By Lauren Novak
I’m about to let you in on a little Australian native animal secret… if you want to see kangaroos in South Australia, don’t go to Kangaroo Island. In fact, in my experience you’re actually more likely to see a koala there.
Instead of heading out to sea to find a roo, trek inland to Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges and you’ll be hard pressed to go much further than 100m without crossing paths with one.
On my last visit I flew from Adelaide to the regional hub of Port Augusta, about 300km north of the city, and was driven the remaining two and a bit hours, or 160km, by 4WD to Wilpena Pound Resort. We counted 33 kangaroos or joeys on that trip – but I’m told that’s a quiet night. At dusk the marsupials edge close to the road, or even sit right in the middle of it, searching for the tasty, fresh green shoots of grass that grow in the rainwater pools as it seeps off the asphalt.
Bushwalking in the area around the resort, I was literally stopped in my tracks by not just one or two curious kangaroos but an extended family, loping along the walking path before bounding off into the bush. They’re used to humans here so they don’t startle too easily and will usually stick around for a photo.
But don’t feed them – and resist the urge to touch, no matter how soft the fur – as they are still wild animals and should stay that way. This doesn’t stop them from coming right up to the front lawns of the resort though, and if you’re really lucky you’ll see a pair of brothers sparring on the grass, living up to the boxing kangaroo cliche.
In the event you get sick of kangaroos, the park is also home to large populations of wild emus (some with chicks in tow), kookaburras, crows, geckos and not-so-native but oh-so-cute bunny rabbits. Emus seem most abundant out by the scenic flight airstrip, where the pilots have to shoo them from the runway as they taxi to take off.
Back at the resort – for those with adventurous tastes (and an ability to separate dinner from the afternoon’s wildlife spotting) kangaroo is regularly on the menu, and at times you can try emu and even camel.
About the only thing you’re unlikely to see – in the bush OR on a plate – is a koala. But we’ve already established where to go if you’re looking for one of them.