Miss my dinner for ‘Little Penguins’.
The thought was about as ludicrous as it could get. I’m no cynic. I’m just sensible about what I do with my time, and at this particular moment, I was hungry. But miss my dinner I did, and the fact that I didn’t regret it means it must have been a big deal. The next hour was exhilarating in a crazy sort of way.
With my good guide, Tony Poletto by my side, we were seated at our vantage point at the corner of Summerland Beach, wedged in between some 100-odd tourists. All eyes were on the waves that lapped the shore gently. During the course of the next hour, some 900 little penguins emerged from the ocean’s depths, traversed the beach sand and filed past us almost in single file, creating an incredible scenario.
The first group was small — just four or five. So were the next two. But then they started to emerge in greater numbers. There were advance parties, with a leader walking ahead. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks, and as if by remote control, they all stopped. Three long minutes later, he started off again, and the procession started again. They all passed by within four feet of us, completely oblivious to our presence.
“You see, that’s why they call it the Phillip Island Penguin Parade,” the incredibly perceptive Tony told me. “It’s world-famous, you know, and Phillip Island Nature Park’s star attraction,” the good man added.
On the way up, I’d noticed a sign with the figure 832, which was the number of little penguins spotted the previous night. “We didn’t do too badly, did we,” Tony told me as we left. “By the way, over 500,000 annual visitors come here, making the Penguin Parade, Australia’s third largest visited natural attraction.” I was duly impressed. The show was over, and we trudged off the beach.
The penguins apart, there’s plenty going around the island. Surrounded by some of Victoria’s and indeed Australia’s best surf beaches, and with four townships, Phillip Island is a superb coastal gateway.