The summer of 2019/2020 saw unprecedented bushfire activity that impacted Kangaroo Island as well as other parts of Australia. Fire has burned across approximately 42% of the island; tragically claiming the lives of 2 people, destroying many homes and impacting a large amount of wildlife habitat in several key National Parks and Conservation Parks. We have lost many farms and a significant number of tourism facilities and other businesses. Since the fires were declared safe in early February, our incredibly resilient island community has quickly transitioned from response to recovery. The support provided by Australian and international agencies, and friends within Australia and around the world has been extraordinary, and our community is incredibly grateful.
Much concern has been expressed about the survival of our wildlife. We know there have been many individuals lost – but our starting point was we had an incredible diversity and density of wildlife and the more mobile species are being seen in many places. Our marine species have been totally unaffected by these events. Those areas unaffected by fires still offer excellent habitat and the fact that fire is a natural part of the Australian ecology in most regions means the wildlife populations will rebound. We plan to share the story of the regeneration of our environment and our community.
For Exceptional Kangaroo Island, we have been extremely fortunate and only lost one remote lunch site, but still have most of our business assets and systems in place and a wide array of untouched environments for touring options. We resumed touring on Tuesday 14 January, after a short period of cancelled tours to ensure the safety of both our guests and our staff members) . There is still much to see and do with half of the Island not directly impacted by the fire and great food and wine still readily available.
The Exceptional Kangaroo Island experience
Our new East End Explorer tour replaces our Flinders Chase Focus in the short-to-medium term while the restoration of Flinders Chase National Park takes place. We have also made adjustments to the Island Life tour. These adjustments allow us to continue to provide the balance and quality of our wildlife encounters and landscape which have been the mainstay of the EKI experience for many years. These itineraries are well outside the burned areas with the exception of a short portion of the Island Life. By design, we will briefly touch on fire impacted sites as we know from previous fires there is a high level of interest in fire ecology and the amazing stories of the Australian bush recovery processes.
Both of these tours can be offered as share tours with pick-ups from the following accommodations. These accommodations have not been impacted by fire:
- Molly’s Run
- Stranraer Homestead
- Aurora Ozone
- Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge
- Wanderers Rest
Private tour accommodation options include the above plus:
- Lifetime Private Retreats
- Kangaroo Island Seafront Hotel
- One Kangaroo Island (who may be amending their business model post-fire to a room by room hosted stay like Stranraer) as well as sole-use
If you are unaware of any of these properties, please contact us as we are developing fact sheets on all the accommodation options.
The Australian bush has evolved with fire as an ever-present and essential component. Many of our plants not only cope with fire but many require fire to flower, release their seeds from hard capsules, or to release a dormancy in the seeds to allow germination. This means fire is an important stimulus for renewal – however, it is sometimes difficult to remember this when confronted with what appears to be a destructive and negative force. We will incorporate this element into our storytelling, so guests get a deep understanding of the recovery which has already begun. Plants provide the framework of our wildlife habitat – and the impact is significant for individual animals, and at a population level, we will see recovery. Fire is an essential component of our ecology and landscape. We will be compiling more information on this topic and sharing.
As global media has shown, the impact on wildlife has been extraordinary, but there are refuge areas where many species have already been seen within the fire perimeter. In addition, there are vast areas of the eastern end of the Island still remaining untouched by fire. We are confident we can continue to include wildlife observations of kangaroos, wallabies, sea-lions, fur-seals, koalas, echidnas, goannas, dolphins and some of the 260+ bird species across the Island and will be sharing observations as they come to hand. Wildlife researchers have already detected southern brown bandicoots and sooty dunnarts within the fire perimeter. There is a well-coordinated team of people working on wildlife care and the donations to support this, and other community recovery efforts are nothing short of remarkable.
What has been lost?
The list of farms, homes and businesses lost or fire-affected is significant; however, we have been fortunate. Some of our team have had fences, pasture and some infrastructure damaged but nothing catastrophic. Of the properties and experiences which were core components of the Exceptional Kangaroo Island offer, we have lost Southern Ocean Lodge, a remote lunch-site near Hanson Bay, and access to Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and “Grassdale” in Kelly Hill Conservation Park. Our great friends at Islander Estate Vineyard took a big hit with fire burning about 70% of the vines and knocking out infrastructure and destroying equipment. They did manage to move a significant amount of wine in barrels to another winery and have lots of wine in storage in Adelaide. Their cellar door was not impacted by fire.
Opportunities in areas unaffected
There is a long list of businesses, attractions, walks, beaches, wineries, the gin distillery and a micro-brewery, accommodations, valleys, dunes, picnic areas, marine reserves, farms and landscapes completely unaffected by fires. There are a suite of fact sheets, maps and other tools in development and will be shared as soon as they are available. Seal Bay Conservation Park is currently closed; however this is due to road closures and is expected to reopen within days.
Of the value-add experiences we use, Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures are still operating, as are Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, Kangaroo Island Spirits, Islander Estate Vineyard cellar door, Cliffords Honey Farm, Island Beehive, Dom Esposito’s olive grove, Artist Janine Mackintosh, and Wildlife Researcher Doctor Peggy Rismiller. This is not an exhaustive list – but indicates the range of experiences still available.