooks and serves its wares. We had dinner with a German college student from our tour -- Jess had the regular battered fish 'n chips, while Jer had crumbed gar with chicken-salted chips ("chicken salt" being a savory spiced salt, apparently). It's totally unpretentious with no view or atmosphere to speak of, but the food was quite tasty!
We finished dinner in time for the three of us to head down to the the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre for a guided penguin walk. Before the tour left, we wandered around the Centre's mini-aquarium of local fish. Some were quite beautiful, while others looked like good eating. There was a display (but no specimen) of the blue-ringed octopus, a small but extremely venomous local cephalopod that Kalen had mentioned -- there is no antivenin, so if you're stung, they put you on life support, do dialysis and pray.
Once everyone was gathered, our Centre guide, Roger, led us down to the beach carrying a red light (since penguins can't see red, the light doesn't mess with their keen vision). Kingscote has a sizeable colony of Little Penguins (aka Fairy Penguins), and we were lucky enough to see adults coming out of the sea, as well as chicks emerging from their burrows and wandering around. They're very cute and waddly, and its hard to remember how graceful they are in the sea. It was cold and windy, but it was worth it to see the tiny penguins.
After the tour, we headed back to the Island Resort, where we quickly slid into our nice, warm bed.