“There’s no shopping centres on King Island, you know,” Ian said as he steered the OKA, the all-terrain vehicle that would be our tour bus for the next four days.
“We’re not interested in shopping,” I said. “We just want to take lots of photographs.”
“Just checking,” He replied. “Some people are a bit disappointed when they realise.”
I really liked Ian. He’s lived on King Island for over 30 years and the confidence and ease by which he navigated around the island and led us over the dunes and rocky outcrops was reassuring and impressive. There was something very genuine about him, and during this four-day safari, he worked tirelessly to make sure we were happy. He was a gentleman too, never laughing at my clumsy efforts to pull myself up into the high front seat of the OKA, and my equally awkward dismounts. What can I say, I’m an uncoordinated dag. I’m pleased to report I did improve over the four days, but Ian was there to help me up or down whenever I needed assistance.
After three nights in Melbourne with Jac, she and I had said goodbye – she was off to Launceston, to spend the next few days with her mate Lou. I met up my friends Craig and Caroline at Melbourne Airport where we got on a flight together to King Island, Tasmania. We three shutterbugs were off on a photographic safari of King Island. We’d see Jac again in Hobart on Christmas eve.
Ian and his business partner Lucinda run King Island Holiday Village and Tours and were our guides for this four-day adventure. I found their website while researching photography tours and happened to mention it to my friends Craig and Caroline. We all thought it sounded like a fantastic trip, and a flurry of emails later, we hatched our plans, and by April were all booked in for this safari in December.
After meeting Lucinda at King Island Motel, dropping off our luggage and having a quick lunch, we were back with Ian in the OKA again. We stopped at a brightly painted boathouse at Currie Harbour known as ‘The restaurant with no food’. There are a number of restaurants on King Island, but this one is the most unique. It truly is a BYO restaurant – there’s no chef, waitstaff, menu or food – you bring your own ingredients, cook them in the kitchen or on the barbie, and do your own washing up afterwards.
If you fancy some live entertainment, invite a pianist to dinner and show him/her to the piano (I spotted drums and a tambourine too – so maybe invite the whole band!).
Hanging on the walls are paintings by the boathouse’s keeper Caroline. And say g’day to Honesty Duck, who will happily accept your donations which go towards the upkeep of the restaurant.
The restaurant with no food
Currie Harbour, King Island
Contact Caroline for bookings
Next stop was at a tern rookery. It was raining, so out came my plastic bag to wrap around my camera. We gradually crept closer to the birds, treading carefully on the rocks, but they won’t tolerate you being too near, so I used my longest lens, the 55-200mm. The terns are noisy buggers, chatting away at each other. The best fun was spotting and photographing the little fluffy tern chicks.
Dinner was at the Old Admiral Benbow Restaurant at the King Island Golf and Bowling Club. The menu changes regularly, depending on what local seasonal produce is available.
There’s no mistaking you’re at a sporting club, with a trophy case next to the loo and the names of golf and bowling club presidents and champions displayed along the walls of the dining room. Members and visitors are instructed to remove their hats/caps before entering, and hang them on hooks near the entrance. Food orders are placed at the kitchen door.
Sitting in a sports club room, I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest – but wow! My dish of seared scallops with potato rosti, corn ragout, seasonal vegetables and truffle oil was presented beautifully and simply delicious.
After spending much of the afternoon out in the chilly wind and rain, the sticky date pudding swimming in butterscotch sauce seemed the most sensible dessert option, but I couldn’t resist the white and dark chocolate ice cream terrine, a generously thick-cut slab of two-tone ice cream. Our meal was included in the price of the safari but we all noted what great value these desserts were at $7.
Old Admiral Benbow Restaurant
At the King Island Golf and Bowls Club
Owen Smith Drive
Currie, King Island
Wednesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 8.30pm
Saturday lunch from 1pm
After being on the go all day, I was ready to turn in for the night. Back in my room, I flicked on the heater, made myself a cup of tea (milk in the fridge), slipped under the covers and munched on biscuits Lucinda had placed in my room for me. A quick email to Jac, and then it was sweet dreams.
The complete King Island photography safari series
Getting to King Island
- There are no passenger ferries to King Island. The only options are to fly from mainland Australia via Melbourne or from Tasmania via Wynyard or Launceston. See more on how to get to King Island.
- We flew to King Island via Melbourne on Regional Express (Rex) Airlines.
- The flight is approximately 50 minutes. Passengers are served a sweet or savoury snack and a drink of water.
King Island Photography Safari by King Island Holiday Village and Tours
We got in touch directly with Ian and Lucinda via their website and organised a tour from 21 to 24 December 2014 (4 days).
We paid AU$2088 per person which included:
- Return flights Melbourne to King Island
- 4 days touring King Island in the all-terrain, air-conditioned OKA vehicles
- 3 nights accommodation in a queen ensuite room
- 3 x two-course dinners featuring King Island produce
- 3 lunches, including a couple of fantastic meals cooked outdoors on location
- 3 morning teas
- Continental breakfast every morning
King Island Holiday Village and Tours
King Island Holiday Village offers a range of accommodation options
We stayed at King Island Motel – part of the safari package
1 Bluegum Drive
Grassy, Tasmania 7256
Telephone: (03) 6461 1177
Essential gear (other than photographic)
These are products I personally use (not sponsored in any way).
- Hiking boots for walking on rocks and uneven and slippery surfaces. I got these on sale at Kathmandu.
- I wore my trusty Rainbird jacket all day, which kept me dry and warm
- I wore a SCOTTEVEST travel vest, brilliant for carrying bits and pieces on me – passport and water bottle at the airport, or spare battery, filter, lens cap and memory card while on safari – no need to keep digging around in my bag. I wore it zipped up much of the time when we were out and about – another protective layer against the wind
- Lip balm – I use Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream (fragrance-free)
- Rex Airlines baggage limits are 7kg for cabin and 15kg for your checked-in bag. I carried all my camera gear in my cabin luggage except for my tripod which was in my check-in bag.
- I took my Fujifilm X-E1 camera with three lenses: 23mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm, all with their lens hoods. I used the 18-55 the most while out and about. I switched to the 55-200mm when photographing wildlife, such as the terns on the first day, and wallabies, which we saw every day on the island. I used the 23mm for food shots e.g. at dinner time. It can be very windy on King Island; we all changed lenses only within the vehicle.
- I brought 3 spare camera batteries, charger, polarising filters (which I used a few times for landscapes) and neutral density filters (which I didn’t end up using).
- I packed a few plastic bags to protect my camera in wet weather. I cut a hole in the plastic bag for my lens to poke through. It’s a little unwieldy as the plastic bag flaps in the wind and you have to keep making sure it doesn’t cover any part of the lens, but it kept the camera sufficiently dry.
- It was on this trip that I began to think about the advantages of having a second camera body. I planned to get a second X-E1 when I got home but ended up waiting for the release of the X-T1. That’s now my primary camera, with the X-E1 the backup. Although twice the price of an X-E1 body, I chose to get the X-T1 as it has features I wished the X-E1 had, such as wifi, weather-sealed body, tilting screen and faster autofocus.