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Kangaroo Island's Great Rebound

I met many passionate tourism professionals this week from Kangaroo Island at this week's South Australia tourism event, and I learned so much from them! This Virtuoso article below is from April 2021, just over a year from the devastating fires of 2019-2020. Remember when we thought THAT would be the biggest news story of 2020? At the Australian trade show, I saw an incredible photo compilation from 2020 to today showing the island's gradual rebirth, verdantly green again and rising phoenix-like from the ashes. Southern Ocean Lodge, winner of several prestigoius hotel awards, was destroyed in the bushfire but is set to reopen later this year with even more to offer guests than before. The timing of the pandemic, following the fires, allowed the region's inhabitantants, plants and wildlife to regroup, rebuild, regrow - all while the world waited for tourism to return. It's time to hop to it and experience it for yourself!

Excerpt below from 4/20/2021 Virtuoso article by Alexandra Carlton ca be found HERE.

It’s called Kangaroo Island – a vast, remote wilderness of bush, beaches, and rugged cliffs that sits just off a great curve of coastline in South Australia, a short ferry ride from the Fleurieu Peninsula or a 30-minute flight from Adelaide. Really, it could be called Koala Island or Wallaby Island, Echidna Island or Whale Island, such is the abundance of Australian native animals that call it home. But in late 2019 and early 2020, devastating bushfires came close to obliterating it all, ripping through nearly half the island’s 1,700 square miles, including Flinders Chase National Park, home to natural landmarks such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, and its signature luxury accommodation, the grand and gracious Southern Ocean Lodge. Australians will never forget that terrible summer, when they crowded around radios and stared at websites waiting for news, then mourned all that the fire devoured.

But what’s astonished almost everyone who lives on Kangaroo Island, as well as the rest of Australia, is just how beautifully life on this wild southern paradise has recovered. “I think ‘resilience’ is the word that first comes to mind when considering the landscape and wildlife of Kangaroo Island, as well as its close-knit, hardworking community,” says Hayley Baillie, cofounder and creative director of Baillie Lodges, which owned, operated, and – pending approval – is now planning to rebuild Southern Ocean Lodge by early 2023. “Businesses and homes have been rebuilt. National parks have reopened. And injured wildlife has been nursed back to health.”

Much of the island’s fauna and flora have not only survived the fires, but now appear to be thriving. Australia is, after all, a continent that’s regularly ravaged by bushfires, and even needs them to regenerate and replenish its vegetation. Mere months after the fires ended, green shoots began bursting from the ashes. In some cases, plants that were rarely seen – because they rely on fire to regenerate – suddenly dominated the landscape. “They called this a once-in-200-years fire, but I’m calling it a once-in-200-years yacca flowering event,” says Jim Geddes, co-owner of the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, on the island’s western side. Yacca is an arresting, almost architectural native grass tree known for its towering spears of flowers, which normally grow at a glacial pace. “To see these giant forests of yaccas, with their huge spikes – up to 26 feet high – that usually only appear every five years, is amazing,” he says.

Flourishing plant life means plenty of food for the island’s most abundant animal species: kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, brushtail possums, and Cape Barren geese. Each of their populations was affected by the fires, but reports suggest they have all rebounded and – to the delight of naturalists observing them – at lower, but healthier and more sustainable levels than before. Southern Ocean Lodge’s Hayley and James Baillie have made regular trips to Kangaroo Island to help friends and colleagues with cleanup around the Southern Ocean Lodge site. The couple say the lodge’s managers have reported regular sightings of two of the island’s favorite residents, Enchilada the echidna and Sol the kangaroo, who like to snuffle and explore around the site.

Another silver lining of the fires is that the island’s eastern side, home to restaurants, artists’ studios, and many other businesses, is enjoying new interest. “The east side of the island is just as beautiful as the west, and in fact allows visitors to experience different types of natural beauty,” says Ian Swain, owner of Swain Destinations, a tour operator that designs custom vacations, with a special focus on Australia.

While he, like everyone, was devastated by Southern Ocean Lodge’s destruction, he points out that several exceptional accommodation options on the eastern side are now on every traveler’s must-visit list, as well as relatively unexplored pockets of natural beauty such as the D’Estrees Bay area and Lashmar Conservation Park. Covid-related travel restrictions are still making it difficult for visitors to enter Australia, but Swain says this is the time to be planning a getaway for when borders reopen. “Kangaroo Island truly is Australia’s Galápagos,” he says. “By coming back, you’re helping the community – local artisans, beekeepers, winemakers. And, of course, seeing an incredible part of the world.”

Hop to It: How to Visit Kangaroo Island

Swain Destinations

During 12 days in southern Australia with Aussie-owned Swain Destinations, travelers can take a dawn balloon ride over Yarra Valley vineyards and cure their own olives and bake sourdough loaves at the Jackalope Hotel on the Mornington Peninsula. At Pelican Lagoon on Kangaroo Island’s east end, there’s a chance to spy the island’s namesake marsupial, as well as tammar wallabies sheltering in thickets of tea trees.

Artisans of Leisure

A private tour of the Sydney Opera House (and tickets to a show) kicks off a wide-ranging 16-day Australian exploration with Artisans of Leisure. Take a deep dive into local heritage with an Aboriginal elder in the rugged Flinders Ranges, build wildlife shelters on Kangaroo Island, and paddle sea kayaks offshore of the ancient Daintree Rainforest. Last stop: the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island


Fremantle (Perth’s coolest neighbor) is the west coast gateway to Australia on a 16-day Silversea sailing from Singapore to Melbourne. The 596-passenger Silver Muse cruises south along the coast, docking in beachy Busselton and the colonial city of Albany before arriving at Kangaroo Island, where travelers can take in a sheep-shearing demonstration, taste honey from Ligurian bees, and visit a eucalyptus oil distillery.



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