King Island Photography Safari, day 1

“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.

First ride up front in the OKA. First ride in the OKA. We all took turns sitting in the front seat, where if you’re lucky, you can take extra shots through the windscreen.

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.

Restaurant with no foodThe boathouse restaurant, better known as ‘The Restaurant with no food’. The sky had turned quite dark grey by this time, and it had begun to rain. Just what you need for a photographic trip (not!)

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The honesty duck at the Restaurant with no food The honesty duck at the Restaurant with no food

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.

At the tern rookery At the tern rookery

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Adult tern and chick

Me with my high-tech (not) wet weather camera gear, photographing terns in the wind and rain. Thanks to Craig for the photo. Here I am photographing terns in the wind and rain with my high-tech (not) wet weather camera gear. Thanks to Craig for the photo.

The weather/light wasn't great on our first day The weather/light really wasn’t great on our first day

The first of many rocky drives in the OKA The first of many rocky drives in the OKA – the safari took us to places we couldn’t have got to ourselves

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.

DSCF4065Seared scallops with potato rosti, corn ragout, seasonal vegetables and truffle oil (AU$31)

Fish and chips - beer battered salad and housemade tartare sauce (AU$23) Caroline’s fish and chips – beer battered salad and housemade tartare sauce (AU$23)

Lamb cutlets - with roast potatoes, wilted spinach and rosemary gravy (AU$31)Craig’s lamb cutlets – with roast potatoes, wilted spinach and rosemary gravy (AU$31)

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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.

Sticky date pudding with butterscotch and ice cream (AU$7) Sticky date pudding with butterscotch and ice cream (AU$7)

White and dark chocolate ice cream terrine (AU$7) White and dark chocolate ice cream terrine (AU$7)

Old Admiral Benbow Restaurant
At the King Island Golf and Bowls Club
Owen Smith Drive
Currie, King Island
TAS 7256
Opening hours
Wednesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 8.30pm
Saturday lunch from 1pm
Cash only

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.

My room My room included an ensuite bathroom, fridge, tea/coffee making facilities, TV and a very comfy queen sized bed

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)

Photography notes

  • 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.

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  • Emmi Buck

    So awesome you love your SCOTTEVEST! So many photographers seem to say they use them too. Have you tried the new 42 pocket SCOTTEVEST QUEST Vest? You should do a review for us! (Emmi.Buck@SCOTTEVEST.com)

    • Hi Emmi, oh yes, my SCOTTEVEST was one of the best things I bought last year. I didn’t want to take it off! I have sent you an email.

  • I really loved reading this post. King Island is such a special, unique place. Your meal looks delicious, very impressive for a sporting club. What is not to love about an old school club? Your photos are beautiful and I loved reading about all the technical photography stuff, even though I am a total amateur. Great tips and recommendations. I look forward to more :)

    • Cheers, Jane. I read your King Island posts and enjoyed them very much, especially your gorgeous pictures. I left a comment on the beach shack post but it doesn’t seem to be there… not sure what I did wrong there. I was totally bowled over (har-har) by the amazing meal at the bowls club. Seriously impressive. I’ve eaten several meals served up at local bowls clubs and let’s just say I never blogged them….

  • Craig Hind

    Ah fond memories. I love how you’ve really captured the feeling of the island and tour that we experienced while there. Ian really is a wonderful and remarkable man, and his knowledge of the island is second to none.

    The food shots look amazing, so sumptuous, especially that first shot of the scallops. I wish we could hop back over there right now and enjoy some of that food, and of course the island hospitality.

    Very much looking forward to reliving the experience in your future posts. :-)

    • Craig, we really couldn’t have asked for a better guide, I reckon. I loved Ian and Lucinda’s cooking both on the road and at the motel, but time on KI I’d like to eat at more of the local restaurants as well… Just gotta work out when to go again.

  • Sandra

    I can’t believe people would get disappointed at lack of shopping centres on King Island? That is astounding and I want to meet these people and slap them in the face with the finest King Island Brie. Speaking of cheese, did you go to the King Island Dairy?

    • Sandra, it was a quick visit but yes, we did drop in for cheese tasting at King Island Dairy – to be coverd in a future post. I bought a couple of cheeses too.

      • Sandra

        YES!!! You rock – I am so looking forward to that cheese post now. You never disappoint oh food master :)

        • Sandra

          Just to clarify I’m not demanding a whole post devoted to cheese, I just got excited – and then just read my comment and realised it does sound like I was presuming a full cheese post. I will calm down now.

          • Haha, there will be cheese. But no, not a full cheese post. Hopefully what I post will suffice. :)

  • Who would go to King Island to go shopping? Sounds crazy…the beautiful scenery is much better!

    • Amanda, yep, we were incredulous – really? Would someone come to King Island and then get annoyed because there’s no Myer or David Jones? Apparently that has happened…clearly they didn’t do their research before booking to visit King Island!

  • Those scallops! That sticky date pudding! Want!!! I appreciate your photography notes — always love to hear what lenses people use for different shots — but you cracked me up with your lip balm mention. I guess it’s important to have well hydrated lips, right? ;)

    • In the windy conditions it was ESSENTIAL to have lip balm! :) The Norwegian Formula stuff is brilliant for moisturising hands as well as lips. Good protection from those chilly King Island winds.

  • Awesome photos and a great story to go with it, never knew the existence of King Island until now :) I’m in the market for a compact interchangable camera and was eyeing the Fuji XE2, did you find the XE1 held up well in your travels? (i.e. you didn’t find the images suffered by not using you dslr? btw what have to done to your dslr now that you got yourself the new XT1?)

    • Thanks, jankcl. The Fuji X-E1 held up very well. All my Melbourne pictures (see http://thefoodpornographer.com/category/melbourne) were taken with it, all the King Island pictures (more to come) and all the Hobart pictures (posts still to come). It was such a relief not to be lugging the heavy DSLR around, and the smaller camera attracted much less attention – I looked like a snap-happy tourist rather than a professional photographer – the DSLR usually makes people more nervous/suspicious about my motives when I’m using it out and about. There were times the autofocus of the DSLR would’ve been faster than the X-E1, but overall I didn’t miss that many shots because of it. If I was solely a wildlife photographer, perhaps the DSLR would’ve been a better choice (to keep up with moving wildlife) – but I took photos of so many other subjects which the X-E1 was absolutely fine for. I still have the Nikon D600 DSLR but haven’t picked it up for months – will get my act together eventually and sell it. If the X-T1 had not come out I would’ve bought an X-E2 and used that as primary and the X-E1 as backup. I love the wifi function on the X-T1 – I have been taking photos with it then transferring them to my iPhone and posting those on social media – much better quality images than the ones taken with my iPhone.

      • Thanks for the indepth review! I look forward to mroe King Island & Hobart photos, it’s actually funny I was planning to spend a week driving/travelling around Tasmania sometime this year or join a photo tour there, so I’ll be good to see some photos of tasmania! To be honest, one of the reasons I haven’t got the XE2 just yet is also because I can’t decide between that and the Olympus OMDs or the new Sony A7 cameras. How did you decide on the fuji versus so many other interchangable lens systems?

        • I read a lot of reviews before narrowing it down. I don’t focus on the numbers so much (e.g. I wouldn’t choose the highest megapixels just because they were the highest) but the more qualitative appraisals. Also had a play with cameras whenever I could. Didn’t like the interface of the Olympus, nor the feel of it in my hands. The Sony A7s weren’t in the picture when I was researching, but again, I haven’t liked the feel of the Sony cameras I’ve picked up. Reviews also suggested that the Fujinon lenses are extremely well built and high quality (the ones I have really are excellent). I could see the Fujifilm roadmap for what lenses are coming up, which was reassuring. Sony, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have as good a range of lenses. I also know a couple of professional photographers (i.e. friends) who switched from DSLRs to Fujifilm and have no regrets. This also encouraged me to make the change. If you can get your hands on the actual cameras and have a play, that may help your decision.

          • Thanks again Cyn! I have similar thoughts to you as well, the Fujinon lenses I have hear are very good to it’s reassuring to hear that from someone like you. I wish Perth had more places that hire out these newer system cameras. I went to a physical camera shop today and they didn’t even have a Fuji XE1 nor knew anything about it.

          • At the end of the day it’s quite a subjective thing and what’s right for one person won’t be right for another. My siblings all enjoy photography but I am the only one who chose fuji. If you want to try out the Fujis go to Camera Electronic in Stirling St Perth. You can’t rent out the Fujis but they sell them and usually have demo ones on the shelf. I bought my X-T1 from them but will likely buy lenses from online sources as I can get much better prices elsewhere.

          • I heard of Camera Electronics, thanks for the heads up will need to check it out.

          • No worries jankcl, let me know how you go! PS – my second King Island post is now up! :)

          • Yep I shall, might make it a birthday present to myself :p