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Looking to make the most out of your trip to South Australia? Exceptional Kangaroo Island offers luxury small-group and private tours of the beautiful Kangaroo Island that are sure to exceed expectations. The company, which was originally known as Adventure Charters of Kangaroo Island, was created by Peter Telfer. After Peter’s passing, his friend Craig Wickham purchased the land-side of the business, which was rebranded 15 years later in November 2005.
Today, a tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island is a must when visiting South Australia. You’ll get to experience all of the greatness Kangaroo Island has to offer, from great food, to incredible landscapes, to amazing wildlife in its natural habitat. Spending the day with Exceptional Kangaroo Island is the best way to absorb all of the rich history that this stunning location has to offer.
Give us a brief overview of the kind of tours you offer.
Our tours are conversational, rather than the traditional commentary and are therefore driven by our guests’ questions. We try to showcase the best of the landscape and encounters with wildlife in their natural habitat – just like on safari in Africa. I spent a year living in Africa so our touring style has been influenced by what I saw and experienced there. Along the way we enjoy beautiful fresh locally sourced food served at remote and secluded locations and accompanied by local wines, beers and soft drinks.
We offer a Destination Management Service, which combines our tours (small group or private) with a selection of accommodations, activities, flights and logistics support. Our plan is to make it as easy as possible for our guests to experience the very best of Kangaroo Island.
Where is Exceptional Kangaroo Island located?
We are based in Cygnet River, 10 minutes from the main town of Kingscote, and only two minutes from the airport.
How big is Kangaroo Island?
Kangaroo Island is 90 miles by 35 – which makes it the same number of square miles as Long Island, N.Y. or Bali, Indonesia. One-third of this is protected in national park or conservation park reserves.
What do most people want to experience on Kangaroo Island?
What people want to do and experience depends a little on who they are. South Australians come to the Island for the beaches and fishing – or to visit friends and family living on the Island. Other Australians are interested in experiencing the solitude – the open spaces and lack of “people pressure,” the wildlife and the interesting range of regional produce (microbreweries, wineries, distilleries, seafood, honey, olive oil, eggs, lamb). For our international guests the wildlife is the big one – with a name like Kangaroo Island there is a bit of an expectation there! However, once they get to the island the diversity of other elements (hiking, fishing, artists, food and wine) really round out their experience and they love that so much is offered in one place.
Can I see Kangaroo Island in a day?
You can see some of the Island in a day, but you really need to make choices of what to miss out on – and you will be traveling most of that day. After nearly 30 years running a tour business, I can confidently say that with a guide showing you the best spots and finding the wildlife for you, two days are required to hit the key landscape and wildlife elements, and then a third day to drill down into a more specific interest – food and wine, art, birds, hiking, beaches, fishing. If you want to do this without a guide, then you will need to spend more time researching your plans, and definitely talking to the locals for tips.
What is the climate like year-round?
Our climate is classified as Mediterranean – we are located 36 degrees south of the equator, and this means we have warm-to-hot, dry summers (Dec. – Feb.) and cool, quite mild, wet winters (June – Aug). We have never seen snow and a cold winters’ day would be around 55F. Our spring and fall seasons are intermediate—they could be like the season immediately before or after—or something in between. We recommend that you bring layers, a warm and a waterproof jacket year round and you are ready for anything, as it can be windy any time of year. The surrounding ocean moderates the extremes—typical of maritime climates at this latitude.
What specific kind of tours does Exceptional Kangaroo Island offer?
We have currently have two small-group tours that are available daily with a minimum of two and maximum of 12 guests; Island Life and Flinders Chase Focus and we are about to launch a third tour Fine Flavors, which will focus on the food and wine scene. We also have eight private tours, which are all three days in duration and include the key landscape and wildlife elements of the Island Life and Flinders Chase Focus trips, but then drill down into a specific interest.
These trips are:
Conservation Connection, Fished, Farmed and Fermented, Active Explorers, Young Families, Photo Safari, Luxe Couples, Wild About Birds, Art Immersion
Can Exceptional Kangaroo Island organize my accommodations and tours?
Yep, that’s what we do—we work with a several accommodation styles so you can choose between elegant farm stays, private beach houses, luxury lodge accommodation or more simple apartment or country hotel accommodation. As the island is really big, we can only work with a selection of properties for our small group-tours (logistics come into play), but for private tours we can pick up anywhere.
How can I book a tour?
You can contact us through email or our website (www.exceptionalkangarooisland.com), but also you can call your favorite travel agent—just give them our details and we are happy to work with them to coordinate a seamless vacation.
What are the prices of your tours and packages?
Pricing starts from A$472 per person per day for a share tour and A$633 per person for a private tour based on a group of four. Packages vary according to the accommodation standard and our Kangaroo Island In Style two-day, one-night package with two full day tours, overnight accommodation, all meals and flights from Adelaide ranges from $A1,560 per person at a three star seafront property up to A$1,810 per person staying at an elegant farm homestead. These prices are based on two people sharing a room. We also have access to private villas at LifeTime Private Retreats and elsewhere on the island, with the experience tailored to our guest requirements.
What is the difference between a small-group and a private tour?
A small-group tour is one where there is a set itinerary and you join other travelers exploring the island—in our case these depart with a minimum of two and maximum of 12 guests. Once we have seven or more guests, we have two guides as hosts for the tour.
A private tour is one designed completely around your interests and the group size is up to you. If you are traveling as a couple or extended family group we will match up a guide and vehicle and we can tailor the experience completely—adding in wild dolphin swims, visiting artists in their home studio, sampling some beers at a micro-brewery or blending your own gin at a local distillery.
Is there a food-and-wine tour?
We are just finalizing a new food-and-wine tour called Fine Flavors, which will be offered three times per week as a smal-group tour. The tour showcases a cross-section of the local produce: olive oil, eggs, seafood, honey, wine and gin. On a private basis we have a three-day program called Fished, farmed and fermented, which includes the key wildlife and landscape experiences for which the Island is rightly famous—but also includes visiting some of our farmers and artisan foodies to sample what they produce.
What wildlife will I see on Kangaroo Island?
Typical encounters during a visit of a few days include: kangaroos; Tammar wallabies; Australian sea-lions, Short-beaked echidnas; Long-nosed fur seals; koalas; Rosenberg’s goanna (Nov. – April) and some of the 260+ species of birds the island calls home. If you add in a nocturnal experience, you can add brush-tailed possums; potentially micro-bats and a couple of owls. If you go out on an ocean rafting trip, bottle-nosed dolphin encounters are also highly likely.
Can I see penguins on the tours?
The resident penguin that breeds on Kangaroo Island is the Little Penguin, which is also known as the Fairy Penguin. Historically their numbers have fluctuated markedly and there are fewer around Kangaroo Island at present than there were 10-to-15 years ago, so sightings are less certain than in previous years.
The reason for the variation may be related to competition from pilchard fisheries, predation (by rats, feral cats and long-nosed fur seals) and variation in sea-surface temperature, which can influence food availability.
Our penguins are not strictly nocturnal but they work very long days—leaving the shore to fish before dawn and returning after dark to reduce risk of predation. So if you want a chance to see them, you need to go out after dark in the towns of Kingscote or Penneshaw, where good penguin-nesting habitat has been retained. Best months to find them (easiest with the help of a local guide) are June through November.
Can I visit Seal Bay through Exceptional Kangaroo Island?
All of our guides are accredited to do independent tours of the Australian sea-lion colony at Seal Bay, so whether you do a small-group tour (it is included on our Island Life tour) or a private charter, you can be assured of a personalized visit into the colony of sea lions.
Why is Seal Bay so important?
Seal Bay, on the south coast of Kangaroo Island, protects one of the largest remaining colonies of the endangered Australian sea lions. Seal Bay has been important in our community and tourism industry in developing an understanding of how to interact with the wild animal population. This means protecting key breeding and feeding areas, as well as giving animals enough space so they feel comfortable in the landscape. We refer to the concept of “shared space”— leaving room for nature. As a result, visitors to the Island can benefit from us having learned a sustainable wildlife management protocol which has been extended to other species and we can now share the experience of seeing a range of wild animals up close in their natural habitat.
What do I do if I see a Kangaroo in the wild?
There are many similarities between watching kangaroos in the wild in Australia and watching deer in the woods in North America. Move slowly and quietly, and if you’re in a group, stay together and watch the animal from a respectful distance. Do not surround the animal as it will feel threatened and want to get away. If the animal changes its position, you are probably disturbing it, and unless you back off a step or two, it will hop away. If you do step back and even sit down, you may be rewarded by the animal ignoring you and returning to its natural behavior.
What do I do if I see a koala in the wild?
Count yourself lucky—its a special experience. Most of the time koalas are going to be two-thirds of the way up the tree asleep in the fork or crook of a tree. If they are hungry, they will be up high, swaying in the wind—they want to be where the fresh tender leaves are. The usual wildlife watching protocols apply—move slowly, talk quietly, and if the animal is low in the tree or on the ground, do not surround it or approach closer than 15 to 20 feet. This rule is not hard and fast—you should read the reaction of the animal, and if it looks distressed by your presence, back off a little and you may be rewarded by the animal doing its normal thin—grooming, sleeping, stretching, yawning, climbing—but usually sleeping as they rest nearly 20 hours per day.
Despite the frequent images of people “cuddling” koalas, this is not a normal experience for wild koalas. Just think of taking a walk in the woods at night, seeing a wild raccoon and picking it up for a quick cuddle. This would likely not end well and result in lots of with lots of scratching, biting and scolding. The “cuddling” experience only takes place in a few places under highly regulated conditions with orphaned koalas that have been hand-reared.
What is Remarkable Rocks?
Remarkable Rocks is a natural granite sculpture park on the clifftops, made up of a massive granite dome which plunges into the ocean and a collection of granite cubes which have eroded into some spectacular shapes. Many people have likened these shapes to sun-bleached animal bones, while others think perhaps Henry Moore and Salvador Dali might have gotten together and had a few beers before embarking on a massive sculpture-fest!
Where is Remarkable Rocks?
It is in the southwest corner of the island and is protected as a key element of Flinders Chase National Park. We visit it as part of the Flinders Chase Focus tour.
What is the historic importance of Remarkable Rocks?
The actual naming of Remarkable Rocks likely came from someone describing the coastline— sandy creek, rocky shoreline, steep limestone cliffs, remarkable rocks, and eventually this became the place name. It is almost certain that this extraordinary location would have been an important cultural site for the indigenous people who once lived on Kangaroo Island, but have been absent for thousands of years.
What are some of the most popular tours booked?
For quite a while our most popular experience has been the Kangaroo Island In Style two-day, one-night package. However, in the last year the Kangaroo Island Wanderer has become increasingly popular. Both include our signature Island Life and Flinders Chase Focus full-day tours, but the Wanderer includes another night on the island and is a little more relaxing for travelers than just a one night stay. Our new website, which has only been up since March 2019, experienced an eightfold increase in hits after loading up all of the new three-day packages, so there is obviously an appetite for these longer thematic trips.
For an adventurous traveler, which tours should I look into booking?
I would look at the Active Explorers program, which aims to get you moving—exploring Kangaroo Island on a multimode adventure with four-wheel drive, walking, ocean rafting and fat-tire cycling. The three days incorporate the iconic landscape and wildlife encounters the island is famous for with daily elegant al fresco lunches with wine. As this is a private package, there are alternative activities. We recommend setting up the priority activities in advance to ensure availability.
If I am looking for some R&R, which tours should I look into booking?
We have a three-day Luxe Couples program designed for couples traveling to celebrate a special event—an anniversary, honeymoon or just the chance to explore a beautiful place together.
The three-days incorporate the iconic landscape and wildlife encounters the island is famous for and include daily elegant al fresco lunches, with a choice of local wines, beer and soft drinks and some great local ingredients to taste. This also has some exclusive experiences such as meeting a local artist in a home studio, visiting some of our productive farmers, including a honey farm, doing a wild dolphin swim, local galleries, wine tasting and a gin masterclass. As this is a private package, there are tweaks we can make to suit your interests, but this is a good place to start.
Do you have any tours for people traveling on a budget?
Our approach is to design tours that are experience-led, rather than being price-led so we are not a budget option. We do however provide excellent value in terms of immersive experiences that leave you with excellent memories. If your budget is tight, I would recommend doing our “Island Life” tour to get a really good introduction to the island, its history and wildlife, and then do some exploring on your own with a rental car if you are happy driving on the other side of the road. Please note that regular rental cars are restricted to the 20% of the roads that are paved and you should avoid driving after dark due to the ever-present risk of collisions with animals.
What makes working on Kangaroo Island so special?
We live in an awesome place and are surrounded by a creative community. It is not hard to be excited about sharing our home with our guests when there is so much on offer. Within a 10-minute drive from our home, we have access to olive groves, four winery cellar doors, a gin distillery, two honey farms, a microbrewery and two seafood wholesalers. Kangaroos mow our lawn, koalas sleep in the trees up the road and we get woken up by kookaburras laughing.
We are listed in the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame for repeated annual Certificates of Excellence and we are also one of only 14 Australian businesses that have held Advanced Ecotourism Certification for over 20 years, so we are leaders in sustainable travel. Our guests often say that our trips feel more like being shown around by enthusiastic friends, and they love the fact that we have a conversation, not a commentary and have a great balance of hospitality and nature.