Our second week in Australia was much more exciting than we bargained for — we had originally planned on spending more time on the southern coast but our trip was cut short by the bushfire crisis, but more on that later. We still had a great time for our last week: Matt saw his first wild koala, we slept in our car, and we petted some kangaroos!
Our journey to Kangaroo Island started with a flight from Sydney to Adelaide, then a two hour drive, and ended with a ferry ride to the island.
We headed to the airbnb to get some rest since our flight out of Sydney called for a 4am wake up call. Our host greeted us and even made us homemade bread! While we were unpacking the car, we spotted our first wild koala whom I later named Sweet Pea. We spent the rest of our first evening finding more koalas, watching birds, and eating some good fish and chips.
We knew going to the island that a fire had started near the north western end on December 30th, but didn’t think it would interfere too much with our trip but we kept an eye on it during our trip over from Sydney. We couldn’t go to Flinders Chase national park because there was a fire nearby, so we spent our first morning heading over to Seal Beach. The beach is home to one of the few colonies of Australian Sea Lions and we did the tour that lets you head down to the beach to see them up close. A monitor lizard also made an appearance while we were heading down to the beach.
After the seal beach trip, we headed to Vivonne beach — one of the best rated beaches in Australia. It was a super hot and windy day, so we beelined it to the cold water to cool off. We didn’t hang around for very long because the wind was blasting you with sand when you weren’t in the water and it was so hot that you basically flash-dried when you got out of the water. These conditions are what led to the next part of our adventure….hint: the hot dry weather is really bad for fighting fires.
Our next plan was to head back to the airbnb, make lunch, then nap/cool off before heading to Stokes Bay for bird watching and sunset. Our Airbnb host was talking with us and agreed with our plan but then came back an hour later and told us that they were evacuating Stokes Bay due to fire. As the afternoon and evening wore on, the fires kept spreading and our plans for the next day were also in jeopardy because they also evacuated Vivonne bay and the surrounding area (we were going to try to go to the koala area near Flinders Chase). After dinner, things kept escalating and a new fire had started near the Rescue command center for the western part of the island so they were moving the whole thing over to the eastern city Kingscote. It was very surreal to watch all of the fire trucks, rescue SUVs and residents driving by the Airbnb toward the other part of the island.
At this point I was in full panic mode because we were now pretty close to the action — way closer than I wanted to be. The winds shifted toward the east and I became extremely worried about the possibility of having to leave quickly so we packed up the car in preparation. Our host was also doing the same and he was updating us as the news came in from other parts of the island. Around 9pm, we made a hard decision to leave the Airbnb and go to Kingscote to spend the night. Unfortunately the accommodations were not easy to find, so we ended up sleeping in the car in a neighborhood at the edge of town. I switched our ferry ride from Sunday morning to Saturday early morning to get us off the island as soon as possible. I didn’t want to be stuck and be in the way of the efforts to keep people safe — they didn’t need tourists to worry about while also trying to protect peoples homes.
The next morning we headed to the ferry bright and early (I didn’t actually sleep at all) and we finally got to see the kangaroos on the way there. We found a hotel to stay in just outside Adelaide while we tried to sleep and decide what our next move was going to be. I was still feeling shaken by the whole evacuation experience and when I thought about how we would continue in Australia for another 11 days, I was nervous. I would likely spend every day looking at the fire forecasts and watching the terrible events unfolding on the news. We found out on the news that day that two people died trying to evacuate the evening that we slept in the car and people had to be rescued on the south east coast by the navy. After weighing the options, we decided to leave Australia early and head to Southeast Asia. But first, we booked some accommodations in Adelaide to prepare for our trip to Singapore and enjoy some activities during our last few days in Australia.
After spending our first day off the island making last minute cancellations and rerouting our flights, we headed to Adelaide for a few days. There were a few errands we needed to take care of before we left for Southeast Asia so our first day was spent shopping at the outdoor mall and walking around the downtown area. I had one of the best beers I have ever tasted at a Belgian beer house near the mall and our first dinner was a really great pizza place near our Airbnb — they are accredited by an organization in Naples!
Our second day was spent in the hills of Adelaide, with our first stop being a wildlife park! I was super excited about getting to pet some of the kangaroos and other marsupials so we went early hoping they would still be hungry enough to let us close to them. The koala experience alone was worth the trip out there! We loved interacting with the animals so closely and saw a lot of cool birds there too.
After the wildlife park and lunch, we went wine tasting a bit further into the hills at the Landhouse cellar door. We did a 19 wine (!) tasting for ten bucks each. The proprietor was very nice and taught us a lot about the differences in the wine growing regions around Adelaide and we discussed a lot of what we had been seeing on the news. The evening was spent eating the most delicious Greek food and finalizing our last minute trip details.
The last day in Adelaide was spent walking to the Adelaide central market, enjoying some Columbian street food for lunch, touring around the botanical gardens, and started packing up. Our last dinner there was at a great burger place — we figured it would be the last western food we would have in a while, or at least that was my justification for onion rings.
We loved our time in Australia and are definitely planning to go back to do our great ocean road trip and Great Barrier Reef exploring. This post was a hard one to write and I had started/stopped it a few times because I was overcome with emotion. I cry every time we see news with the devastation that country is facing right now. I keep thinking of my koala babies on kangaroo island (Sweet Pea and Big Boy) and hoping they are ok. We are in Malaysia now but I still keep up with the news of what’s been happening down under since we left and we hope they have a reprieve soon. I am also hoping for no more natural disasters in our future traveling — this one was all too excited. Our Singapore adventures are the next up so stay tuned!
PS: If you are able to, please consider donating to some of the many relief fund efforts to help the people and wildlife of Australia. Here are a couple of them if you need a place to start:
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Sanctuary: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-save-kangaroo-islands-koalas-and-wildlife
Blaze Aid: https://blazeaid.com.au/?satcMcId=69271978967810459151056689041069514693