May 27

Kangaroo Island was amazing!  It is truly unique in many different ways.  Matthew Flinders discovered Kangaroo Island in 1802 even though aboriginal history is believed to date back 60,000 years.   Kangaroo Island, thousands of years ago, was connected to mainland Australia.  To the aboriginals, the area was a sacred place.  When it was separated by a rise in sea level, they used it as a burial place for their deceased and called it “The Land of the Dead”.   

Present day, there are only about 4,500 people inhabiting the island.  As the name implies, there are a lot of kangaroos.  There’s about a 7:1 ratio of kangaroos to people.  They even have their own species of kangaroo called the Kangaroo Island Kangaroo.  This roo has a stouter build with a darker brown color to blend in better with the surrounding area, as the island has a lot more trees and brush than the sanctuaries that we saw in Canberra.  Their hair coat is also thicker to help them cope with harsher winters.  

A 45 minute ferry ride separates the island from the mainland, which makes the island pretty self-sufficient as they rely heavily on themselves and each other.  It is important when you’re coming from the mainland not to bring any honey or potatoes with you.  This is because the island is free of a lot of diseases that other places have.  Keeping potato and honey products separate limits the spread of those diseases.  

Kangaroo Island is in South Australia, which is the driest state in all of Australia.  Because of it’s low rainfall, whatever rain they do get is essential.  South Australian law requires that when new buildings are built they must also build holding tanks to catch all of the rain water from the rooftops.  This water is completely drinkable and they use it for everything.  It was such a cool thing to be able to go to the back of a building and fill your water bottle from a small-scale water tower.  The idea is so simple and effective, it’s sad we can’t do things like that in America or other populated places.  The pollution is far too high that it really limits our water use potential.  

Our first stop was Pennington Bay.  It was absolutely amazing to see the sandy white beaches with perfect blue oceans.  It’s a popular spot for pictures as well as for surfers.   

Great view at Pennington Bay

After a few photos we met Bev, owner and operator of  Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, the only commercial eucalyptus farm in South Australia.  This farm, originally used for raising sheep,  has been passed down for four generations.  The tree they grow to produce eucalyptus oil is called the Kangaroo Island narrow leaf mallee, which is native to the island.  This tree is known for producing a lot of oil and isn’t found anywhere else in the world.  Emu Ridge used to be operated by steam power, but because of health and safety regulations, it is now powered by solar and wind.  Nothing on this farm is wasted.   

Bev telling us about the reuse of the eucalyptus leaves

After boiling the leaves to extract the oil, what’s left is put on gardens for fertilizer and the branches and logs from the trees are used to start the fire.   

Even the tree itself is sustainable since the new shoots used for the oil grow back every 1-2 years, making it a great renewable resource.  Emu Ridge’s vision for the future is to fence in the entire farm to keep out pests such as feral cats that spread diseases.  With the farm fenced in, it will be easier to accomplish their goal of rejuvenating the natural flora and fauna of the farm and farm all of their resources and products.   

Luna and Rudy

 In addition to producing eucalyptus oil and value added products made from the native plants, Bev also takes care of wild orphans.  Over 16 years, she’s fostered plenty of kangaroos, wallabies, and possums.  At the moment she has a 15 month old roo named Luna.  She was definitely a crowd-pleaser, even though she just laid in her bed and looked cute.  

After our visit to the farm we headed over to Seal Bay Conservation Park.  This park is home to the 3rd largest Australian Sea Lion colony in the world, which includes about 1,000 sea lions.  In 2008, there were only 600-700 sea lions, putting them on the endangered species list.  We took a hike down the trail and got surprisingly close to the sea lions.  They were everywhere, lying around in the sand and swimming in the ocean.  They spend most of their time on land lying around.  Every three days they go out to sea for three days to fish.  During these three days they don’t even sleep!  They are known to dive up to 300 feet and travel 20 or more miles out to sea.  The girls have it rough, as they have a 17 and ½ month gestation period and then get impregnated again just 7-10 days after they give birth!  

Since there are no land predators to the seal, their main worry is at sea with orcas and great white sharks. If they live a lucky life they can live to be over 20 years old.  There is still a lot that scientist don’t know about them because of their life at sea.   In addition to predators, they have a lot of run ins with ocean and land pollution.  Many times fishing line and net can get wrapped around their neck, strangling them.  The park did a great job with photos to encourage people to keep the land and ocean clean for this reason.  

Australian Sea Lion walking underneath our boardwalk to view the sea lions lounging on the beach.

Last but not least we visited the Remarkable Rocks.  As amazing as they are, you have to be really careful and pay attention to signs, as there can be freak waves that sweep you into the ocean.  Six people have died this way.  Luckily, we all came back uninjured.  We had a lot of fun climbing all over these marvelous, wind and water carved rocks.  They truly were beautiful with a red rust color on the surface and cool shapes.  The day ended great with an awesome accommodation called Flinders Chase Farm.  The rustic feel was perfect for s’mores over a campfire and some night kangaroo spotting!  

– Jessica

On top of a a challenging rock to climb.

Responses

  1. what else was matthew flinders famous for?… didn’t he coin a term about the “australian” continent?….

    what are the other two biggest islands off of Australia?

    What is the benefit of the rejuvination of native plants on the farm? why is only 20% being utilized and not more?

    Zach

  2. hey Rudy! What was the “name” of those rocks?!? 🙂
    also, do the kangaroos really have pouches and do they put their babies in them?
    Interesting tours you have all been on! It is wonderful learning right along with you. I was impressed with the political aspect of responsibility as opposed to rights. Compulsory voting would seem to leave little room for apathy on what is best for their country’s sustainablity in every way.
    Perhaps this trip will instill passion for our country’s sustainable future as well! Rudy…I do have a serious question though…what percentage of Australian’s exercise their voting responsibility?

  3. I’m having an amazing time following the blog! Your experiences are just fascinating to read. So proud of you all. Particularly Jessi though…my amazing niece! ♥

  4. Miss Did,
    I finally caught up with everything you have been doing, it sounds amazing. I trully hope you are enjoying yourself, it sounds like it. We will not be getting a dog anytime soon but, I’d really like one! A nice chocolate lab would be fine with me. We’ll deal with the camera when you return, thanks to insurance. Hope the pictures are ok. Love to you, hugs & kisses from G-ma/pa. Mom

  5. MOM! I knew you would love the name of the “Remarkable Rocks” and trust me they fell nothing short of that. The pictures and views were definitely quite astonishing. As for the kangaroos pouch, I learned from Helen (our guide in Canberra) that the pouch is actually controlled by the moms muscles. The mom can actually control if the joey (baby kangaroo) is gonna stay in the pouch or not be let in by contracting her muscles in the pouch, which I found to be quite interesting. As for your other question about the voting, students here are required to go to Parliament and be educated on the electoral process by the age of 18 as well as once they are able to vote they are required by law to vote otherwise they will be fined. Comparing that to America I feel that it is a way better system because it makes everyone actually know what is going on with the system and the point of a democratic system is to get the voice of the people, which doesn’t make too much sense if everyone isn’t voting.

    Good Questions Mom and I hope everything is great at home! Love you and miss you, tell everyone I say G’Day!
    Rudy


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