Our second day in Melbourne was actually spent outside of Melbourne on a group day-tour. I’m a little skeptical about group tours, but, not having a car, it was the easiest way to get outside of the city and see what else the area had to offer. The tour started with a stop at Moonlit Sanctuary, home to a lot of Aussie wildlife, including kangaroos and wallabies that have free range of the place. The ultimate highlight of the stop, for me, was when I cuddled with a koala bear. Sure, I paid $12 to be allowed into the pen where Louie the koala was chilling, but I got to pet a freaking koala!! It was awesome. Louie and I are best buds now; we even took a selfie together.
After the excitement of the koala encounter, we got some wallaby/kangaroo feed and set out to find some hungry animals. The kangaroos were highly disinterested in us except for one momma ‘roo with a joey in her pouch who hopped right up to us. She didn’t stay long as these large evil geese came to steal the food and chased her away. The wallabies, however, were very hungry and very eager to eat our food. I feed a lot of wallabies, which was awesome. They’re so cute, despite their very pointy claws. Derrick and I took turns feeding them for a bit, until too many ducks, geese, and other avian pests crashed the party. As part of our tour, we had lunch in the visitor center at the sanctuary, then we hit the road again and drove to Phillip Island.
Phillip Island has an extensive and interesting history, which I won’t go into, but among the things to see now on the island is the Koala Conservation Center. After cuddling with a koala, the tree-lined boardwalks where several koalas were sleeping were not quite as impressive, but still cool. Off the back of one of the boardwalks was a large pond/water/marsh thing and we saw a black swan and some cygnets which were fluffy and cute.
After the KCC, we went to Churchill Island. The island is a lot of farmland and there were a lot of sheep along the drive into the main part of the tourist attraction. The sheep were cool, but what was more awesome were the hielan’ coos! (highland cows for you non-Hibernophiles out there…btw there doesn’t seem to be a real term like “anglophile” for a person who loves all things Scotland, but Hibernophile is one of the suggested terms, which I liked best) I love hielan coos…look how shaggy and adorable they are…
The island was beautiful; lots of green rolling hills surrounded by the ocean. We got to see a sheepdog working demonstration, had afternoon tea and biscuits, and watched a whip demonstration. Yes, a whip demonstration. I guess it’s important to be able to crack the whip (literally) when driving cattle and there are proper ways of doing it.There was a random peacock running around the farm as well. We had fun just walking around, although it was pretty windy and chilly up there, so after a while it was nice to get back to the comfort of the bus.
Side story: We had a tour bus/van thing. I’m not really sure what it was, but it wouldn’t have held more than 20ish passengers just to put the size of it in perspective for you. Anyway, it has been pretty rainy lately and our driver parked on the gravel, but had the right side tires in the grass. When we went to leave, we realized that we were actually stuck because the ground was so wet and muddy that we couldn’t get out of the grass. So all the men tried to help push the thing as the driver hit the gas, but it was to no avail. Finally we got one of the staff with a large pickup truck to tow us out of there. Quite the excitement for what should have been a very ordinary task.
Once we were free of the mud, we were on our way to the Nobbies (named because of the large rock nobs in the water). It was awesome. I’ll just use a picture to describe:
Finally, after the Nobbies, we headed to the Penguin Parade. The little penguins are what originally brought us on this whole excursion because I really wanted to see them (they don’t let you take pictures because a camera flash could temporarily blind the penguins, so you’ll have to check out the phillip island/penguin parade website if you want to see these cuties). At 33 cm tall, these little penguins are the smallest kind of penguin in the world. They live exclusively in Australia and New Zealand and they make burrows on the land. For some reason, for decades, the little penguins have made Phillip Island their home. Every night, the penguins who have been out at sea (they might stay 2 or 3 days to eat their fill) come to shore shortly after the sun sets (so that other birds can’t see them/eat them) and waddle off to their burrows. So the good people at Phillip Island have constructed some wooden boardwalks and stadium-type seating along the beach so people can come and watch the phenomenon. Oh. My. Goodness. I was squealing with delight when the penguins started coming on the beach. I couldn’t help myself…they were just too adorable. Where we were sitting (we paid for the Penguin Plus experience so we supposedly had seating in an area where more penguins typically come up) we probably saw between 200 and 300 little penguins. And that’s just in the 45 minutes we sat out there. The ranger there said that they continue coming up on shore all through the night until the sun rise. They also said Phillip Island is home to over 30,000 little penguins, so I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising that we saw so many, but I was still quite impressed with the number of penguins we got to see. After all the penguin excitement, we had a 2 hr ride back into the city, but it was well worth the trip.