By Ian Williams
After spending most of his adult life travelling the world working on boats, Tony Coppins is certain of one thing – the marine wildlife on Kangaroo Island takes some beating.
So when it came time to settle down and start a family, Tony, 48, returned to South Australia and started his own marine tour company, Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari.
Since being launched four years ago, the tours have received rave reviews and become a must-do experience for interstate and overseas tourists looking for adventure and close-up encounters with marine mammals and rare seabirds.
“We’ve such a good profile that people are flying in from Melbourne to Manhattan just to do our ocean safari,” says Tony.
“We’ve become the premium place to see native marine wildlife which is great for Kangaroo Island tourism,” he adds.
When celebrated Australian jazz musician, James Morrison, heard about the safari he flew to the island especially for a tour.
The business is based in Penneshaw with the 75 minute tours operating from nearby Christmas Cove, the island’s only natural marina formed by glaciers 250 million years ago.
The area is a favourite for all types of marine life, including bottlenose and common dolphins, long-nosed fur seals and, over the winter months, southern right and humpback whales.
Visitors can also glimpse soaring ospreys and rare white-bellied sea eagles.
“This is a pristine natural environment with crystal clear waters and there’s an abundance of unbelievable wildlife,” says Tony.
“Last year a pod of six orcas also visited the island and we’re hopeful they will be back again this winter.”
Tony operates four tours a day, depending on the weather, on his 7.5 metre rigid inflatable which can take 12 passengers.
The tours have become a regular winner of TripAdvisor’s certificate of excellence and won bronze at the South Australian Tourism Awards last year.
The success has prompted Tony and his wife Sandy to expand the business and operate private charter bus tours across the island. They’ve bought four 22-seater buses over the past two years to capitalise on the island’s growing tourism market.
“We’re only just starting to focus on building up this side of the business and are about to launch nocturnal tours,” says Tony.
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