We booked into a day tour with AAT Kings at the recommendation of our hotel concierge. The pickup was at 12 20, outside our hotel, and our day tour with a tea thrown in cost 135 AUD. It is slightly pricier than the regular one, because we opted for the Penguin Plus (more on that later). They also have a counter at the Museum of Moving Image, and offer a pickup there at 13 00. It is somewhat on the pricey side of things, and people who signed up for it tended to be older (like over 60), and does not include dinner. If you are thinking of cutting cost, if you can get a car at a good rental rate, you’d save money, even if you were just going solo, as the cheapest adult ticket for viewing penguins goes at 22 AUD.
Having said that, the trip is still worthwhile, as it is hassle-free. We got to survey quite a lot of animals unique to Australia (or this part of the world), and our knowledgeable guide, Carrie, certainly enhanced our experience.
First, along the way to Phillip Island (~2 hr self-drive), we stopped at one of the farms along the way, which have started domestic animal tourism, e.g. cow milking for children. The particular farm we stopped at has kangaroos, ostriches, llamas, peacocks, and wombats, in addition to other animals you’d normally expect at a farm, i.e. horses and cows. For someone like me who grew up in the city, and have not seen many animals since my last trip to the zoo, this was really quite a treat.
Our second stop was the Koala Conservation Center. This was my second time seeing koalas, as we went to one, when my mum brought us to Australia some 16 years ago. It is actually kinda nice to see these teddy-like animals, and it’s also nice to see that the rangers were there to prevent overly zealous tourists from disturbing them. I did certainly get some inspiration about sleeping positions in trees, considering their penchant for sleep! On a side note, if you don’t want to blow too much money on these visits, be sure to bring your own beverages and snacks, as a candy bar will set you back by 3.20 AUD, though I guess the money goes back to research for the animals.
As the penguins were not due to come in in the next few hours, our next stop was dinner. Our guide brought us to the largest town in Phillip Island – Cowes – so we could have more options, and less lines (there’s only one cafe at the penguin parade). Good choice. Cowes is like a seaside town, and on the main street leading to West Port Bay, there are plenty of dining options. Some are pricier than others, (~20 AUD per entree), but we ended up at a fish shack, and got some good fish and chips for 10 AUD.
Finally, the highlight of the trip – the little penguins. Phillip Island is home to the world’s smallest penguins, and around 30,000 of these penguins live on Phillip Island. The Penguin Parade is located at Summerland Beach, where at its peak (summer), around 2,000 penguins return from their day’s adventures to rest. On average, these penguins are about 33 cm tall, and weigh about 1 kg. The penguins only return after sunset, as they want to avoid their predators – the birds which circle the area. Apart from the cover of darkness, they also find strength in numbers. Despite being solo hunters at sea, they return to their homes after dusk in groups, as it makes them less vulnerable than going solo. It is really quite a sight to see groups some 30 over penguins waddle in, wave after wave. You can either do this through the general admission grand stand (first come first served), or at the Penguin Plus, which is a stand built at a separate area, where more penguins make their journey to their homes. It is not necessary to pay the extra, as the closest view you’ll get of the penguins is on the boardwalks which lead to the grandstands. No photos, though, as photography is strictly prohibited (didn’t stop some asses who think their pictures are more important than vulnerable wildlife).
Tip: Rumour has it that if you send a postcard from the penguin parade, they’ll use a unique penguin chop. Do try mailing a postcard to yourself! They sell stamps at the souvenir shops there.
West Port Bay
Town of Cowes
Scanned in a postcard for people who want to see the penguins