Monday, July 14, 2008

Travel: Departures - Explorers Issue

Departures, July/August 2008

By Julie Earle-Levine

Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island – ‘Way Down Under’

SOUTH Australia’s Kangaroo Island – home to some of the continent’s most intriguing wildlife – has long been popular with the day-tripping and camping crowd. It never had any luxury accommodation until this spring, however, when James and Hayley Baillie, owners of the chic Capella Lodge on Oz’s Lord Howe Island, opened their new property, Southern Ocean Lodge.

Set between two national parks on the island’s isolated southwest coast and just a 25 minute flight from Adelaide, the property is nestled in the bush and has expansive views of the turquoise blue sea below. Of the lodge’s 25 minimalist rooms, the best is the Osprey Pavilion, with its hand-sculpted, egg-shaped Japanese bathtub and private terrace. From its alfresco daybeds and plunge spa, guests have a prime view of passing kangaroos and whales out at sea.

But those who come to K.I. almost always want to get closer to the wildlife. And so the Baillies partnered with local outfitter Exceptional Kangaroo Island to take visitors to the area’s singular landscape (the animal-spotting is so good here and so easy here that it’s really a shame the lodge doesn’t allow children younger than six). Our stellar and slightly wacky guide, Anthony, aka Ants, who has lived on the island for 18 years, led our small group on a half-day journey, pointing out plump koalas perched on impossibly thin branches, kangaroo mothers hopping about with their in-pouch babes, and even the elusive glossy black cockatoo – or at least evidence thereof, in the form of some nibbled seeds.

On a separate hike, a trip to see Australian fur seals preceded a light lunch served rather glamorously under a white shade tent and accompanied by a local Chardonnay.

Later, a stylish New Yorker who had just arrived at the lodge from Sydney was wondering aloud when she might see a kangaroo. She didn’t have to wait long though. During a twilight tour with lodge staff, glass of champagne in hand, she was suddenly surrounded by dozens of curious ‘rooms and wallabies. “I didn’t really expect to see wildlife like this,’ she said, laughing. But at Southern Ocean Lodge that’s just the kind of champagne wishes and kangaroo dreams experience that guests are in for.

Rates begin at A$900 per night (two night minimum) and include meals.