Daytrip for the Little Penguins

Little Penguin ad with Python

When planning a stay in Melbourne, one hardly can avoid the offers for daytrips to Phillip island to see the Little Pengiuns, the smallest penguin species on earth. Indeed, it is very worth to go there, but do not overestimate the time spend with these little fellows. People would love them to death and so the access is pretty restricted, only for their sake. So the largest part of the day will be spend with the Australian long roads and other sights along the track, before returning to Melbourne around midnight.

So the first, the lunch stop is in a little sanctuary with some more or less free roaming Australian animals. Some are free to touch, some would make sure you don't, some others like the Koala require an extra free for holding them and another one for the picture of it. Some tourists may not get closer to wildlife than here.

Goanna, Monitor lizard

At the desk, where they sell food for the humans, they also sell food for the wallabies they otherwise would have to feed at their own expense. Never mind, the little hoppers take humans as their personal entertainment and take another mouthful or two, if one begs them kindly. This one by the way is a Red-necked wallaby, the same species called Bennets wallaby in Tasmania. If the ged fed-up with tourists, they can disappear into a little forrest at any time.

Feeding a Red-necked wallaby
Koala in captivity Red-necked wallabys with joey
sheep shearing talk

shearing a sheep

After that extended lunch stop the bus went on to Phillip island. But dreaming of it or not - one cannot spend all day with the penguins, as they won't be home waiting for us. They spend all day out in the ocean catching fish so humans waiting for them might have a look at the island itself. A couple of smaller sights are there providing an offer. One of them is a traditional farm keeping up the history of how Victoria was farmed in the past.

During the day, one may watch several displays of how to care for domestic animals, what the rules for she shepherd's dogs are. Also, there are demonstrations and workshops of traditional arts and crafts before driving on to the Nobbies centre.

Little Penguin in burrow
Little Penguin

The trouble with the place of the penguin parade is that both, penguins and humans love it so much. They would step onto each other if nobody was there to channel the masses (In fact, you may come across people who tell you that some years ago, when they were teenies, the used to sleep on the penguin beach to have the penguins walking across their bodys in the sand). Anyway, to avoid a huge flashlight thunderstorm, there is absolutely no photography at the parade place. Forget the idea you may play tricks with the observants - you won't. So if you'd like to photograph, the Nobbies Centre is the place to go. There are not many penguins, but enough light and with a good lens, you may get a reasonable shot. With some luck, you may see more wildlife, but do not rely on that.

Little penguin in burrow

Before the "real event" one may do a picture from the distance. As you see, it's a large area and within the next 2 hours, it will be cramped with people from all over the world. There are different packages one may book and they all are alright. But if you want to get as close as possible and with only dozens instead of hundreds of people, book "Penguins plus" - in that case, you get access to the platform in the foreground, were the penguins first go ashore.

Waiting for these little guys may take quite a while as it depends on the daylight. Such a small, flightless bird needs to be aware of dingoes, dogs, cats and predators of all kinds. The first ones hardly dare to go ashore, they make small groups to encourage each other and then go across that horrifying open beach as quick as they can. When entering the vegetation with all these people around, they don't appear half that scared anymore, they fearlessly make the quickest possible way to their hungry chicks.

Along their way, they pass people on the boardwalks melting away at their sight, and fluffy chicks of other parents impatiently waiting for their next meal. In January, they are nearly fully grown and are able to attack painfully. In some cases, one might doubt that innocent parent on the way to it's own child will survive. During one such szene, I witnessed a Japanese guy talking to a chick in broken English: "That's not your mum! But I'm sure, she'll be here very soon!" - it was fun to realize he hoped, in English that chick would understand him easier as if he was talking to it in Japanese...

The tribunes and boardwalks are open for one hour from the moment the first penguin arrived. During that hour, the penguins coming ashore will get more and more and the light will get less and less. They will continue all night long, but the later ones will not have to face these masses of people anymore. It does not seem they care too much for humans, but I am sure they are well looked-after. The huge visitors centre returns all it's profits to the care of penguins and the research of wildlife on Phillip island. Having a look at it, one can believe it - a whole lot of people is busy on the site and every penguin leaving the fenced hills (the fences are for humans, only) and walks across the parking site or so, will be followed by someone who makes sure it won't hide under a car then then accidentally get rolled over.

After an hour, the visitors centre closes and the buses return to Melbourne or whereever they came from. The penguins live in peace again for the rest of the night and humans return home late at night.

Phillip Island penguin viewing platforms
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