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March 11, 2020
Kangaroo Island, Australia: Burnt but Still Beautiful

Russell writes…

Of all the ports on our new South Australia itinerary, the most important destination for Gail was Kangaroo Island. This island, one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in the world, suffered not one but two major wildfires in less than a week, on January 4 and 9. When they were finally brought under control, the fires had destroyed 519,000 acres – 48 percent of the island.

We are particularly sympathetic because we suffered through a California wildfire in 2015. So we were happy to undertake one of our few paid excursions so far – “Kangaroo Island Recovery – Showing Support” – because we wanted to put some money back into this community.

Kangaroo Island is an important wildlife sanctuary

Before the January fires…

… and after

The fires destroyed 48 percent of Kangaroo Island

The excursion didn’t start until after noon, but we took a tender ashore as early as we were able. Our ship had anchored on the far east side of the island in Penneshaw. We had three hours available, and we looked into renting a car and driving out to some of the wildlife sanctuaries. To our dismay, we learned that we could not possibly drive anywhere in that timeframe and still get back in time for our excursion.

Instead, we decided to explore Penneshaw on foot. We tried walking the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail, but we didn’t see many sculptures. (We did see a couple of wild wallabies.) We climbed down the rocky coast to Frenchman’s Rock, where jagged rocks jutted out of the ground like vertical knife blades. We ended up on Hog Bay, a sand beach with the clearest water we have ever seen. We had time for a quick lunch at Millie Mae’s Pantry (a brand-new restaurant) before we met our excursion.

Gail discoveries a wild wallaby (see it in the shadows on the right?)

Here’s a closer view

His friend was even more hidden!

Near Frenchman’s Rock

The ground was like knife blades sticking vertically out of the ground

Hog Bay

The clearest water we have ever seen

We spent an hour driving west into some of the burned-out areas of Kangaroo Island. The blackened trees and ash-covered ground brought back memories of our 2015 Butte Fire in California. Our first stop was the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park & Aquarium, where the military had set up a refugee center for injured animals. We saw kangaroos, echidnas, cassowaries, fairy penguins and koalas.

(Koalas suffered the most injuries, including burned feet. While many escaped the fires by climbing high into the trees, they ultimately had to climb down the burned trees and traverse the burned ground.)

Kangaroo Island (seen through the bus window) normally looks like this

After the fire, it looks like this

Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park

Feeding a kangaroo


Fairy penguins

Gail got to pet the koalas (see the baby?)

Our second stop was Island Beehive, home to the world’s purest strain of Ligurian honeybees. Peter Davis converted his entire sheep farm to produce honey instead. Sadly, he lost a quarter of his beehives – 1,000 hives – in the fire. We were happy to support his business as well. Gail was ecstatic to find a stuffed pom pom penguin that she had never seen before, to add to her collection.

Island Beehive

Gail with proprieter Peter Dais

While Russell’s ship cough is finally getting better, Gail’s cold is now getting worse. We have two excursions scheduled for tomorrow’s port, but we’re not sure if we will keep either of them.

The newest member of our penguin family – her name is “Honey”

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