Phillip Island is a small island and nature reserve off the coast of South Australia, about 140 km from Melbourne. On the island you can see koalas, kangaroos and the main to attraction, the Penguin Parade on Summerland Beach.
Every day at sunset, the Little Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins) because of their diminitive size, return to the beach. As my husband is a penguin fanatic, it was one of the places on our list to visit during our trip to Australia.
There is a visitor centre at the top of the beach with details of all the world's penguins, there is a gift shop too and rangers who can answer questions about everything you wanted to know about penguins and more.
As dusk was approaching, we made our way down to the beach, as did everyone else. On the beach was a stone grandstand, rather cold on the behind, so bring a coat or blanket to sit on.
Some people had even brought along a picnic, a family day out. As it got darker, people became more subuded and talked less, keeping an eye out on the beach to see the arrival of that first penguin.
Suddenly there was movement at the edge of the surf and all heads turned as one. There, standing by the edge of the water was the smallest penguin we had ever seen. He looked left, then right, as if he was contemplating crossing a busy road and then he ran quickly across to the sand dunes and the penguin burrows.
He must have been the scout, because after him, there came groups of penguins, some consisted of two or three penguins, some had about ten or fifteen, but they all made that same mad dash across the sand into the burrows, as if they couldn't get there fast enough.
The crowd of penguin watchers was quiet, except for the occasional, "ooh" and "ahhs" from adults as well as children. The groups started to dwindle and finally no more penguins emerged from the sea.
We sat on the grandstand for a while, not talking, just feeling awed at what we'd just seen. Neither of has had ever seen penguins in the wild before, only in zoos and it was an amazing feeling.
You could see the penguins here every evening and morning, but they weren't in cages or in small pools, the sea was their playground and it is a sight we would definitely recommend to anyone.
There were two floodlights by the grandstand, which didn't seem to bother the penguins, but you weren't allowed to take flash photographs as it scared them. Of course, there were some people who didn't listen to the ranger and they were told off and escorted off the beach, so do listen to what they say.
After the penguins had gone to their burrows, you could walk along boardwalks and see them there. They make a lot of noise for all the size of them!
It wasn't available while we were there, but now there is the option to have breakfast at sunrise, just before the penguins make their way back to the sea. That's got to be worth a look.
So if you are venturing down under, make a small detour to Phillip Island and Summerland Beach. You won't regret it.
About The Author
Annette Gisby is the author of the novels, Silent Screams and Drowning Rapunzel and the short story collection, Shadows of the Rose. She loves travelling and seeing new places, despite getting travel sick!
For more information on Annette and her books, please visit her website http://www.annettegisby.n3.net
Article copyright 2004, Annette Gisby.