Penguins and koalas at Phillip Island   (04/27/04)

Last updated 05/06/04                                                                                                                               

Phillip Island, an island indeed (but connected to the mainland by a bridge and easily reached by car from Melbourne in 3 hours), is famed for its nightly parade on the beach with a cast of thousands that takes place every evening at sunset, regardless of the weather and national holidays. The adorable performers are, of course, the little penguins! That's their actual scientific name, and a very suitable one, as the cuties are only a foot tall. Contrary to the common misconception, penguins do not live in the north; instead, they inhabit Antarctic waters at the South Pole (those penguines are much larger and possess a thick fat layer under the skin for keeping themselves warm) and appear on South African and Australian shores. Our new friends, the little penguins, swim in the sea all day long looking for fish to eat, and return to their burrows right off the beach every night at sunset, at which time crowds of tourists can gaze at this amazing spectacle. Penguins come out of the water one by one or in small groups, gather in the surf, get knocked off their feet a dozen times by the coming waves, wait until all in their party have arrived (usually about 10 members), take a few false starts at walking out of the water and turning back, and finally march up the shore, single-file, walk up the grassy incline and disperse to their individual burrows. This act is repeated by penguin groups here and there on the beach until hundreds and even thousands of birds have returned home for the night. It's really a pity that photography is not permitted (flash hurts penguins' eyes and can completely disorient them), and words cannot do justice to this marvellous sight.

We do have pictures of other wildlife from the island to share with our faithful audience. We visited a koala sanctuary, where photography is allowed and koala sightings are very easily managed, since the animals barely ever move from one tree to another, and the keepers can post signs like "Baby koala here" and "This is our oldest koala" right in front of the trees where you are certain to spot the koalas in question. These creatures certainly rival the little penguins on the cuteness scale -- see for youself! We saw a kangaroo on the road, too, but didn't reach for the camera in time. Our visit to the Seal Rocks (well, not to the rocks themselves, they are out in the ocean and closed to visitors as a nature preserve, but you can see them from the shore) did not yield a single seal sighting, alas. Even looking through binoculars for $2 a glance didn't reveal any seals whatsoever. Nevertheless, the rocks with their crashing surf were spectacular!


Seal Rocks, bare of seals                All of us are kids at heart                The impressive surf that beats against seal rocks             The Aussies can be pretty blunt   

Above: The only sea-like pictures we managed to take on Phillip Island. As mentioned before, they don't let you take any pictures of the penguins.
Below: Some pictures from the koala sanctuary -- basically all the koalas that we could possibly cram into one webpage. By the way, aren't they soooo cuute?

The biggest koala we saw that day                Find the koala in the tree                Spot the koala behind Daria                A nice koala closeup

A baby koala                Very, very cute                Ok, no koalas here... just Puneet                A nice view of the koala habitat