Kangaroo Island – or K.I. for short – is an island off the coast of South Australia. Admired for its native wildlife and bushland environment, many thousands of tourists visit its shores every year.
Kangaroo Island features a high concentration of indigenous flora and fauna, and approximately 500 kilometers of rocky and sandy coastline. Sparsely populated, the landscape of K.I. is dry, rugged and remote, and filled with nature of a resilient kind.
Island of the Sea
As a sea-bound wonderland, Kangaroo Island is home to many beautiful aquatic creatures. With pristine, open beaches and protected conservation areas, it is possible to view and photograph a stunning array of marine life.
Marine mammals that live and/or travel near Kangaroo Island:
• Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus)
• Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea)
• New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri)
• Little, or fairy, penguins (Eudyptula minor)
• Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis)
• Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus)
• Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)
• Gray's beaked whales (Mesoplodon grayi)
• Curvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris)
• Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas)
• Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and
• Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
Whether your desire is to swim with sea lions or dolphins, watch whales or go night-walking on a nocturnal penguin tour, Kangaroo Island has a wide range of activities to choose from, thus giving visitors the opportunity to encounter sea animals in their natural habitat.
Seals of Kangaroo Island
Aside from large populations of kangaroos, koalas and wallabies, Kangaroo Island is also well-known for its exuberant seal colonies. Two species of seal and one species of sea lion are known to exist on Kangaroo Island – the Australian fur seal, the New Zealand fur seal and the Australian sea lion.
Suited to living on land and in water, they collectively belong to the Otariidae family and are referred to as 'eared' seals, in relation to their visible external ears (or 'flaps'). They are also lovingly nicknamed as 'sea bears' (fur seals) and 'hair seals' (sea lions).
• The Australian fur seal is the lesser-known seal species on Kangaroo Island. Although it visits the area on a regular basis, its own breeding grounds (rookeries) are located some distance away, on a series of islands off the coast of Victoria. Its native range stretches from South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania to New South Wales. The largest of all fur seals, population numbers of Australian fur seals are slowing increasing, due to seal hunting being outlawed in the early 20th Century.
• The New Zealand fur seal is, on the other hand, the most common seal species on K.I. It occupies many of the rocky outcrops that line the south-western corner of Kangaroo Island, otherwise known as Flinders Chase National Park. Numbering an estimated 50,000-60,000, these seals can be found in a variety of other locations – not just on Kangaroo Island (and not just around New Zealand either!) These seals also freely inhabit the stony shores of the Chatham Islands, sub-Antarctic Islands, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia.
• Out of these three species, the Australian sea lion is the most endangered. It is a threatened marine species in Australia, and classified as 'vulnerable' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. As like seals, the Australian seal lion is sleek, agile and carnivorous. Diving deeply to get its food, the Australian sea lion consumes squid, octopus, mackerel and other fish. It resides on the coastlines of Western Australia and South Australia, including Kangaroo Island – where it is most at home in Seal Bay. In regards to its population size, less than 15,000 Australian seal lions remain in the world today.
Seal Bay Conservation Park
With four major parks established on Kangaroo Island, and a lot of untouched wilderness, you can be sure to find yourself in, what seems at times, the middle of nowhere. Bush-clad and desolate, the roads stretch out for miles with few other cars to be seen. There is little chance of traffic jams happening here!
When it comes to seal-spotting however, you may be seeing more than you realize! If you are passionate about seals, then your first destination on island has to be Seal Bay Conservation Park. Located on the southern side of Kangaroo Island, it is easy to access and less than an hour's drive from the main town of Kingscote.
Guided tours of the sea lion colony operate daily at Seal Bay Conservation Park, giving visitors the chance to witness these wild endangered mammals first-hand. Whether lounging on the beach, appearing out of the waves, or just plain-out enjoying their wild life at the seaside, the Australian sea lion is well contented on this part of Kangaroo Island.
While at Seal Bay Conservation Park, it is also worth taking the time to meander the 800-meter boardwalk that is built out over tall sand dunes and endemic, low-growing vegetation. You will be amazed by the coastal vistas, rocky shoreline and stunning blue waters that wash up on the sandy white beach below.
You may even see the remains of an old bleached whale skeleton at rest between the dunes, or come across a slow-moving, spiny echidna. There is a lot to photograph here at Seal Bay Conservation Park . . . seals, scenery, sea and sun . . . so remember to pack your camera!
Piece of nature
Getting close to the nature of a place can gift your life with unforgettable memories and awe-inspiring adventures. When visiting Kangaroo Island, the experience is no different. It is a destination you will remember and appreciate, recall and return to – even if the time of traveling there has long since passed.
Brimming with native trees, shrubs, and intriguing birds, animals, reptiles and amphibians, K.I. is set adrift from mainland Australia, in the Great Australian Bight. Far from the strife and hectic pace of modern city life, K.I. is, in comparison, a quiet paradise blessed with more kangaroos and koalas than people!
On making your escape out to sea, head to the heart of the Australian wilderness that is – and can only be – Kangaroo Island. It is a seal lover's dream.
Note: it is illegal to feed wildlife on the Island. Also, please take care when driving.
Kangaroos and wallabies often bound onto roads, and would much rather live than get hit.
Map of the island
Coast of South Australia