The Phillip Island ticket we bought for the Penguin Parade gave us access to the Koala Conservation Centre within 6 months of purchase. We ate a yummy breakfast at Bean’d Eatery in San Remo and then drove across the bridge and to the middle of the island where a grove of gum trees is home to koalas both inside and outside of a sanctuary.
The sanctuary has older, larger koalas sleeping the day away in eucalyptus trees along a raised boardwalk. This allows you to see them a few yards away, and yet give them the respectful distance that a wild animal deserves. The centre is different than a traditional zoo because the design feels more like it is about containing the human visitors than containing the koalas.
All day there was interpretive signage that communicated the threat to many of Australia’s iconic animals. The main extinction threat appears to be loss of habitat. And then, perhaps to limit overpopulation, some koalas have chlamydia, and some Tasmanian Devils develop cancer of the jaw, and so on.
I saw koalas in several more locations and each time the koala was chilling in a tree. Sadly when there is a bush fire of gum trees, it often consumes koalas who do not move fast enough away from an oncoming fire.
The koala looks so soft and cuddly and yet these nocturnal creatures are not. The males especially can make a racket at night.
Today (and by this I mean the full 24 hour period known as January 20 in Australia and the United States) is Penguin Awareness Day. The timing of my trip was planned to coincide with the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. My stop in Melbourne was motivated in large part by the Penguin Parade experience on Phillip Island.
I was fortunate that my friend Sandy had some time off from work and enthusiastically purchased tickets ($24 AU for just penguins; $47.20 AU per adult for package that includes the Koala Experience and other activities on the island). Her sister Colleen and husband Pete own the San Remo Hotel and Bar, referred to as the pub. Her gracious sister provided us dinner at the pub and let us sleep over at her house. This was hugely helpful because the penguins do not waddle home until dusk and in summer (January) this is around 9:15 p.m. A delicious dinner in San Remo is also convenient if you are traveling on your own.
The Penguin Parade was very well organized and staffed. As a result, while we could not see the penguins up close when they landed on the beach, we could see them very up close as they waddled up the hill to their nests. We witnessed more than one penguin being mobbed by his/her young with them competing to receive regurgitated fish. Everything was designed to minimize disturbance to the Little Blue Penguins while still providing a terrific experience to about 500 people. They call them Fairy Penguins or Little Penguins in Australia, but they are the same delightful type of penguin I have observed in New Zealand.
If you are in Melbourne and you need someone to organize transportation and tickets, then I highly recommend Melbourne Coastal Tours. Especially if you cannot stay locally to Phillip Island–best to let someone else drive you back to the city at night.
There are no pictures allowed at the Penguin Parade because the flash would scare the penguins. So instead, check out this “burrow camera” from the Phillip Island Nature Parks. http://www.penguins.org.au/attractions/penguin-parade/penguin-burrow-camera/