Feathers, fur, fins ... Craig Tansley meets all sorts on a wildlife tour that takes him to every corner of the island.
In a colony of more than 500 sea-lions, some as big as 380 kilograms, a flock of seagulls seems to be bothered only by the littlest sea-lions. "You'll see that all day," our guide says. "The pups like to chase the birds, so the bird lifts itself casually on the breeze, when it lands the pup chases again. Sooner or later they run out of steam and flop straight out on the beach."
And when a sea-lion flops, it hits the beach hard. After three days of fishing with no rest, these creatures choose the warm sands of Seal Bay in Seal Bay Conservation Park to recuperate. They will lie scarcely moving for days until it's time to go fishing again.
Getting among the sea-lions, sometimes as close as a few metres, is one of the great wildlife experiences. Little wonder Seal Bay rates as Kangaroo Island's number one tourist attraction. From a few metres away we watch them scratch, yawn, sneeze, wink, stretch and belch; some wrap a flipper over the next, while pups pass out in a row. Closely related to dogs, up close their shared characteristics are easy to spot. The more energetic give a surfing demonstration in the waves that crash on the Southern Ocean shore. Others enter and exit the high sand dunes around us, next to echidnas and goannas. A pup wakes screaming and rushes to find his mother to suckle milk.
Take a 45-minute guided tour on to the beach for $27.50. Or view the sea-lions from the 400-metre boardwalk above the beach; access costs $12.50. Phone (08) 8559 4207 or see southaustralia.com.
Head further west along Kangaroo Island's southern coastline to its wild south-west tip, Cape Du Couedic, to see the New Zealand fur seal.
More than 7000 of them live and breed around the cape within the Flinders Chase National Park (the 33,000-hectare park is home to some of the island's most popular tourist attractions). The best place to watch fur seals surfing the swells and sunbaking on warm rocks is at Admirals Arch, beside the 1909 Cape du Couedic Lighthouse.
The crashing waves fill your lungs with salt air, but it's not enough to wash away the pungent odour of thousands of fur seals. From underneath the stalactites of the arch you can see them wrestle in rock pools, fight over sleeping spots and surf waves up over jagged rocks.
Weirs Cove is another oasis for fur seals and clear water means you can see them swim among the cray boats. Nearby are Remarkable Rocks, while the tourist centre at the entrance to Flinders Chase National Park is a great resource.
Marine creatures aren't the only wild attractions on Kangaroo Island. See koala colonies, introduced to the island in the 1920s, at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary beside Flinders Chase National Park. The Koala Walk is the best place to see them up close.
A self-guided walk costs $2.50; phone (08) 8559 7344 or see hansonbay.com.au.
Find little penguins along the foreshore of Kingscote at the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre.
A night-time tour costs $16; phone (08) 8553 3112 or see kipenguincentre.com.au.
There are even platypus on Kangaroo Island: your chances of seeing them are highest at dusk and at dawn so get to Flinders Chase National Park and wait. You'll also find plenty of kangaroos, Tamar wallabies, heath goannas, short-beaked echidnas and southern brown bandicoots.
For more information, see environment.sa.gov.au/parks/ and go to Flinders Chase National Park.