Yesterday morning I began my journey from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Phillip Island, home of the fairy (or little) penguins. A fitting spot to celebrate World Penguin Day, I’d say.
The first stop on the map was Maru Koala and Wildlife Park. There I was able to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s native wildlife, including: koalas, wallabies, dingoes, kookaburras, emus, and, you guessed it, kangaroos! Nothing can quite describe the funny sensation of a wallaby or kangaroo licking bits of dried food out of your palm, while their tiny paws (and rather large claws) grasp your hand or wrist.
On our way to Pyramid Rock, we stopped for a quick stroll at Woolamai Beach. This particular beach is famous as a surfer’s paradise. Considering the dreary weather, the waves were quite large and I can see how it has withstood its name. Once at our intended overlook, I walked to the end of the bridge to peer out at a pyramid-shaped rock, Pyramid Rock (clever name, eh?). Had the weather been more enjoyable–less wind, more sun–I would have gladly spent longer trolling around the cliffside, exploring the area, but onto the next we went…
The little penguin colony of Phillip Island is the last and largest penguin colony on the island. Due to this fact, researchers have taken many measures to protect and conserve the population and its habitat. One way is by implementing weighing stations. When the little penguins return from hunting at sea, they waddle their way up the cliffside via a maze of well-engraved pathways. Researchers have implanted a man-made barrier to funnel the penguins into a single-file line as they cross over a solar-powered scale. This data has been collected over the past 30 to 40 years and is used to monitor the sustainability of the colony.
Finally at the Penguin Parade visitor centre, the other viewers and I worked our way to the viewing theater positioned on the beach. Seated quietly, holding our breath, listening for the calls of the little penguins, we waited. At 6:00 PM, after the sun had set, the first rookery arrived at the beach. From the water, they waddled across the sand and up the cliffside to their burrows. Standing at only 33 cm (1.08 ft) and 1 kg (2.2 lbs), they are in fact the littlest penguins–and the cutest, if I might add. The viewing only lasts for an hour, as the rangers turn off the lights and allow the penguins to return to their burrows undisturbed.