Phillip Island: A Very Australian Wildlife Experience
An hour and 40 minute drive from Melbourne sits Phillip Island. An easy day trip, this small island off of the Southern coast is connected to the mainland by a small bridge. It offers unrivalled opportunities to view some Australian wildlife both in a conservation setting and in a natural environment.
Koala Conservation Centre
We started our day trip at the Koala Conservation Centre. For $12.80 per adult you have access to the ecotourism attraction's two raised boardwalks, allowing you to walk among to the trees to try and spot the koala's that live in the conservation centre.
Watching the koalas in their natural habitat is enchanting. Seeing how they studiously ignored all comers was my favourite thing about them. You can watch their ears move as they listen your conversation, decide it is not interesting enough to warrant their attention, and carry on their naps. Koala's sleep for up to 18 hours each day, conserving their energy to digest their fibrous and tough diet of leaves- so best to keep your voices low and let them kip!
As well as marvelling at the koalas, the raised walkways give a perfect viewing point to watch other wildlife including wallabies and prolific bird life.
Churchill Island Heritage Farm
The first task at Churchill Island Heritage Farm was to access the car park without accidentally running down any of the free range live stock. Whilst the sheep kept a wary distance from the track, the geese displayed an attitude that was frankly close to suicidal bravado when dealing with our hire car and hurling themselves in front of it.
Having crawled the car slowly and carefully into the Heritage Farm, we decided to source some lunch. Whilst other attractions offer hot snacks (burgers, fries, sandwiches) the Heritage Farm has a small cafe serving hot meals and drinks. After a delicious and reasonably priced lunch, we set off to explore what the farm had to offer.
We spent several informative hours enjoying the cottage, the petting animal corner and the views from Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
Another added bonus was the prolific bird life (and not just the geese with a death wish) that paraded around to be admired- a bird watchers dream!
The crowning glory of our day on Phillip Island began at sun down when we joined the throngs of other visitors and made our way to settle on concrete seating posts on the beach.
There are a number of ticketing options ranging from underground viewing (with the penguins sauntering past at face height) from $65 to the general viewing tickets at $25.70 per person. We opted for general viewing tickets and settled ourselves in for a long wait.
If you plan on visiting Penguin Parade be sure to carry warm layers with you. Sitting directly on the sea front, you're so close to the water that you do get covered in spray and faced with a stiff sea breeze while you're asked to sit relatively still for a period of time so a not to disturb the penguins or the other viewers participating.
But the long wait is so very worth it. As the beach got darker (and colder, and damper!) something began to stir in the water. A solitary little penguin sauntered up the beach, shaking itself dry and having a quick preen. It then began its purposeful march up the hill towards one of the many nesting boxes up the steep cliffs, cheerfully screeching out to its mate who had wisely stayed at home.
One little penguin was thrilling. But then came more. The sea began to froth and out erupted penguins. They came in waves, starting with several at a time, and with their numbers steadily climbing. The penguins fell onto the beach, each less dignified than the last, and stomped off to their homes.
One particular little penguin caused us concern. He came out of the water and feel awkwardly onto his belly, laying there and yelling indignantly as he was stepped on by his fellow birds. We approached one of the rangers to ask if he was OK only to find out that the little fellow had eaten too many fish whilst out at sea that day and his tiny legs couldn't carry his weight until he had a chance to have a lay down!
The greedy penguin became our firm favourite and we decided to follow his progress back to his home. A number of wooden walkways allow you to walk with the little penguins as they squabble and screech their way back to their nest boxes, safely out of reach so that you can not disturb the creatures, but close enough to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
I was so mesmerised watching the penguins that I did not see the possum until it ran directly under my nose. Whilst penguins make a lot of noise, it is nothing compared to the noise a startled human can make!
Photography or filming at Penguin Parade is strictly forbidden and ruthlessly enforced by the Rangers. Camera lights can disorientate the penguins and hamper their journey safely home. Whilst it would be great to Instagram some photos of these funny little guys, it is not worth the potential harm- so enjoy them from a distance!
|Little Penguins at Penguin Parade - Photo Credit: Phillip Island Nature Park Photo Gallery|
Our plans did not allow an overnight stay at Phillip Island (we wanted to save a day to visit Puffing Billy) but I would love to hear from you if you stayed longer and got to spot the whales or the seals!