23rd June 2013 - Road trip to Phillip Island
Today we drove to a small island south of Melbourne. Despite being Winter here in the Southern hemisphere, it was a beautiful sunny day and we experienced lovely picturesque views. All the beaches we stopped at were surprisingly full of surfers, braving the cold waters on a cloudless day. But it was not the sun, or the beaches we came here to see. There is one big attraction that brings hundreds of visitors to Phillip Island each day - and we have to wait until the sun goes down.
At dusk every single day, hundreds of little penguins come ashore to rest and breed. [*Side note: that is the actual name of the type of penguin, 'little penguin.' I was told recently that they used to be called fairy penguins, but their name was changed in case it offended homosexuals....how they could be offended by a tiny penguin I don't know.] The famous 'penguin parade' is an amazing sight, as the creatures suddenly appear from the sea and start the journey across the beach. The large groups of human spectators are elevated on wooden platforms, so the penguins can waddle underneath and beside us. They are the smallest species of penguin, but I wasn't prepared for just how small they were. When they first appeared on the edge of the ocean, and I pointed them out excitedly to a friend, he literally couldn't see them! They were no bigger than a normal small bird, like a crow or a blackbird - sooooo cute. And they make the strangest noises, as they waddle up the hill trying to find their burrows. It was an incredible sight, even sitting on the beach and watching the sunset, then a full moon reign over the sea was money well spent; then watching the parade of penguins descend upon us was pretty magical. Some of them were literally within touching distance. Unfortunately (and annoyingly) photographs were prohibited, but Rik managed to get a sneaky few with no flash before getting told off.
Here is one: