The third largest island of Australia (4500 square kilometers) is also one of the last unspoiled island wildernesses of the planet. It is a microcosm of varied and beautiful landscapes and environments that hosts a great number of unique animal and vegetal species; therefore, almost a third of the island is part of National Parks. This wonderful natural paradise is located to 113 Kilometers south west Adelaide in the South Australia Federal Territory and is a fascinating mix of nice forests, stunning beaches, farmlands, beautiful desert dunes and colorful small townships.
The southern coast of Kangaroo Island is very rocky; being, probably the greatest attraction of this zone, the Kelly Hill Caves Conservation Park, a beautiful set of limestone caves, which is located near Hanson Bay, a nice place where you frequently can see penguins. On the other hand, the northern coast of Kangaroo Island has some of the most amazing cliffs of the Australian coastline; since, they commonly reach up to 270 meters and offer an incomparable background to the dives.
Amongst the animals that live in Kangaroo Island; highlight platypus, echidnas, emus, koalas, hairy nosed wombats, mallee fowl, ringtail possums, seals and the unique leafy-sea dragon. A great part of these animals live in the Flinders Chase National Park, which is located to 90 minutes by car from Kingscote at the other side of the island.
There are several towns in the island; since, its population is approximately 4259 people, being the most important cities: Kingscote, American River, Baudin Beach, Nepean Bay and Penneshaw; these towns are near the Pelican Lagoon Bird Sanctuary. Where, it can see pelicans while they feed at afternoons. Besides, Kangaroo Island has also many wonderful and uncrowded beaches. It highlights Western River Cove, Stokes Bay and Snelling Beach.
Another important attraction in Kangaroo Island is the Seal Bay Conservation Park, a large sandy beach and dune area, which is inhabited by a great number of sea lions. Besides, Kangaroo Island is an excellent place to practice a huge variety of sports such as climbing, rafting, fishing swimming, sailing, snorkeling amongst others. It can reach Kangaroo Island by ferry from Cape Jervis, arriving to Penneshaw; this trip lasts around 50 minutes. The ferries are very comfortable and have many facilities to the tourists; besides, there is a bus service from Adelaide to the ferry terminal.
The Island was separated from the Australian mainland by a fast rise in the sea level around 9000 years ago. At that time, Kangaroo Island was already inhabited by humans, who arrived to the island around 11000 years ago; nevertheless, they disappeared by 200 BC, because of disease, warfare, emigration and climatic changes, according to scientists believe.
Anyway, the island was abandoned by humans during almost 2000 years, until 1802, when the British explorer Mathew Flinders arrived to the island aboard the “Investigator” and named it as “Kangaroo Island”, because the crew of his ship arrived to the island after 4 months of hunger on the ocean; when the Investigator’s crew landed on the island, they satisfied their voracious appetite, eating several dozen of the many kangaroos that lived in this place; this is the reason of the Island’s name.
Nevertheless, the first European that explored deeply the geography of the island was the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who made most part of the island’s mapping; therefore, many places in Kangaroo Island have French names. Despite, France and England were in war in that moment the first French and English inhabitants coexisted peacefully, sharing the water and the natural resources.
The early Europeans inhabitants of Kangaroo Island were dedicated to the pastoral industry, mainly focused on the wool production; nevertheless, the first farmers cultivated also barley and other grains; besides, they got incomes also from the sales of wood and animals skins. During long time the beaches of the island were stained with the blood of thousands of seals, wallabies, whales, kangaroos and possums killed by the new colonizers. The city of Kingscote, which is currently the largest town of Kangaroo Island, was founded with the name of Reeves Point in 1836 and is considered the first official European settlement of the South Australia Territory. This town was the original capital of South Australia, nevertheless, some years later, the capital was moved to Adelaide, because, the island did not have enough resources to support a large city.
The human development of the island continued slowly along the XIX and XX centuries and by 1947, Kangaroo Island had a population of 1113 people. However, the island’s population increased rapidly after the World War II; when the Government encouraged 174 soldiers to settle with their families in the island to work in farm activities; then the population of Kangaroo Island reached 2167 inhabitants. Currently, this paradisiacal island is inhabited by around 4259 people.
The island has been stage of a great scientist experiment; since, like Noah's ark; animals threatened on the Australian mainland were released onto this island which had been isolated for 9000 years. Unfortunately, the results of this experiment have not been very promising, because, despite, some species like the platypus appear to thriving without consequences, other species died out and others animals, like koalas are damaging the native ecosystem, threatening the environmental balance of the island. The island has been also hit by several fires along the time; most of them caused by local farmers, who use fire as a tool for managing hazards and cleaning vegetation during the establishment of agricultural land; therefore, government decided to prohibit burning as mean to control the native vegetation. Nevertheless, several great fires have occurred in 1975, December 1996 and January 2001.
Currently, Kangaroo Island is a popular destination for the Australian tourists, attracting around 140000 visitors per year, being 25% of them, international visitors. The zones most visited of the island are the Finders Chase National park, Seal Bay, Kelly Hill Caves, Cape Willoughby, Murray Lagoon and Parndana Wildlife Park. Kangaroo Island is one of the most wonderful destinations in Australia and is a place that worth visiting.