Sunday, February 12, 2006
Yes, indeedie – right here in Australia! You don’t have to go all the way down to the Antarctic to see the little cuties – plus here in Oz you get to see “little penguins” (how original eh? Yet another display of Aussie language dumbing things down to the lowest possible denominator: bird flu (not avian flu), Poppy day (when you wear poppies…we in the land of the Canuck call it Remembrance Day) but the good news is they are indeed little – standing at only about 20cm in full height.
So here’s the drill – you drive down to Phillip Island which is located about 1.5 hours south of Melbourne, purchase a $17 dollar ticket from the tourist center and gather down on a concrete amphitheatre and wait until the sunsets. Just after the sun goes down, the penguins congregate about 400m off shore where they form “rafts” of penguins and come into shore together. Once on the shore (soliciting many ooohs and aaaaahs from the onlookers), they gather together in groups anywhere from about 5 to as many as 20 to make the dash across the sandy part of the beach (probably about 30m in length). Watching them waddle across the sand (the ones with the big bellies getting left behind!) is adorable, but it must be rather energy draining for the little things. They do indeed walk like penguins (which is convenient as a whole type of walking has been named after them!) and every so often, they decided part of the way to the shelter of the bush that they are in danger. When this occurs the little things scamper back to the water’s edge at about five times the speed they had originally been moving and wait (presumably to recover) until the coast is clear. Much in the same way, once they have made it to the safety of the bush, you can see clusters of penguins recovering before the longer, but safer journey to their burrows (yes, they live in little holes under the ground – weird eh?). A steady stream of penguins roll up on the beach for most of an hour and while I am unsure of exactly how many we saw come out – apparently the evening prior 511 penguins hit the beach. The “Penguin Parade” was definitely worth our expenditure – plus the area down on Phillip Island is absolutely gorgeous – which is good as it provided some photographic targets, as we weren’t allowed to take pics of the penguins (the flashes scare them!)
So I figure that’s our last tourist stop here in Oz – which is kinda scary, but I’m starting to get ready for the World Cup as we head out to Geelong in a week – and start racing in 8 days!!! That having been said, once at the tourist destination, I remembered what drove me nuts about seeing those types of attractions. First off, it’s the Chinese New Year – so needless to say, it was rather busy…and like all good mobs – the people at the attraction felt that the rules were beyond them. They weren’t tricky rules, but sometimes “be quiet and sit down” although it seems to work on kindergarten kids, is a little lost on adults…I tell ya! :P Definitely a must see though – gotta love the penguins!