Day 52 PART 2 of 138. 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Phillip Island, Australia.
We had a really long day today, and I’ve still got to edit my photos, so today’s blog will be written tomorrow, but I will do a supplementary blog from yesterday.
Oh what a night! WOW! I love penguins and last night was one of those life experiences that I will never forget!
Viking had never before gone to Phillip Island in Australia with any of their other cruise ships, so our experience to go at night, via tenders, to see the penguins was a first. The logistics were crazy to try and get so many people over to the Penguin Viewing Centre. There were 4 tender times and our tender was the third one which was scheduled for 6:30pm. The downside of being on the third of four tenders meant that we would be the second last tender to return to the ship, so it was going to be a very late night
We were definitely bundled up on the tender as we were heading to Phillip Island.
Heading to Phillip Island, Australia in the tender. Despite it looking pretty rough, the ride was actually pretty smooth.
That pier is where we were headed.
The tender boat dropped us off at the short pier and we walked down the boardwalk to our waiting buses. The tender ride in the daylight was only about 12 minutes.
After about a 20 minute drive on a bus across Phillip Island seeing cattle, kangaroos and lots of different kids of birds, we arrived at the Penguin Parade Visitor’s Centre. I thought I had taken a photo of the very modern Visitor’s Centre, but I did not, so here is one from the internet.
We had been told that there would be washrooms and a gift shop at the Penguin Parade Visitor’s Centre, but never did we think it would be such a modern, comfortable facility!
I went right away to the gift shop to see what they had for sale. The thing that struck me first was they were selling a lot of fleece blankets in different weights. Hmmmm…I guess it was going to be cold waiting to see the little penguins! I had been looking for a merino wool hat the day before in Hobart, Tasmania at the Saturday market, but nothing had really struck my fancy. But guess what? I found a hat! And some gloves too!
The hat and gloves were both in warm merino wool from New Zealand! And they are cute too!
There were penguin t-shirts, penguin sweatshirts, penguin mugs, penguin fridge magnets and one of my favourites:
Penguin knock off lego! I didn’t buy it, but it was nice to look around before we decided it was time to go out to the Viewing Centre.
All along the boardwalk we could see little penguin burrows in the hillsides.
It was quite a long walk to the penguin viewing centre at the beach.
But there were very interesting things to see on the way to the Viewing Centre!
A wallaby! I initially thought I was looking at a kangaroo but I was told that this little guy was a wallaby because he was much smaller than a kangaroo! I was fascinated to be this close to a wallaby, and then he hopped away and it was neat to see him go.
As we got closer to the viewing stands I started watching some of the penguin burrows, and next thing I saw was movement from one of the burrows. Then, one of the little baby penguins decides to stick his head out and look around! Oh my goodness! How cute!
Such a cute little penguin!
We arrived at the Viewing Platform to see that Mike and Sharon had saved us some seats at the back of the platform, so we sat with them and chatted while we waited.
And we waited, and waited. The penguin parade up the beach from the water occurs at dusk so since it was only 8:15pm, we had about 45 minutes to wait before we saw any evidence of penguins. The guide in front of our viewing platform gave a speech about what was going to happen so that we could understand what we were about to see. And then we waited until it got dark.
Next thing we knew we could see in the distance some little penguins making their way from the water to the beach. A bird would fly over (a predator) and the penguins would all roll back into the water. Penguins believe in the concept of safety in numbers, so as soon as a few of the little penguins would start to move, a few more would join them from the water. We were not allowed to take any photos of the penguins after dark, because if we took flash photographs, it would scare the little penguins and they would head back to the ocean, instead of going to their burrows to feed their young.
I found these photos on the internet and I’m not sure who took them, but it helps to understand what we were seeing last night at the Penguin Parade.
Safety in numbers as the penguins parade up the beach at dusk.
Heading for their burrows.
We ended up staying to watch quite a few little penguins waddle up the hillsides to their burrows. An interesting fact about penguins is that they are called a ‘raft’ of penguins when they are in the water together, but they are a ‘waddle’ of penguins when they are on land. We’ll probably get asked this in Trivia one day, so its best I commit it to memory now!
The little penguins we were seeing really are called the ‘Little Penguin’ species! They are the smallest of all 18 species of penguins. They rise up one to two hours before the sun rises to head to the ocean to try and avoid all of their predators. Phillip Island has an estimated 32,000 adult penguins in the colony. Little Penguins are the only blue and white penguins which helps them camouflage with the ocean, which helps them to avoid predators. Little penguins can spend up to 4 weeks out at sea and will have several sleep cycles a day during this time. They will float on the surface ocean for approximately four minutes during each rest period. Little Penguins average 2.2 pounds but when they are moulting they eat a lot and double their weight so they can last 17 days on land to shed their coats, without eating. Apparently they get really itchy and grumpy when they are moulting!
We saw quite a few little penguins running around and chasing each other. The little noises they made to each other were very cute. They are very social before they head to their burrows to sleep, standing around and chatting with each other, preening each other and some were even chasing each other. It was all quite fascinating to watch up close!
Finally we had to say goodnight to the penguins because the special lights that the sanctuary had on the burrows were going to be turned off. We headed back to the Visitors Centre to wait for our 10:30pm scheduled departure on our bus. When we got back to our bus we were told that we didn’t have to get on our assigned bus, but we could just hop on any available bus. We drove the 20 minutes in the dark back to the pier and waited on our bus until we were called to get on the tender boats. The Viking beverage crew came on the bus with mulled wine and hot rooibos tea for us while we waited. What a nice touch to try and warm us up after a very cool night sitting in the cold breeze waiting for the little penguins.
When it was finally our time to board the tender, our tender captain told us that he was going to have to turn out the lights inside the tender boat, so that he could stand with his head through the top of the boat, to be able to see the buoys and other docked boats around us. The trip back to the ship was quite eerie in the dark, because we were in complete darkness except for the light that the captain was shining out on the water, to be able to navigate to the waiting Neptune. The trip back to the ship took about 25 minutes in the dark because there was no going fast with limited lighting to light our way.
We finally arrived back to the Neptune at 11:38pm. A very late, cold night! Our cabin still didn’t have any heat when we returned, despite having so many Viking HVAC technicians in our cabin in the past few days, so I was absolutely frozen after such a cold night outside. Apparently there was soup and sandwiches available in the Explorer’s Lounge when we arrived back to the Neptune, but no one told us and it was not in the Viking Daily (we only heard about it from Lyle and Linda tonight at dinner), so we went straight back to our cold cabin to go to bed.
I really enjoyed watching the Night Moves of the Penguins on Parade on Phillip Island, Australia last night. It will be something that I will never forget. The penguins are really adorable and there were 1,497 penguins that were counted waddling back to their burrows last night when we were there to view them. We heard from one of the volunteers that when the Pittsburgh Penguins last won the Stanley Cup they wanted to do something for penguins so they actually donated $50,000 USD to the Penguin Parade! How cool is that?
I’m really struggling with the internet tonight so there is no way I can do another blog on our trip to Melbourne and Geelong today. I do not know why the internet is so bad. I just wish by now that it would have improved since we are sailing up the East Coast of Australia and we are not miles away from civilization like we‘ve been in the past. Frustrating!