Disclaimer: My trip to Australia was courtesy of Tourism Australia, Tourism Tasmania, Tourism South Australia and Tourism Victoria. While it was a business trip and the accommodations, travel expenses and dining experiences were paid for, any and all of my posts, photographs and opinions you see here on this site, as well as across the Internet and social media sites, are completely authentic and 100-percent genuine.
When planning our trip to Australia, one of the places that seemed most intriguing was Kangaroo Island. I’ve never seen a kangaroo or koala in real life before, so I was fascinated to be able to get up close and personal with the animals. And I’ll definitely tell you this: the island did not disappoint. We spent just under two full days on the island and had an incredible time … here are the photos and stories from our adventure to Kangaroo Island.
Our trip started out with a flight from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island in a small plane. You can also drive over on a ferry, but the plane ride was much faster (and we were on a very tight schedule). Also, since the aircraft was so small we only took a few days worth of clothes and also trimmed down our camera gear to only what we thought we would need. I sat by the window and snuck my camera out to get some photos … the landscape was gorgeous and the water was so blue! The flight was super short (less than 30 minutes) and right after we landed we met up with our tour guide, Chris, from Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours.
Our first stop was a place where we could walk around and view wild koalas. You have to really look for them … Chris was definitely helpful with that. We saw one right away, and then a few more as we went along, but they were all just high enough in the trees that they were difficult to photograph. However, because it was a hot day, the koalas tended to get lower to the ground, and as we kept walking we spotted one very low and in the shade. And … it was a baby! He/she was a good little model and I got my first koala photograph of the trip.
Next it was lunchtime, and Brian and I were famished. We stopped at a shaded picnic area and wandered off for a bit so Chris could get lunch set up. Then, when we got back we saw the most amazing spread of food! I gotta say, one thing Australians know well is good food … and even on an outdoor adventure like this we were treated to a fancy picnic lunch with all the fixings. Huge kudos to the tour company for their delicious cuisine … in regards to the entire experience on the island it was just icing on the cake, really.
After lunch we went out to two places. First we stopped at a lighthouse, which was beautiful! Apparently there are accommodations on-site where people can stay nearby. Brian and I walked around for a while finding different compositions for the lighthouse … I eventually found the one above. The photo I have here only shows the very top of it, and I did ge some other photos where it looks like an “actual” lighthouse.
Next we went down to Admiral’s Arch to see the fur seals. There was a wooden walkway taking us down the cliff above where dozens of seals were basking in the sun. It was definitely a beautiful site! I didn’t have a long-enough lens (just a 200mm) so my attempts to photograph the seals were pretty pathetic, so I found other subjects. That’s Chris in the photo above, our tour-guide, hanging out waiting for us to finish up with our cameras. (He was a trooper the whole time … we photographers can be an odd bunch of people, wanting to spend way too long in one spot to get the perfect photograph, and he let us do our thing). Admiral’s arch was pretty cool, too, but again, very difficult to photograph (especially in the mid-day sun). Plus there were quite a few people on the walkway, so it was a bit crowded, which made photographing it challenging. I decided to just enjoy the view and walked back to find some other photographs.
Our next stop was the Remarkable Rocks, these amazing and strangely-shaped rocks with a beautiful view of the ocean. I thought the one in the photo above looked like an eagle. We stuck around there for a bit before heading off to our accommodations.
We stayed at the Seascape Lodge on Emu Bay, which had a view overlooking the bay that was to die for! The place only has three rooms, which makes it great if you enjoy meeting new people (if there are others staying at the lodge, of course). We arrived and were greeted by one of the owners, Mandy Brown, and she offered us a refreshment (we went for a nice crisp and cool glass of white wine) and showed us to our room. The room was very comfortable, big and had a door to the patio where we could see the back of the lodge and then a great view of the bay. As we were looking outside we spotted a kangaroo … literally just a few feet from us! He was sneaking some of the fresh green grass on the property, and Brian and I got close enough to touch him (we decided against it, however).
After relaxing for a bit and having a nice shower after our long day of touring the island, we sat down to a meal prepared by Mandy and her husband. One of the things I loved about dinner at the Seascape Lodge was that it was a large table and we all ate together, like a family. The other couple at the lodge that night were from Germany on a LONG vacation (I think they said three months), and they were about our age, and into computers and cameras, so we all got along nicely. Plus, the food was outstanding! My photos really don’t do it justice … I was competing against the tungsten light as there was no light remaining outside. I wished I could have stayed longer and properly photographed the food … it was almost too pretty to eat. It was also all local food, which meant it was fresh, and it was so delicious (I’m seriously making myself hungry writing this post…).
BTW, on the menu that night was the following (and if this menu itself doesn’t make you want to stay at the Seascape Lodge, I don’t know what else will!):
- Entreé: Island Pure Haloumi cheese, Seascape Lodge home grown cherry tomatoes, lightly fried in Kangaroo Island Esposito Olive oil (and some of Maggie Beer’s Vino cotto) (This course is not pictured here)
- Main: King George Whiting, KI Fresh hydroponic lettuce – served with Bay of Shoals Reisling
- Dessert: Chocolate & Walnut Fondant served with Talily Farm berry sauce and KI honey ice-cream accompanied by Kangaroo Island spirits ( KIS) Honey & Walnut liqueur
After a good night’s sleep, I decided that it would be fun to photograph the sunrise. At first I had my camera pointed right at the bay, but the “actual” sunrise was proving to be unspectacular … so I focused instead on the beautiful lavender bush which had bees hovering over it. The sun coming up over the water in the background, backlighting the lavender, made for a spectacular sight (but I won’t tell you how many images it took before I got this one … which is actually two similar photos put together in Photoshop). We then had a quick breakfast and some coffee and set out again with Chris for the rest of our tour of the island.
One of the places we drove past (but didn’t photograph) the day before was called “Vivonne Bay”, so we made a pit stop in-between some of the other locations. It was beautiful. The water was turquoise, and there was barely anyone around. There were, however, a few people fishing, and one of the guys caught a squid right in front of us! I’ve had my fair share of calamari, but never actually seen a live squid up close. As soon as he hooked the squid it inked everywhere (in the water, thankfully) and then he held it up for us to see. The coolest part was that it changed colors depending on what it was touching … in this photo it is a rusty-orange color, mostly because it was pulling the color off of the wood and metal of the pier.
We also made our way out to Seal Bay to see the endangered sea lions, but the tough part was that we couldn’t get too close to them (which was so difficult as a photographer … I just wanted to get closer and closer!). It was so amazing to walk on the sand and see them just a few hundred feet away, basking in the sun and just enjoying life. There weren’t any super small babies, but we did see one nursing from it’s mother. There was also a “teenage” bull seal basking in the sun, and once it spotted us it started coming at us! It definitely startled us and had us scrambling out of the way, but it was just curious so we didn’t really have to worry (but we did need to keep our distance).
The last place we visited was the Parndana Wildlife Park, where we got to see kangaroos, koalas and other animals up close. One of the really great things about this park is that we could feed and even pet the animals! I think Brian and I spent about an hour in the koala pen photographing those little guys.
After that we were off to the airport to head back to Adelaide. And remember the Seascape Lodge that we stayed at? The owner, Mandy, showed up at the airport with my phone charger … I had left it plugged into the wall and just wrote it off as a loss. I just thought that was the sweetest thing to bring it to me, and so unexpected! Overall Brian and I had a wonderful stay on the island and ended up creating a ton of beautiful photographs.
Photography Tips for Kangaroo Island
- Koalas in the wild: You’ll want a very long lens to get the best close-up photos of these cute little animals (I would recommend over 200mm). Many of the koalas stay high up in the trees, so they are difficult to photograph unless you have the longer lens. I used my 70-200mm and only got a good image because the baby koala happened to be much closer to the ground.
- Seal Bay: Just like with the koalas, you’ll also want a very long lens for the sea lions; if I could I would have used a 300mm with a tele-converter to get in close (I only had a 200mm lens). There’s a very strict rule that you cannot get too close to the sea lions, and trust me, they enforce it. And don’t be fooled by the photos on their website … there are people photographing and viewing the animals closer then you will be able to get in some of the shots; my guess is that they either had special permission or did it for the advertising photo.
- Kangaroos and Koalas at Parndana Wildlife Park: Unlike Seal Bay, you can get really close to these animals. So close, in fact, that a 50mm lens would work just fine. I used a 100mm macro and it was difficult to keep the kangaroos from bombarding me to see if I had any food for them. A little bit longer lens (or a zoom lens) would work for the koalas in the park, since they are perched up at an accessible height (and you can touch them too … the best part!).
- Admiral’s Arch and Fur Seals: If you do want to photograph the arch, I would recommend a very wide-angle lens, and you’ll also want to use HDR to get all of the dynamic range of the archway and the water behind it. You’ll also need to be vigilant of people walking around you if you plan on doing any long exposures; the walkway is made with wood and will shake your tripod if people walk past you. For the fur seals, just like with the wild koalas and sea lions, you’ll need a long lens if you want to get any decent photos.
- Remarkable Rocks: Since the rocks are pretty big and you can’t get too far away to get a good photo at different angles, you’ll want to use a wider lens for this area. I used my 14mm and 24mm a lot for this section. It might also be a good place for photographing detail and textures in the rock, too. If possible, try hitting this up at sunset to get some color in the sky.
- General tips: If you photograph the water, I would highly recommend a circular polarizer to cut the reflections out off of the surfaces. Also, since you’ll need to pack lightly for the airplane trip over, try bringing a few zoom lenses to keep your options open while still traveling as light as possible.