From the Outback to the Ocean - a Wild and Wonderful road less travelled
I recently returned from a corner of this great continent that had, until now, somehow eluded me .. 600kms to the North West of Adelaide on the Eyre Peninsula, the little known, oft overlooked Gawler Ranges are Outback Australia at its unspoilt best - dramatic ancient landscapes and mesmerising wildlife encounters, vivid colours and stunning contrasts.
I joined a 3-day small-group wilderness safari to ensure I got to see and experience the best of the region. The owners of the family run business, have been operating nature-based tours of this stunning, almost ‘undiscovered’ corner of the country for two decades. They and their dedicated team clearly know the region intimately, protect it innovatively and share it passionately.
On arrival in Port Lincoln (just a 40 minute flight from Adelaide), I met my 4 travelling companions and our engaging guide Jodi with whom we would spend the next 3 adventure-packed days exploring the wild and wonderful road less travelled, enjoying uniquely Australian sights and experiences, from the outback to the ocean.
Our first stop just a short way out of town at Mikirra Station, where we were able to spot a colony of koalas in the wild was just a taste of things to come. The next few days would introduce us to a collection of Australia’s most iconic creatures: kangaroos (Eastern Greys, Euros and big Reds), wombats, emus, sealions and dolphins, all in abundance, none of them caged or in captivity.
Travelling inland through the wheatbelt of South Australia, the landscape quickly changed to reveal the real Australian outback. We bounced along the rugged red earth enjoying the timeless landscapes and endless horizons that unfolded, as kangaroos and emus bounded alongside us.
Arriving at our ‘home’ for the next two nights, the purpose-built Kangaluna Camp, we enjoyed a relaxed candlelit dinner of delicious home-cooked meals and swapped stories around the campfire with new friends from around the globe who share a like-minded sense of adventure. Far, far from any city lights, the camp’s digital telescope also provided a window into twinkling distant galaxies.
The permanent camp includes just three spacious solar-powered, canvas-walled accommodation tents, each with a queen bed, separate bedroom with twin single beds and private bathroom facilities. Recycled materials used for the construction and furnishings give the eco-friendly accommodation a relaxed rustic feel and there are little reminders that we are adventuring in the harsh Australian outback (like the hand-pump to fill the rain-fed showers) however all of the essential comforts are well covered with hot showers, flushing toilets and comfy beds in each tent. The communal areas also have charging facilities and Wifi for those who cannot embrace the appeal of a full digital detox.
A restful night’s sleep enjoying the silence that surrounds us (punctuated only by the occasional thumping of a roo bounding through the camp or the cackle of cockatoos as the morning alarm), along with a hearty cooked breakfast sets us up for the new adventures ahead.
.. and there is no minute wasted, with a packed itinerary showcasing new contrasts and surprises at every turn. Day 2 takes us to the stunning Lake Gairdner. This dazzling, almost endless giant salt lake, some 160km long and nearly 50 km wide, surrounded by the contrasting red dunes of the outback - is quite simply breathtaking, 100% instaworthy and one of the stand-out highlights of the trip !
The afternoon delivered more wild beauty in the form of rich outback flora, abundant wildlife and bountiful birdlife, before toasting the day with a sundowner surrounded by a picturesque part of the planet that has been untouched and untamed over millions of years.
Suitably tired and inspired, we returned to the camp to enjoy another delicious shared meal in the open-sided dining ‘tent’.
A new dawn and Day 3 brought adventures of a completely different kind, swapping dry red earth, kangaroos and emus for crystal clear blue waters, dolphins and sea-lions. On reaching the coast at Baird Bay, our troupe of 5 joined a cruise for the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in the deep blue open waters and with playful sea lions in the more sheltered shallow lagoons of this protected marine sanctuary. Despite the chilly waters (I was most grateful for the wetsuits supplied), this interactive wildlife encounter was a true privilege and an experience which left us buzzing for the rest of the scenic drive back to Port Lincoln, where our adventure began only 3 days - and a lifetime of memories – behind us.
Travelling in a 7-seater Toyota 4wd was perhaps a little tight, but the distractions outside the vehicle were many and Jodi’s commentary tailored to our individual interests was both entertaining and informative. Having completed the adventure it is now also clear to see the benefits of a more compact vehicle in terms of both its impact on the landscape and our up-close-and-personal access to some of the region’s greatest, and for any larger vehicles – hidden - treasures. Very seldom did we share the places visited with anyone else at all – enjoying most of all what are perhaps some of today’s greatest luxuries: space and exclusivity.
These Safaris depart Mondays from Port Lincoln from September through to May annually and are open to visitors of all ages, catering for a maximum of just 6 guests (or a total of 12 guests for exclusive-use group bookings). They are inclusive of all touring, entrances, meals and accommodation. Private touring is also available on request