For Christmas my family gave me money towards doing something off of my bucket list whilst here in Melbourne. Since Chantal was also visiting and it was her last weekend we decided to do a day tour outside of Melbourne and visited Phillip island, most famous for the Penguin Parade. This is where the largest colony of (little) penguins in Australia return home at sunset and waddle up the beach to their nests in the grass.
There are many similar tour operators and the one we eventually chose was through Bunyip tours. There were pick up points in the city but we chose to be picked up in St. Kilda as it was easier to get to from where I live, for 10.30am. We then picked a few others up and then went to the office to pay for the tour (we had booked it over the phone the previous evening, it was a spur of the moment decision.) Our tour guide was really friendly and told us lots about the penguins and other sights we would be seeing throughout the drive to Phillip Island (about 2 hours from Melbourne in traffic.)
The first stop was Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Wildlife Park, home to lots of Aussie protected wildlife and where we had lunch. Since it was midday and lots of the animals are nocturnal we mainly saw the feet of sleep animals hiding in burrows or tree logs. I saw advertised a nighttime walk through the park and I would think this would be a lot better for seeing the wildlife not snoozing if you were in Phillip Island for a while! Wombats feet;
However it was still a good place to stop. They sell food for the wallabies for $2 but the ones we found were over fed and skittish. Not at all hungry and the children running around were scaring them off. We decided to head in a different direction around the park and found a couple feeding a (huge looking) kangaroo (after the small wallabies.) She was hungry and after the couple finished feeding her (and after my excitement and falling over and twisting my ankle) the kangaroo let us come close and ate the food out of our hands! We even did a selfie with a roo ha.
We also paid extra ($10) each to stroke and have a photo with a koala. I was impressed with how the sanctuary dealt with this. It is illegal in Victoria to cuddle a koala, so here you can only stroke one. Also the place where this happens is right next to the koala enclosure so if they don’t feel like being petted they can chose to go into the enclosure. The first koala did this so they got the other guy out and he fell asleep almost straight away. We learnt lots about them, and the one in the photos is much bigger than i imagined and thats because he is male.
The next stop on the tour was Churchill Island. A very picturesque old farm where you could watch sheep being sheared. We arrived late for this thanks to the traffic. Coming from England, with lots of history, this old farming island wasn’t too interesting for us, so we quickly wandered around then enjoyed the views and hot weather with an ice cream sat in the shade. I thought this house was pretty though. And the garden with the sunflowers.
We briefly stopped at Cape Woolamai Surf beach where the sand storms were so strong we couldnt stay out the van for long. Ditto at the Nobbies and Seals rocks. We didn’t see any seals. For dinner we headed to Cowes where we took takeaway down to the beach and had an hour to enjoy the sea. Then it was the grand finale…
26,000 little penguins coming in from a days swimming in the sea to feed their chicks. The tourists all sit on benches arranged in a seating area overlooking the sea. At around 8.30-9.00pm as the sun sets the first penguin swims towards the shore. Then waddles, then the waves catch him and he goes back in the sea. Repeat this a few times, until he finally comes all the way out and checks the coast is clear. Then “rafts” (groups) of penguins between 5-15 come out of the sea and do the same thing, waddling up the beach to their nests in the grass above the hill. The penguins are so little with such small legs that they fall over a lot, over pebbles, grass and just wobbliness. After the first few rafts of penguins have headed in shore i suggest you move from the seating to the walkways. This is what we did and we were able to see groups of penguins right in front of us waddle up and greet their fluffy chicks. You can hear their squeaks to each other as they try to find their family members. We also saw many chicks run out of hiding places and squeak at every penguin go by, as if to ask “Are you my mummy? I’m hungry.” And then get nudged out the way by the penguins trying to find their real families. It was adorable.
Photos are banned so as not to harm the penguins – the ones above were taken from the penguin parade website. We started back home at around 10pm and arrived back by midnight, running to get the last train! It was an eventful day and great way to spend time with Chantal and I wish her safe travels in New Zealand.