AUSTRALIA DAY 8 – PHILLIP ISLAND

Since we had a long day yesterday, we had a chance to sleep in a little longer this morning. Our Phillip Island penguin tour starts at 10:40 am so we had time to grab breakfast before we headed out. I picked the Felt Restaurant which is located inside Hotel Lindrum. The restaurant was only a few minutes’ walk away. The food was delicious and the dishes were unique but unfortunately the wait was just unreasonably long. We waited almost 45 minutes for our food despite following up a few times. Even our drinks took 30 minutes! We ordered the Chorizo & ranchero baked eggs, Cured trout, Potato hash & Caviar, and Free Range Eggs on Toast. I think the restaurant is worth a try but go when you have some spare time.

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After lunch we headed to our pick-up point for the tour with Bunyip Tours. We were the first stop so the coach arrived promptly. We picked up a few more people along the way and headed to our first attraction, the Moonlit Sanctuary. Shortly after we arrived, we were served lunch in their cafeteria. There was potato salad, bread, sautéed onions and chicken and beef sausages. The beef sausage was horrible but the rest was not too bad.

After lunch, we were given free time to look around the sanctuary. This was one of my favourite zoo visits because there are lots of kangaroos and wallabies to feed! When we were at the other zoos, the animals did not even want to eat because there were so many people feeding them. Make sure you buy the seeds at the entrance because that is the only place where they sell them. Otherwise, you will have to walk all the way back to buy them which is what we had to do after realizing that the seeds will actually come in handy here! We had a great deal of fun feeding the kangaroos and wallabies as well as seeing the other Australian animals such as Tasmanian Devil and Dingoes up close.

Our second stop was the Churchill Island Heritage Farm. We were given some free time here to see various farming activities and do some shopping at the souvenir shop. While we were there, we got a chance to see the whip cracking, working dogs and sheep shearing demonstrations.

The highlight here was definitely the sheep shearing. Inside the wool shed, the farmer demonstrated how to shear a sheep in just minutes. At first, it was a little unbearable to watch as the farmer held down the sheep to shear it. However, the farmer did explain that if you do the shearing correctly, the sheep is completely unharmed. After the demonstration was over, we got a chance to see the sheep wool and the sheared sheep up close. The sheared sheep look so much smaller afterwards!

There is also a heritage house on site where you can walk around to see the preserved furniture in various rooms. Make sure you leave enough time in the souvenir shop because there is so much to see there! We were in such a rush but we still managed to buy some sheep oil lanolin cream and merino wool products. Merino wool is a high-quality wool that is sold mostly in New Zealand but also in Australia. It is known for its softness and ability to preserve warmth.

After the farm, we visited the Koala Conservation Center. Unlike the other zoos, koalas here are wild and are found in their natural habitat. There are only 30 koalas in the center and we made it a game to locate all of them.

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We managed to find 25 so we did a pretty good job! It was difficult to spot some of the koalas because the center is so big and the trees are very tall. Our necks were sore by the end of the visit from looking up the whole time! There is also a gift shop and small cafeteria here as well. We grabbed a light snack before we headed to our next stop.

We still had some spare time before we headed over to the penguin parade so our tour guide took us to this nice beach on the island. The weather was gorgeous and we spent some time playing in the water.

Our tour guide then took us to the Nobbies Ocean Discovery Center for us to grab some dinner and look for seals. We had no luck with either unfortunately! The Center was about to close so they stopped serving food and the weather was getting bad so I guess all the seals went hiding! It was still nice for us to be able to see the penguins’ homes (i.e. boxes built by the park rangers) up close. We even got to see ONE penguin hiding away!

Finally, we arrived at the Penguin Parade which was what we have been looking forward to the whole day! Everyone got distributed their respective passes and we got our fancy VIP tour lanyards!

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We were behind schedule when we arrived and the presentation from the park ranger had already begun! Since we did not have dinner yet, we quickly grabbed some food at the cafeteria and went to join them upstairs. The dinner was surprisingly good here! We ordered the beef burger, salmon with pesto sauce and roast beef. Even though we had to wolf down the dinner in 15 minutes before we headed out to see the penguins, we still enjoyed the food!

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Our park ranger gave a 15-minute presentation to explain their preservation project on the island and what happens during the penguin parade. No pictures are allowed once you are outside as it may harm the eyesight of the penguins. However, there were two stuffed penguins in the room which we were allowed to touch and photograph. The penguin fur was surprisingly soft!

After the presentation, our park ranger took us outside to their skybox where we got to see the penguins come onshore with our own binoculars. It was raining really badly at this point so I was really glad we had picked the VIP option which allowed us to see the parade in a warm and dry place while everyone else had to sit outside in the bleachers in the rain! There are four viewing options, two which are uncovered and two which are covered. Prices are more expensive for the covered options. Other than the advantage of staying dry, there are less people in the VIP tour so you do not have to worry about your view being blocked by the people in front of you. The crowd is substantial once the sun sets! It was also nice that we could hear the park rangers call in to the tower with their counts of penguins that they see which had come onto shore. The park rangers do a count every night after sunset to determine how many penguins return to their homes.

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The reason why the penguins return home after the sun sets is because they are afraid of being eaten by their predators when they come on shore. The mother will bring back food for her babies by carrying it in their mouths. Despite the fact that many penguin babies are crying for their mothers at the same time, each penguin is able to differentiate between the calling of their baby so they know their way home. The mother penguins are exhausted after they come onshore from the swim so often times they will stand and rest for a bit before they make their way back home.

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At first, there were not too many penguins coming on shore. However, after about 20 minutes or so, many of them were coming on shore in groups. It was really neat to see such a large group of wild penguins up close! The Little Penguins are so adorable as they are small in size and they are clumsy, sometimes tripping over each other or running into things! Even though we were soaked by this point, we were having so much fun that we did not mind the rain. Once we saw that most penguins have already returned to their homes, we went inside to dry off and look at the souvenir shop. My aunt really wanted to do the souvenir photos so we lined up for that. The photo turned out really nice so I am glad we did do it. There were lots to see in the souvenir shop but unfortunately, we were tight on time. We bought a few items and went back to our bus for our ride home. We were the last ones to leave as all the other tour groups have left already!

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The ride home was about 3 hours so it was very late when we got back to our hotel. I really applaud our tour guide as he drove nonstop for 3 hours in the pouring rain after a very long day! He brought us home safely though! I highly recommend joining a tour to visit the island as it is too much work to go on your own. We had an amazing and unforgettable time in Phillips Island! It was one of my favourite experiences on this trip. The Little Penguin species was almost extinct in the 1980s and thanks to the hard work of the Phillip Island Nature Parks, a non- for-profit organization, the numbers are now stable. The foxes on the Island were previously killing the penguins so once the Island became fox free, the Little Penguins were able to grow in numbers!

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