Today we are doing a more traditional wildlife tour in wildlife parks and conservation centers on Philip Island. The one true wild experience will be the penguin parade. So we wasted time in the morning until we had to meet our tour bus at 10:40.
Our tour bus driver was Graham, and he came with a lovely Scottish brogue and a slight resemblance to Gordon Ramsey, if Gordon Ramsey were bald. He was quick with the sardonic humor, so I liked him immediately. Our first stop was a wildlife sanctuary about 90 minutes outside of Melbourne. This was our opportunity to get a picture with a Koala if we wanted. Matt and I didn’t want to. I did get to see some kangaroos and wallabees up close and even got to feed them.
Of course we were drawn to birds…
When we got back on the bus to head to the next stop, Graham took a moment to get everyone to sing happy birthday to Matt. I didn’t plan it, didn’t even mention it was his birthday so that was a fun surprise. Matt shared later that Graham had asked him which one of our party was celebrating a birthday, so I assume the travel company let them know.
From the wildlife sanctuary we went to the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, or something like that. There we stopped for a spot of tea, and walked through the living history farm. They demonstrated dog assisted sheep herding, sheep shearing, and other farm craft. We were distracted by the birds.
After the farm we were off to a Koala sanctuary, because it’s always all about the Koala. There cute and all, but they aren’t that exciting. All they do is eat eucalyptus, which is a poison, and then sleep to conserve energy while they process it. They are like the Bene Gesserit witches of the animal kingdom in a constant water of life ritual.
When we were done with the Koala’s, which for me was about 5-minutes after I saw one, but for the rest of the group was about an hour later, we finally headed off to the Phillip Island center. This was right of the coast and the wind was pretty fierce. The first point of interest was the nobbies, which is their term for the rugged coastline I think, I don’t know, it looked like the Oregon Coast line. Since it is spring there, the seagulls were nesting and their were a bunch of baby seagulls that were pretty cute.
As the sun started to reach the horizon we reboarded the bus and headed over to the penguin parade viewing area. We had purchased the Penguin Plus package and if you ever go and see this natural phenomenon, spring for the plus. Essentially there are two viewing areas, a big grandstand, and smaller wooden bleacher. We were on the smaller bleacher.
By now you may be wondering what the heck a penguin parade is, so I’ll sum it up for you. You are basically watching the penguins come home after a long day out on the water. And yes it is as adorable as it sounds. Once the sun sets a group of about 20 of them emerge from the surf and waddle onto the beach. They stand there and check things out, look for predators, etc. Then they run back and do a belly skid into the water. A couple of minutes later some more of them emerge from the water and scan the area. If anything spooks them, and they are pretty skittish, they flee back to the water.
Finally a group of them decides they are brave enough to go in and they head for the rocks, amble up and over a 50 foot span of low rocks before they climb the sandy hill and pause right by the small platform that we were on. That is what you get with the penguin plus! By the time they reach the platform they have gotten through the dangerous part of the hike so they take a little load off and preen themselves before they continue their trek into the hills to their individual burrows to go feed their young. No one is allowed to take pictures because that disorients them, so you will need to go to the website to see what we saw.