Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penguins on Parade

Click on the pictures to enlarge…
Is there really anything cuter than a penguin? Now toss in the smallest penguins and you have a cute factor times 10.  THEN, imagine a whole colony penguins, who, night after night after night, put on a show that never fails to draw a crowd.
Penguins on Parade @ Phillip Island, two hours from Melbourne.
I’ll get you there…let me share a couple things I got to see on the way to the Penguin Parade.  I love Victoria, no bones about it.  The license plates here say “Victoria, the Place to Be”  They mean it!
SO, I started the day hopping the Gray Line coach @ Federated Square.  Yes, I was one of those people who YOU look at as they pass through your city…and think to yourself “tourist”  It’s ok, I can handle it.
We stopped @ Churchill Island first.  It is a working farm.  Not quite sure the point…but I got a couple good pictures, and the view was pretty amazing.
You never mind seeing stuff like this.  They had a few animals:
Exciting stuff huh?  I think the butterfly made the stop worthwhile.  My mom loved them so whenever one is around, my sister and I say, “There’s Mom”  (I say “Hi Mom” when I am alone)
OK…off we go, and none too soon.  Here is where I found out my Seal Cruise is instead of the Koala Reserve.  Hmm  THAT is disappointing, but I had seen Koala’s already this trip, so let’s try something new.
FACT…STOP calling them Koala Bears …they are NOT bears and I guess it’s kind of a touchy subject.
OK…we are late getting to the site to meet the boat, where five of us disembark for the cruise. I get to the boat which it seems the other four have trouble finding (it’s at the end of the dock…ONLY boat there), but the other 50 people and myself wait while the others finally manage to get there.  One stopped for food.  She did not understand group travel and that it was not all about her (more on this later)
It was a one hour ride out to Seal Rocks.  After 20 minutes, it sort of became the voyage of the damned…the seasick bags looked like enlarge condoms with a plastic rim at the top.  Very smart design and Good Heaven did they get used.  YUCK. Thankfully I have an iron stomach in regards to most things concerned with motion. I also learned I am not a sympathy puker (too much info, I know)
Soon, we are rewarded….with thousands, and I mean thousands of seals.  NOT helping the situation…Seals smell.  Seals smell BAD.  It is an odor that transcends space.
IMG_2190This shows how choppy it was.
IMG_2215The lumpy brown things are all seals…
IMG_2210Male hanging out
the little ones cavort and YELL for mom to come home.
After about 20 minutes of picture taking and breathing through our mouths (it was the only way, I swear)…Off we went for a 25 minute, smooth as glass ride back to shore. This is what was there to great us at the dock:
IMG_2241A two hour voyage with sick people and all I had to do was wait at the dock?  The captain ran down with his trusty broom and shooed him back into the water…there was a crowd starting to form and this little person was VERY interested in the dogs up top.
OK…Farm done, Voyage of the Sick, done.  Off to penguins!  The highlight of the day.  Don’t get me wrong….the seals were awesome, but I came for this last part.
First we stopped at a visitor center where the rest of the crowd was waiting.  They got dinner and if you were very lucky…you could snap pics of some of the penguins who nested near there.
We had 25 minutes to eat and hopefully find a penguin. Back at the bus @ 7:30  How hard is that?  It’s not…so, I skipped eating b/c I saw a crowd gathering at a spot and I figured I would be rewarded.
On the way…
IMG_2246Wallabies!  TONS of them
IMG_2245This is where some of the penguins live..I can’t imagine where they get their lumber or how they manipulate a hammer …but tons of them have these houses…KIDDING…they are donated by scout groups. 
This is what I saw when I got to the bottom of the stairs
This sucker stayed UNDER the stairs so the only way to get the shot was to be ON the ground, under the fence and extending my arms.  A really tough shot…not the best, but I will take it.  
Time was up too quickly, so as I made my way back to the visitor center,I saw him again:IMG_2260IMG_2263
However, the lady who could not find the boat..decided she did not HAVE to be back…so we waited 20 minutes for her…I finally found her as the bus driver fussed.
This is when I became responsible for since she and I had the “skybox” upgrade to the Penguin Parade.  Great.
The driver stressed we HAD to be back at 10:15 or he was leaving…OK then
SO…here we are at the Penguin Parade.  Every night these little guys come out of the water thousands at a time.  26,000 of them are in one colony (there used to be 10 colonies on the island, which, has been completely taken back for them and all houses destroyed)
They come out of the water at the same place and take the same route home.  Can you imagine having that type of GPS? They then make their way up these huge hills, to their homes.  Some have ocean view, some live on the hills, and some near the parking lot…thus the need for THIS sign:
IMG_2271No hitchhiking penguins please.
Sadly, there are NO photos to be taken … or even videos so I suggest doing a good Google search…I’m sure there are videos posted.
We were in the skybox with the Rangers.  Every night the penguins get counted. There are two rangers that sit and literally count (so it was NOT advised to shout out random numbers in the skybox during this time)  The night before the first crowd exited the water at 9:09 and 1290 were counted.  Some of the penguins are banded…they don’t do this anymore, so these penguins are at least 9 years old…not bad for something that is 12 inches tall and weighs 2 pounds.
Off we went to another viewing area (Penguins Plus), to get a closer look at the march up the hills.  At first, I was amazed at how quiet they were…THEN, as the babies figured out the parents were coming home, the yelling starts…FEED ME!  The parent penguins will only feed their own.
The penguins can stay at sea for weeks, and there is nothing on land that sustains them…so the parents better come back.  They even drink sea water!
IMG_2273This is a real one that was stuffed…he is SO soft…this is the only picture I could take at the station.
EXCEPT…there was one baby whose family lives right by where our bus parked:
IMG_2274 Can you just see it there? SO round and so fuzzy.  I took it from the bus…
We got home well after midnight…On the way back the bus showed “Surf’s Up”  (about surfing penguins…it’s amazing what exhausted adults will watch)
All in all a terrific day..and yes, I got the lady back to the bus before it pulled out…and this time, she wasn’t even last!

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