Kangaroo Island Kangaroo
Glossy Black Cockatoo
Exceptional Kangaroo Island started in 1986 as fishing and diving charters and following the acquisition by Craig Wickham in 1990, morphed into a service which bridges the gap between a nature-based tour operator and a special interest destination management service.
The blend of nature and hospitality is drawn from family experience in accommodation and touring, a year experiencing the best of Southern Africa, wildlife management qualifications and work with the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Customer interest in well interpreted wildlife encounters, warm and welcoming hosting and the emergence of a dynamic local produce scene ultimately resulted in a brand promise of 'good food, good wine and wildlife in the wild'.
Wildlife encounters on Kangaroo Island are part good luck and part good management. Good luck because of a long absence of human occupation; a lack of predators and pests such as foxes and rabbits; and poor soils which discouraged early agricultural development. Good management comes from observations at key locations such as Seal Bay which illustrated that wildlife observation from a respectful distance can lead to benign habituation, a trust can develop between people and nature.
After 30 years of operation, the team at Exceptional Kangaroo Island provide wildlife encounters which leverage knowledge gained through years of observation as well as published research. Guides tell stories about wildlife in a community and landscape context as they are part of the Island community and share their knowledge, sense of place and relationships with their fellow Islanders through a series of conversations and exchanges, rather than through a commentary.
Specific departures target experiences of interests including birdwatching, wildflowers, photography or more human elements such as interacting with local artists and wildlife researchers.
Kangaroo Island is Australia's third-largest island, measuring 150 kilometres (93 miles) long and 90 km (56 miles) at its widest point, totalling 4400 square kilometres or 1700 square miles. Nearly half of the original vegetation has been retained and over one third of the land is protected across 30 National and Conservation parks. These are connected by roadside and creek-line corridors which carry excellent wildlife habitat across the landscape.
Over 90% of the Island is mallee and woodland dominated largely by Eucalyptus and the balance shrubland, fernland and forest. This provides habitat for a rich variety of animals: Kangaroo Island Kangaroo; Tammar Wallabies; Short-beacked Echidna; Southern Brown Bandicoot; 4 possums; 6 bats; 2 fur-seals; Australian Sea-lion; 18 whales and dolphins; Rosenberg’s Goanna; 2 snakes; a dragon; 6 skinks; 2 gecko; 6 frogs; 3 native rats; a dunnart; and over 260 birds.
Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago, due to rising sea level after the last glacial period. Due to this long isolation, many animals are local sub-species and one, the sooty dunnart, is unique to Kangaroo Island. Other than domestics, there are few introduced species: Koalas and Platypus (released in the 1920s), cats, goats, pigs and deer, a few rodents; Bearded Dragons, Shingleback and Blue-tongued Skinks. Notably foxes and rabbits which have had much impact elsewhere in Australia have not been established.
The marine environment is equally diverse with more variation in lifeforms in Island waters than along the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef and much of this is now protected in a network of marine parks. Key marine species other than marine mammals include Blue Groper and the ornate Leafy Sea-Dragon. Key wildlife encounters offered by Exceptional Kangaroo Island on small group tours are with Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, Tammar Wallabies, Short-beaked Echidnas, Australian Sea-lions and Long-nosed Fur Seals, with a series of secondary encounters experienced on an opportunistic basis.
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Craig WickhamOwner and wildlife guide Craig Wickham has been guiding since 1985 - much of this on Kangaroo Island. Craig studied wildlife and park management and has travelled extensively observing and photographing wildlife. Other interests are spending time with his family, birdwatching, food and wine, community development, painting, gardening and bee-keeping. Having spent 10 years in Local Government, Craig keeps up with issues impacting on the planning, development and management of the Island. The community comes together regularly for land management and wildlife survey events and Craig joins in on these where possible - events like a Hooded Plover survey, Glossy-black Cockatoo count, and a tree-planting festival. The guide team also report unusual or significant sightings like new weed outbreaks; shearwater migration; whale encounters; and sometimes spotting new species for the Island! Craig balances his time between managing the business; marketing; product development and community obligations. He tries to keep abreast of what is happening in the environment by getting out guiding as regularly as possible and must be doing ok in this role as he has been recognised as one of the world’s top guides by Outside Go.
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Ron SwanWith a name like Swan what else could you do other than be a wildlife guide? Ron joined the Exceptional Kangaroo Island team in 1998 and his easy-going manner and obvious passion for his Island home makes guests feel welcome from the first moment. He has a keen sense of place and has chosen to live at Muston sandwiched between a serene marine lagoon and beautiful bush filled with bird song. Ron also works as a wildlife guide at the Australian Sea-lion colony at Seal Bay. Outside of guiding he plays guitar and sings with a local band (the Famous Strangers), surfs the powerful Southern Ocean swells, goes birdwatching and bushwalking, kayaking and dragon boating. A keen reader, Ron was excited to discover his home was owned by an archeologist who first documented evidence of a pre-contact Aboriginal occupation of Kangaroo Island. “In my time as a guide on Kangaroo Island I have seen some amazing things such as seeing a “train” of six echidnas during their breeding time, a koala swimming across a river and watching a Peregrine Falcon plucking a Crimson Rosella out of the sky. The highlight has to be seeing a pod of six Blue Whales from a cliff-top vantage at Remarkable Rocks - and I get to call that work!”
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Trevor HammondA comparatively recent arrival on Kangaroo Island, Trevor brings an enthusiasm borne of the beauty of the island, its history and its people, which prompted his move from the mainland. Extensive overseas travel has given Trevor a special understanding of what motivates people to travel and what will make their visit a memorable one. “I ask our guests why they came and what they value about the island. Invariably they reference seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, the uniqueness of that wildlife compared to its mainland cousins, the unspoilt bushland, and the part KI plays in preserving threatened species. In addition, visitors say they found the welcoming, friendly and helpful manner of the locals truly memorable.” Trevor augments his wildlife guiding with Exceptional Kangaroo Island by interpreting the Island’s historic lighthouses and these two aspects meld easily as the isolation, solitude and unspoiled nature of the place has obvious impact on both.