Photography by Sputnik
If seeking adventure or having bucket list experiences is on your radar, there is a new wilderness tour that ticks all the boxes. Originally touted as a tour for bird lovers, EP Cruises remote camping escape to the Nuyts Archipelago serves up far more than you could imagine.
The area offers up whales, sea lions, bandicoots, an astonishing amount of birdlife, cliff jumping, swimming with the dolphins, and the odd python thrown in for good measure (don’t worry they’re not poisonous).
For 4 days & 3 nights, guests on the expedition are able to explore different islands, beaches and reefs within the Eyre Peninsula’s Nuyts Archipelago Wilderness Protection Area, which cannot normally be accessed by the public.
When the first tour kicked off in October, we jumped at the chance to check out the inaugural expedition, after first enjoying a drive across the EP from Adelaide.
As we farewelled Ceduna, and boarded the EP Cruises boat, it was hard not to feel the sense of adventure that awaited us in the Nuyts Archipelago, 50km from the coast.
The boat was packed with fishing rods, a stand up paddle board, two additional smaller boats for getting to and from the island’s beaches, boxes and boxes of labeled supplies, an esky packed with great South Aussie wines, all of our own personal camping gear, and our small, but already familiar tour group who were destined for the remote islands.
The previous night we had all caught up at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel for dinner, which showcased some of the regions amazing seafood, and the hotel itself. Owned by the community, and currently at the end of a large addition to the venue, the hotel feels brand new, even though the rest of the venue underwent renovations nearly a decade ago. It was also our last comfortable bed and warm shower for several days, so we savoured the wonderful hotel rooms, and the view over the jetty before jumping into this adventure with both feet.
The boat we traveled on to the Archipelago, Asherah (Goddess of the Sea), is normally used by EP Cruises for whale watching tours in Fowlers Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. Perfectly set up for sightseeing, the robust seafaring vessel, with tour guide Rodney Keogh at the helm, carried us with ease to the remote group of islands.
From the moment the tour group left, it became apparent why Rod launched this new offering, carving out an experience that would have been easier left unexplored.
Rod is a passionate local, who not only thrives in nature, having set up his outdoor tourism business 10 years ago, but he also feeds off the energy that showcasing this pristine part of the world generates with visitors. You’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate advocate for the region.
Working with National Parks South Australia, Rod received permission to take small tour groups to the Nuyts Archipelago, in an ecologically-sensitive way, to ensure the integrity of the untouched, uninhabited islands remained intact.
As the only tour operator permitted to take groups on to the islands, and camp on St Francis in the heart of the Archipelago, guests are given the opportunity to soak up splendour, which so few have ever experienced.
Part of this experience, and EP Cruises’ commitment to leaving a minimal footprint on the islands, means REAL camping. No glamping here. Comfy double swags are provided as your digs amongst the scrubby dunes, and everything that’s brought on to the island is also taken off the island.
The minimal nature of the expedition really enforces the ‘unplugged’ aspect of the trip, making visitors focus on what they’re experiencing, rather than creature comforts that are normally present if you camp closer to home.
As we enjoyed the Archipelago’s natural wonders, with the brilliant people accompanying us on the tour, the time we spent on the islands really gave us time to get to know those travelling with us.
Three trailblazing women from the Eyre Peninsula had put their hand up for the first tour, all independently deciding to do the tour solo. 72 year old Shirley, who’s truly done more in her life than all of us on the tour combined, joined entrepreneurs Felicity Brown (owner & founder of Chinta Air), and Janet Gregor (Owner & MD at Ceduna Signs) to discover what was out in the Archipelago they’d all spent decades hearing stories about.
Ranger Shelley Harrison-Paull from National Parks also joined us to ensure the tour and activities were all in line with the Marine Park’s regulations. Then it was just myself and iconic Adelaide marketer, photographer & bird enthusiast Sputnik, Rod the tour operator, and his trusty offsider Jia. A motley crew indeed, but it just showed how the appeal of this tour wasn’t just for your everyday camping fanatics. It was about the adventure of it all.
Given we weren’t all regular campers, roughing it was slightly challenging over several days, however the great company, good wine and brilliant Smoky Bay oysters added a touch of glamour to sunset happy hours, keeping us all smiling.
With island hopping offered as part of the tour, a lot depends on the weather. Despite a few rainy days, our group still managed to visit Goat Island, and Massillon, which showcased stunning turquoise waters, sea eagles, and playful sea lions.
Other experiences on our trip included exploring one of the many huge coastal caves, night spotting penguins, swimming with the local dolphin pods who visited daily, and lunching on the water in one of the coves the boat had taken us to nearby.
One of our day hikes took our group to visit the ruins on St Francis, which took us through a minefield of Shearwater nests (holes) which had to be carefully navigated both to preserve the nests, and our ankles!
The old farmhouse, shearing shed and water tanks remain as an eerie tribute to the history of the island, which has been home to whalers, watermelon farmers, sheep famers, and explorers in times gone by.
With its geographic isolation, you can easily visit the Nuyts Archipelago without seeing another boat for days – in fact, we didn’t see a single one from the time we left Ceduna.
It’s part of the reason the islands are so popular with the marine and wildlife, which seek sanctuary in this declared ‘Important Bird Area‘.
St Francis island is home to over 276,000 pairs of Short-Tailed Shearwater birds (otherwise known as Muttonbirds), which, together with white-faced storm-petrels and pied oystercatchers, make up 1% of the world’s population of these birds. Also found on the island are penguins, rare Cape Barren geese, southern brown bandicoots, endangered brush tailed bettongs, rock parrot and many other protected or vulnerable species.
It all adds to the sense of exploration, and discovery that this tour offers. St Francis Island is 562 kilometres from Adelaide, with the journey there forming part of this unique experience.
For anyone seeking a new adventure, which embraces the elements and untapped wilderness, the Nuyts Archipelago Expedition by EP Cruises is offering something that is completely unique, remote, and full of surprises.
Best of all, you only need to bring your own clothes and hiking/snorkling gear. The tour package includes everything else, so you just need to turn up.
The 3 night, 4 day tour is all inclusive and priced at $1,999 per person (limit 10 per group).
Upcoming dates include February 15th, March 8th, and April 1st.
For more information visit https://www.epcruises.com.au
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