Place Where You Live:

Kangaroo Island, Australia

There’s an island off the coast of South Australia that I’ve visited yearly since childhood; as a family we would holiday there, staying in my grandpa’s shack. The kangaroos move a little more slowly than those on the mainland – they have no predators here. They come quietly, loping into your campground or the barbeque area at your holiday house. They’ll sniff you with their soft, whiskery noses. On a hike into the bush, you might disturb one of their smaller cousins, the Tamar wallaby; if you’re lucky, you might also meet an echidna (spiny anteater) or a giant monitor lizard. If you’re prepared to wait, you might catch the brilliant red flash of the tail of a glossy black cockatoo; it would be a very rare sighting. The trick is to sit and wait. Keep still. Don’t make any noise; the animals will come to you. The delight of such encounters is what drives me back, year after year. It’s what I would miss most, what I fear my unborn grandchildren might miss if we don’t take care. Recently someone posted a video of early morning at American River, a sleepy fishing town on the island first settled by sealers in the early 1800s. In one pan the photographer had captured a dolphin rising from the calm waters, a chortling flock of cormorants and the graceful flight and sea landing – cushioned by its wide, webbed feet – of a pelican. For us, Kangaroo Island feels like one of the last true wildernesses, though my aunt tells me the wildlife is not teeming as it once used to be. A decade ago we would hear the baby penguins calling, at night, from their rocky holes, or we’d spotlight their parents waddling up the beach to feed them. Sadly the fur seals, and human habitation, have caused their colonies to decline. But the roos are still here. Every time I behold one in the wild, it stops me – and slows me down. As if it’s the first time I’ve ever seen such a magnificent animal. A gentle surprise, every time.