Kangaroo Island is Unique in Many Ways

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island with an area of 1,750 square miles. The coastline is particularly pretty with its towering cliffs, beautiful sandy beaches, battered rocks, and quiet secluded inlets. The Aborigines left Kangaroo Island some 8,000 years ago after its physical separation from the mainland and was uninhabited when Captain Matthew Flinders discovered it in 1802, but the island provided much needed food for his hungry crew. The area resembles a rocky desert with abundant, deep-rooted, green shrubbery (eucalyptus). Sea lions, seals, kangaroo, and little blue penguins plus some human beings largely inhabit the island. Our port of call was the tiny village of Penneshaw.

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The first stop on this tour was Clifford’s Honey Farm where we were introduced to the Ligurian bee. Dave Clifford, the owner of this family run business, gave us a complete description of the process: showing us how the hives are put together, the plastic screens on which the honey is collected, and explaining the pollen gathering and honey making process as well as the life of the bees in a colony.

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Dave explained that he moves his hives around the island over the course of a year to take advantage of the plants, trees, and shrubs that are in flower from one season to the next. The flavor of the honey is determined from the pollen source. He also explained the role and lives of the queen, drones, and worker bees as well as their system of communication to inform other worker bees where the flowers are located.

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We had the opportunity to sample a number of the different types of honey from this farm as well as other bee products such as lotions, creams, and honey ice cream. It was amazing to learn about and see the products and produce made with honey and beeswax. Perhaps their best-known product is Ligurian bee honey.

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This special commercial honeybee was introduced to Kangaroo Island by August Fiebeg in 1881. The bee came from Bologna near the region of Liguria in Northern Italy. The Ligurian Bee is very placid, renowned for its gentleness and fine production of honey. The Ligurian Bees in Italy have all interbred with other races, so Kangaroo Island has the only pure strain of the Ligurian Bee in the world. Due to Kangaroo Island’s isolation, this genetically pure population of honeybees is also disease free. Hence, only Kangaroo Island honey products are allowed on Kangaroo Island, unless tested, to help protect and keep them this way.

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Our next destination was the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, where eucalyptus oil is produced by distilling the leaf of Kangaroo Island’s Narrow Leaf Mallee (Euclayptus cneorifolia) that is very plentiful on the Island. They use the traditional manner whereby the leaves are placed into a pot containing water, beneath that a fire is lit using wood from dead tree limbs. Steam carrying the oil is passed through a system of cooling pipes. The oil separates from the water and is piped off into containers. The initial raw oil (which is orange in color) undergoes another refining process to produce the final product – which is crystal clear oil.

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As you can see the entire process is very low tech, using materials that are readily available and renewable.

Today, Emu Ridge is the only commercial eucalyptus oil distillery in operation in South Australia. This oil can be used for washing pets to remove fleas, clean paint brushes, remove stains and tar, as a penetrating oil for rusted parts, for cuts, burns and abrasions; as a natural antiseptic, hand cleaner, decongestant for colds and flu by vaporization for sore throats (adults only: a few drops with a teaspoon of honey.), a disinfectant for cleaning floors, toilets, a cleaner for bathroom tiles, glass, ovens, plastic and vinyl as well as for washing woolens and other clothing.

As the name of the farm suggests, they also raise emu, but at the present time they have only one female as she kicked her mate to death while he was trying to incubate her eggs. An emu cannot hurt you by pecking you, but if you are kicked by one you will think that a horse has kicked you. Moreover, they can kick several times a minute doing a great deal of damage quickly if they are threatened or angry. The emu is only found in Australia, cannot fly, but can run at speeds of 48 km per hour.

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The Australian aborigines have used emu oil for thousands of years for healing and therapeutic qualities to survive Australia’s harsh climate. It is well known as one of nature’s finest emollients and moisturizers. It protects, nourishes and softens the skin, it also has the ability to penetrate the layers of the skin so essential nutrients can be carried more efficiently deep beneath the surface. It is commonly used as a moisturizer, for massage when mixed with other oils, arthritis, inflammation, aching muscles, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, bites, cuts and burns.

Our last destination was a sheep farm – actually Australia’s first sheep dairy and cheese factory named “Island Pure Sheep Dairy.” This facility opened in 1992 and has become well known for a number of its high-quality Mediterranean-style cheeses and yogurt. Twice a day they milk between 250 and 400 ewes. We were too late to watch them milk some of the sheep, but we saw the milking parlor and learned of the processing procedures used to transform most of their product into yogurt and cheese.

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Island Pure was the first sheep dairy and cheese factory to be established in South Australia. The family wanted to remain in agriculture but get away from the traditional livestock and grain farming that was only marginally profitable due to the fact that all livestock had to be shipped to the mainland by ferry for processing and distribution.

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The Island does not have its own breed of milking sheep so the focus of the farm’s genetic breed of sheep is based on milking ability and production of fat, healthy lambs. Monitoring equipment and electronic ear tags measure and record the daily output of each ewe. Most ewes produce about 2 liters of milk a day and are profitably milked for nine years.

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We tasted four different kinds of cheese and we liked the Haloumi cheese best. Cypriot families originally produced Haloumi cheese and their secret recipe was closely guarded. This unique cheese is made without starter culture and is “twice” cooked prior to maturing. One sample of this cheese, that was simply delicious, was pan-fried in a nonstick pan to draw out its natural oils and flavor. Yummy!

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Using sheep’s milk this dairy also makes feta cheese, manchego, and ricotta cheese, and natural and honey yoghurt. According to some of their literature, sheep’s milk products are lower in cholesterol and have more beneficial spectrum of fats than cow and goat’s milk. Sheep’s milk is easily digested and nutrients are readily absorbed.

We left the dairy, heading back to Penneshaw and our ship. We did make a quick detour to see Pennington Bay and the beach.

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It was a different type of excursion, our trip to Kangaroo Island, but we enjoyed meeting the local people and learning about the unique products that they produce in their family owned businesses. We did not see the many wildlife reserves on the Island, so we shall have to schedule another visit when we get back to Australia in the future.

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One Response to “Kangaroo Island is Unique in Many Ways”

  1. Barbara Moschella February 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Sounds like some interesting products. Are you able to ship these products back to US? Or can we purchase online

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