Dave Brookes sets out across idyllic Kangaroo Island to enjoy the blend of nature and delicious local produce that makes the island such a unique destination.
I’ve been listening to gossip and giggling for the past five minutes. My companions on the boat are laughing too, as we sit on the gently rocking boat drying our bodies in the sun. A hydrophone was recently slipped over the side of the boat and we’re listening to pods of wild dolphins incessantly chatting, sounding all the world like a CWA meeting or school playground. One minute they sound like gossipy teenagers, the next minute they burst into, what sounds like group laughter, prompting my shipmates and I to do the same. We spent the last hour or so snorkelling with these pods of wild dolphins at an undisclosed location to the northwest of Kangaroo Island. Around 50 dolphins in all, split into numerous pods: some young males, mixed groups, the old and battle-scarred, and young mothers suckling young born the previous day. All have one thing in common… they seem to enjoy our company just as much as we enjoy theirs. We are at this idyllic location as part of the day-long Kangaroo Island Food, Wine & Marine Adventure Tour, a new offering from luxury tour operators, Kangaroo Island Odysseys. A smooth journey over Backstairs Passage on the SeaLink ferry was the perfect start and, after grabbing a hire car, the afternoon was spent visiting wineries (Dudley Wines, Islander Estate), eating the obligatory fish and chips, and wandering around Kingscote before settling in for the night at the lovely seafront Aurora Ozone Hotel with its views back to Cape Jervis. The first half of the tour commenced early the next morning with a pick-up from the hotel by Andrew and Nina from Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures and boat in tow, we headed off to Emu Bay to begin our journey. Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures are fully eco-certified and for the next three hours we cruised up and down the north coast of KI in a rigid inflatable jet boat, Andrew providing history lessons and pointing out wildlife as we progressed. You can expect to see plenty of fish in the gin-clear waters, seals, white-breasted sea eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons. Mark from Kangaroo Island Odysseys, our driver for the day, picks us up in a comfortable Toyota Landcruiser, and, after a quick stop to rinse o the saltwater, we are soon off to our next stop, Duck Lagoon. This inland lagoon is a photographer’s paradise with moody gums emerging from still waters and abundant birdlife. There is time for a quick stroll to explore the old eucalyptus oil still and do a bit of koala-spotting while Mark sets up our gourmet lunch featuring delicious Kangaroo Island produce and local wines in a shelter out of the sun’s glare. Well fed and watered, we spend the remainder of the afternoon meandering the northwest of KI visiting producers, with Mark giving us history lessons, pointing out wildlife and filling us in on the history of this beautiful part of South Australia. The first afternoon visit is the Island Pure sheep dairy where we get a tour of the facility, see the sheep get milked and learn about the processes involved, followed by a tasting of the most delicious sheep’s milk cheese and yogurts. Next, a visit to Kangaroo Island Spirits, tasting the most stunning range of boutique gin, vodka and liqueurs followed at Sarah and Jon Lark’s rustic cellar door, with commentary and guidance by Jon on the fine art of ‘slow’ distillation and gin imbibing. Make sure you try the Wild Gin made from a range of botanicals including the native juniper, Boobialas. The Island Beehive is the next stop of the day for a tour of the processing facilities with owner Peter Davies, followed by a tasting of incredible raw organic honey. Ligurian bees are the industrious little chaps behind the honey, and Davies’ insights into the establishment of a Ligurian Bee Sanctuary in 1885, which led to Kangaroo Island having the only known colony of pure Ligurian bees left in the world, makes for fascinating listening. The final stop is the picture perfect Bay of Shoals winery for a guided tasting of their award-winning wines from their cellar door with sweeping views over the water. There is a great selection of old wooden boats to peruse here before we jumped back in the car to be delivered back to our accommodation. kangarooislandodysseys.com.au kimarineadventures.com.au islandpure.com.au kispirits.com.au island-beehive.com.au bayofshoalswines.com.au sealink.com.au