Earlier this month I left Melbourne for the first time since arriving here to go on an awesome road trip to Phillip Island to see the smallest (and probably most cutest) penguins in the world – Fairy Penguins!
Or the ‘Little Penguin’ as it is now called, is the smallest of the world’s 17 penguin species and is the only species to breed on the Australian mainland. It stands approximately 33cm in height – that’s pretty much the same size as a loaf of bread!
Phillip Island is a few hours South of Melbourne, so I am very grateful to my favourite Melbourne mates – Monica and Ash, for offering to drive us British tourists there and showing us some great sights!
After a quick stop off at Monica’s family home in leafy Lysterfield to see and pet the family pets – 4 cats, 4 dogs, and some chooks (chickens), we were back on the road and soon making our way over the bridge to Phillip Island, holding our breath as we did so. Well all of us apart from Monica, who we all agreed should be exempt from holding her breath due to her important job of driving and not getting us killed.
Now the penguins don’t come out of the water until after sunset, but because the island is pretty much surrounded by beach there is plenty to do. We made our way down to the beach with Fish n chips (minus the malt vinegar – sort it out Australia!), where we relaxed, played some footy and splashed in the icy cold Southern Ocean!
Come sunset it was back in the car to the Penguin Parade! Now the Penguin Parade is pretty pricey at $23.80 per adult, but when else are you going to see the world’s smallest penguins? It was also packed! There were hundreds of people like us eagerly awaiting to see the penguins waddle out the ocean and into their nests.
As the first raft of penguins bobbed their way to shore and started to emerge, everyone eagerly rushed forwards to catch a glimpse. We couldn’t see anything because of the sheer amount of people and this did make me question how disturbing this must be for the penguins as this many people trying to take sneaky , poor quality photos of them isn’t at all natural.
However as the evening went on, people started to disperse to follow groups of penguins on the land. We managed to get closer and closer to the shoreline and saw about 50 penguins return home. It was really cool to watch them surf the waves and waddle out of the ocean. Little Penguins have knees, but they are ‘inside’ their body. On land this gives them an upright stance and they can only make short steps causing their body to move around. They looked pretty clumsy but nevertheless they overcame the waves, the rocks and the tourists to reach their nests!
On site there’s also a gift shop and some exhibitions on the penguins, including a look through a periscope into a penguin’s nest. A bit ‘big brother’ perhaps for the penguins, but it was cool for us to see the cute baby penguins nestling next to their mother.
All in all one of my all time favourite days in Australia so far.
[Penguin Photos taken from http://www.visitphillipisland.com ]