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Storyteller Series: Craig Wickham from Exceptional Kangaroo Island

When Craig Wickham spots a goanna scuttling across the road, he doesn't tell his guests to get out of the way. Instead, he invites them into the bush to see where it has come from. He knows that more often than not, the reptile is slinking away from a termite mound where it has just laid its eggs - a spot that's the ideal temperature to ensure they hatch.

Crouching down to show people parts of nature they'd never usually know about, let alone see up close, is what gives Craig his buzz, and that's after 30 years exploring his wildlife-packed island off the southern coast of South Australia.

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Kangaroo Island was an amazing place to grow up, and a lot of things I loved as a child - the outdoors, untouched nature, ridiculous freedom - are still the same today. We still have that joyful sense of freedom that a lot of places have lost. We're able to maintain that.

When Craig bought the business in 1990, he remembers people would write letters wanting to make a booking, and later it was faxes. Photographs were used sparingly, still captured on film. "So much has changed in technology," he says, "but the fresh scent of crushed eucalyptus leaves, the perfume of bright red bottlebrush flowers or the birdsong indicating a snake is near remain the same."

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Craig studied wildlife management and loves to bust perceptions of Australian snakes being hostile; instead, he shows his guests how calm and inquisitive they can be, if left alone and motionlessly observed. His version of transformational travel ranges from reframing the way we think about things to pausing to engage all the senses. He tunes people into nature as well as into themselves. That might be stopping the car to gaze at endangered wallabies no one else has seen, or roaming through grapevines while talking to the viticulturalist, or tasting freshly distilled gin where it's made, or visiting a hidden beach known only to local fishermen.

Exceptional Kangaroo Island

After 30 years of operation, the team at Exceptional Kangaroo Island provide wildlife encounters which leverage knowledge gained through years of observation as well as published research. Guides tell stories about wildlife in a community and landscape context as they are part of the Island community and share their knowledge, sense of place and relationships with their fellow Islanders through a series of conversations and exchanges, rather than through a commentary.

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