When bushfires ignited Australia’s third largest island during the 2019–2020 season, the blazes devastated a wildlife haven. Half of Kangaroo Island burned, killing 40% of its namesake marsupials and an estimated 40,000 koalas. Researchers mourned losses among vulnerable species, from green-carpenter bees to echidnas and the sooty dunnart, a mouse-size marsupial that lives nowhere else on earth.
But now visitors to Kangaroo Island will find a landscape lush with greenery. Eclipsing ruins are species signaling recovery, including the white-blossomed daisy bush and Kangaroo Island yucca, whose spiky flowers disappear for decades and bloom—a fragrant symbol of hope—only in the wake of fire. Aided by Western River Refuge, a preserve founded in 2021 and wrapped in predator-proof fencing, even the tiny dunnart is scurrying back. Recovery has been a community-wide effort, travelers included. Guiding company Exceptional Kangaroo Island recently introduced three-day private conservation tours, including encounters with ecologists studying dunnarts and glossy black cockatoos; Seal Bay Conservation Park has new research adventures to assist with monitoring endangered Australian sea lions.
The focus on sustainability extends to the island’s sleek new stays. In December, hospitality brand Wander unveiled its four solar-powered, rainwater-harvesting luxury cabins, or “pods,” at the island’s northern cusp. Sun- and rainwater-fueled Sea Dragon Lodge completes a rollout of five new ocean-view suites in March, growing their 250-acre beachfront property, home to hundreds of kangaroos. And after burning to the ground in the bushfires, eco-luxury icon Southern Ocean Lodge reopens in November with fully rebuilt, off-grid guest suites surrounded by fire-resistant native succulents and juniper trees. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame coastal scenes attesting to this island’s resilience and beauty.
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