Australia - Phillip Island

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
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Monday, May 29, 2006

Day 1

Up and away from the campsite by 9am we began our journey out of Melbourne. The rush hour traffic slowing us down such that it took an hour to clear the city but once we were on the freeway it was a clear run all the way to Phillip Island.

At the point where the bridge crosses from the Australian mainland to Phillip Island there is a daily event which attracts hundereds of visitors every day; we decided to be two of those hundreds today, to watch an enormous flock of Pelicans get their feed.

Each day a generous fisherman comes down to the waters edge and offloads a bucket of fish. The pelicans swarm around for this ritual and crowd the man as he throws the fish skywards - they never reach the ground! It was really comical to see some of their actions as they dived for the flying fish, desperate to beat the other birds around them to their prize. (PICS)



No sooner did the pelicans appear than they were gone again, not to return until the following day at 11am for their next free lunch.

Crossing the bridge to Phillip Island we called at the campsite and booked our place for the night before heading towards the tourist information centre. We already knew the few things that we wanted to do at Phillip Island, namely to see the Koalas, a few of the natural landmarks, and above all the Little Penguins! The tickets to see the Koalas and Penguins were available from the info centre ($17 Penguins, $9 Koalas) so we popped in and picked up a map of the island to help us on our way.

The island is actually pretty small, it can be driven around in about an hour if you dont stop to look at anything - but whats the point in that?! Our first stop was along the coastal road, at a place called Pyramid Rocks. There isn't really anything to do there, apart from look at the rocks from which the place obviously gets its name (PIC), so after a couple of photographs we were back on the road.

The next point of interest was Nobbies Point, in the south west corner of the island. This is a beautiful area of rocky outcrops, vicious sea and lush greenery (PICS) and features a small island called Seal Rocks which acts as home to a huge colony of seals....apparently! It seems that they were all out hunting because we didn't see a single one. Nevertheless the scenery around this point was truly stunning.



Driving up to the north of the island we visited the main town of Cowes, which is actually just a small selection of shops and eateries along a side street. We stayed long enough to buy some hats and gloves (in anticipation of the night we would spend watching penguins) before continuing to the Koala Santuary in the centre of the island.

The Koala Sanctuary on Phillip Island is a sprawling forest of Eucalyptus trees which are sectioned into a couple of conservation areas and a free-roaming area around it. The koalas within the park are being looked after in order to maintain their status on the island. There are only thought to be between 60 and 100 koalas on the island so we were very lucky to see 10 of them during our time at the centre. They are really tricky to spot as they blend into the trees and generally hide high up in the tree canopy (PICS). We were also lucky in that most of the ones we saw were awake, albeit not moving very much, and the one image of a yawning koala has to be the cutest of the bunch! (PIC). Saying that, the one of Verdi with possibly the worlds biggest koala must come pretty close. (PIC)



Managing to drag ourselves away from the furry little creatures we returned to the south west corner of the island, to see some more furry little creatures at the Penguin Parade.

The Penguin Parade is by far the main attraction on Phillp Island, drawing in over 1000 visitors a night in the winter and up to 4000 a night in the summer. The complex is positioned on a hill next to the beach where each evening, just after sunset, thousands of Little Penguins come in from hunting at sea to their nests in the hill to rest and feed their young.

The Penguin Parade is organised to allow visitors to view these tiny birds without disrupting their nightly ritual or causing them distress in the process. Photographs are not allowed as the flash panics the penguins and visitors have to remain in designated areas so that they do not contact the penguins.

At around 7pm, having been sat outside on a freezing concrete viewing platform for about an hour, we caught our first glimpse of a penguin. At first you just see a few white flecks in the break of the waves, then suddenly a group of about 50-100 flecks appear in the same area. Slowly the flecks grow larger as the penguins emerge out of the water and gradually make their way up the beach. Retisantly they edge nearer to the lit area of beach, huddling into a small group before one penguin decides to make a break for it. No sooner does one go then they all race off towards the foliage in the hills - its a hilarious sight to see hundreds of tiny penguins all bent over and waddle-sprinting for cover!

The penguins then begin to climb the huge hill to their nests, some of which are right at the top of the hill, unbelievably far for their little legs to take them. It can take almost an hour for some of the penguins to get home. They will then descend the hill the following day and repeat the process over and over again.

At the top of the hill we were able to take a few photos of some penguins who were living in burrows underneath the main building, they looked adorable huddled up together like an old married couple (PICS).



When most of the penguins had disappeared into their homes we departed back to our home for the night - Gizmo. Driving back to the campsite we reflected on the collection of cute animals we had seen during the day and hoped we wouldn't see any more in our headlights as we trundled along one of the only roads on the island.
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