Four complimentary tours are included when you stay at Southern Ocean Lodge. These tours are supposed to give you a personal view of what the island has to offer and include seeing the wonderful flora and fauna on Kangaroo Island.
The first tour we were able to go on was the Coastal Clifftop Trek with Al, the same staff member who had picked us up at the Kingscote airport. The trek starts at the back door of the lodge and takes you along the limestone cliffs of Hanson Bay. Along the way Al taught us about the vegetation, which was quite fascinating, as I would say the majority of it, if not all of it, is not found back in the United States.
Occasionally, Al stopped to let the group take a “sniff” of the plants. Some of the plants we came across were rosemary, pigface and many varieties of melaluca. Many of the plants we came across were in our meals back at the lodge during our stay. We viewed large boulders in the ocean that were 450 million years old, came across a goanna digging for food and saw many types of seabirds.
It was a bit “blowy” on top of the cliff and the flies were annoying. In fact, not many people mention the flies in Trip Advisor reviews, so it wasn’t something I was expecting. But be forewarned, the flies are pretty bad. You’ll learn the Aussie Salute pretty quickly. The salute consists of, according to Wikipedia, the waving of one’s hand in front of the face at regular intervals in order to prevent bush flies from landing on it, or entering one’s nose or mouth.
The second tour we took was Kangaroos & Canapés, or as lovingly called by the staff, Roos and Booze. Our tour started with a ride from the lodge at dusk to a historic island property called Grassdale. Along the way, Al gave us the history of the area and how Kangaroo Island inherited the property from a woman who owned a former sheep station. The road was a bit bumpy there but we finally pulled into a clearing where there was the little house the woman who donated the property used to live.
Al led us out of the van and out into a wide-open area where the kangaroos were grazing. I believe the kangaroo equivalent would be our white-tailed deer. As a group, we got quite close to the animals but not enough to spook them. Al educated us about the animals and we were then allowed to wander around.
The females were smaller than I thought they might be, but some of the males were massive. Watching them bounce is astounding as their tails act like pendulums to keep them stable. They also struck me as very human like. In fact, Kangaroo Island got its name from the sailors who came across the island and saw what looked like Aborigines standing on a cliff. It turns out it was just a mob of kangaroos.
They make very little noise and will occasionally look up to see who you are and then go right back to eating the grass. The kangaroos also seemed just as annoyed by the flies as we were.
Back at the little house, the SOL staff had set up a table with snacks and wine. It was a bit surreal to be drinking champagne and standing amongst hopping kangaroos.
On our way back to the lodge, we came across a mom and her joey. The joey was a bit too big to fit back in the pouch, but stuck his head in as he was frightened by the van.
The third tour we took was the Wonders of KI. This tour started at 9 a.m. and left from the lodge. Mary, a native from the island, picked us up and first drove on back roads to see if we could see kangaroos on our way to see the koalas. We came across a family of kangaroos that hopped in front of the van and did a standoff with us before continuing on. We also saw enormous termite hills and a plant that only grows one centimeter per year, thus making it thousands of years old.
We then made it to the koala area where we walked a short trail looking high into the trees for little, round, grey fuzzballs. We found a few who were sleeping, but found a mom holding her baby near the visitor center. Because a koala is a marsupial like a kangaroo it too has a pouch; however, her pouch opens backwards towards her hind legs rather than her head.
There were also geese that had lime green beaks, red legs and black feet. Much different than the bland Canadian geese we see at home.
We then continued on to Flinders Chase National Park. Please see a separate entry solely on that experience.
The fourth tour included at SOL was Seal Bay. Braunwyn was our guide for the morning at Seal Bay. The conservation area boasts being the home to Australia’s third largest colony of Australian sea lions.
Our guide drove us about 45 minutes or so to get to Seal Bay. Along the way she told us about Australian Sea Lions and what we could expect when we arrived. Once there, we started in the visitor center where we learned about the skeletal body of a sea lion and about their fur. The group then headed down the path to a private access point. In the sand dunes we saw a sleeping sea lion and learned that because of their hip joints, sea lions can very easily climb the dunes. Once we headed down the stairs there was a gigantic male and female sleeping together below the grates.
Braunwyn took us on to the beach and told us to stay close to her and to not get close to the animals. We walked up and down the beach listening to her talk more about the animals and taking in their daily activities. We witnessed mothers taking their pups down the dunes and into the water for swimming lessons and males battling each other. To note, Australian sea lions are much quieter than their cousin the California sea lion who barks.
The only downfall was that I was hoping to see the fairy penguins. There were no penguins on the beach. However, a nice treat at the end of the tour was that we got cupcakes to hold us over until lunch.
While the cost of staying at SOL is extreme, the included tour element of the stay is definitely an added bonus. During your stay at SOL, do not pass up on going on the tours. They take very small groups out, except for maybe the Roos and Booze tour, and make you feel like you’re part of your very own private tour of KI.
The lodge does offer a variety of other tours at a cost. I found the price of these tours to be a little steep, but a bonus if you’re looking to do more than what is offered for free.