Kangaroo Island: How this wildlife idyll revived after facing near extinction

One of the most remote places we are visiting around Australia is called Kangaroo Island – the country’s third largest island off a remote peninsula in South Australia.

View of the Kangaroo Island foreshore from our ship anchored in the passage

This island was once attached to the Australian mainland until the thaw following the last ice age created a sea passage between the island and Australia.

It has a chequered history.It’s first inhabitants were from Stone Age but never developed further after being isolated. It was the subject of Aboriginal stories and myths including one that the sea passage was created after a group of rebellious women fled a tyrannical leader who caused the sea to rise up and drown them.

At one time the island was deserted leaving its unique animals and birds to have no fear of humans. But then in the early nineteenth century a group of settlers and ex convicts moved in and there followed a massacre of its animals and birds for food and profits.

One species a dwarf emu became extinct just like the more famous Dodo as settlers ate them all. They then turned on the huge kangaroo population and decimated them. They also killed off most of the seals for their skins but ignored their valuable oil which meant eventually their community collapsed . ASA last gasp they started to kill off the whales of the coast but this was only seasonal.

One of the sandy bays on the island at Penneshaw

But it has a well stocked supermarket, petrol station,post office, cafes,a cricket pitch and a craft market and a number of tourist attractions. Also a number of new species have been introduced including koala bears and bees. Indeed the Ligurian bees on the island produce a unique honey as the population is isolated from any other bees.

Today’s island has recovered and many of its unique mammals are flourishing again.The main threat to them are wildfires which have destroyed a lot of the vegetation not people as the population is very small. Penneshaw the port where ferries link to the mainland has just 300 people.

Sculpture Trail and suspension bridge
Burnt out tree

There is a splendid open air sculpture trail on the island where hidden in the dense bush you can find wallabies and kangaroos if they don’t run off to hide. I have put up pictures of the trail below.

One of the sculptures
trail meets tree
Hidden in here is a wallaby hiding by a bush

When I was there the bush was tinder dry with a few flowers in blossom.Here is one below.

Sealink ferry connecting the island to the mainland

Murder at the laundrette: A Cunard experience not in the brochure 

Anybody on a world Cunard cruise cannot but be charmed  by the civilised behaviour of the crew and fellow guests. A day does not go by without any guest being encouraged to enjoy themselves by the large crew and fellow guests.Everybody is very considerate and helpful to each other. 

But there is one room in Queen Victoria where all this breaks down. It is called the laundrette. Here the genteel atmosphere throughout the ship evaporates in a mix of soap suds and wet clothes.

The laundrette is one of the few free services on board but there are only two or three machines for 100 or more cabins. And with 700 people going on a 108 day world cruise plus a turnover of some 1300 people at major ports demand is high.

To get a machine normally polite men and women are transformed into duplicitous schemers resorting to any ruse to get their hands on the machines.

When wiley women and aggressive men get going to grab a machine anything goes.

One person even came armed with two fake ” Out of Order ” notices to  attach to a washing machine and a dryer so she could get exclusive use during the voyage. The ruse was discovered when other suspicious guests tried using the machines and found they worked perfectly.

More direct action has involved taking other people’s clothes out of driers and washing machines when the guests using the machines are out of the laundrette.

One poor guest who had just loaded a washing machine and went out to get more dirty clothes came back five minutes later to find another guest had emptied her machine and replaced it with her clothes. By then she had started the machine and the first guest could do nothing about it.

As for men aggression can spill over. One man furious that another guy had taken out his washing turned to the other and said ” How dare you run your fingers through my wife’s knickers “. A fist fight broke out and it is said that Cunard threw both of them off the boat at the next port.

No wonder when you visit the Cunard laundrette you find a line of grim faced men and women guarding their machines with their lives and warning you there is a two hour wait before you need to come back.

So far the ethos of take no prisoners has not yet led to any deaths. But there is still another month on this voyage so anything could happen.

In the meantime nobody has copied the iconic Levi jeans advertisement where a  young guy goes to the laundrette to strip off and put all his  dirty clothes in the machines. But perhaps Cunard’s strict dress code of smart attire after 6.0 pm and a dinner jacket and cocktail dress on gala night puts off people from going to the laundrette in the nude. But again there is still time…