Yesterday was Phillip Island day. I didn't plan much ahead of time before I left for Australia, but that was one of the things I knew I definitely wanted to visit. Phillip Island is located about 2 hours south of Melbourne (by car) on the Bass Strait, which is the body of water which separates Australia from Tasmania (about 150 km out). I bought Jim and I a three parks pass, which meant we had access to three different parts of the island which come as part of their Penguins Parade package. The island was much bigger than I expected. It takes 30 minutes to drive across and has lots of surf beaches and a whole population of regular residents. If you want to see the local animals of Australia, Phillip Island is the place to go.
The first place we visited was the Churchill Island Heritage Farm. It was more interesting than I expected it would be. It was a really old farm house which had been restored. It belonged to one of the earlier settlers to the island and was built around the mid 1800s. You could walk through the house and see how they used to live back then. There was also a working farm there with lots of animals including a Clydesdale horse, some highland cows (so cute!), sheep, goats, and a guinea pig named Elvis. You could go in and pet everything and it was really great. There was even a peacock!
Our next stop was the Koala Conservation Centre. This was supposed to be the big place where you could see Koalas up close. I was hoping to be able to hold one because they look so cuddly, but as it turns out, you can't touch them. The only state you can do that in is Queensland, and I'm not headed in that direction. It's probably just as well because I've heard they can be quite vicious. They have this area with a raised walkway so when you walk though, you're more on the level of the Koalas. Sadly, they were all sleeping with their faces tucked into the trees. They sleep 20 hours a day, so it wasn't much of a surprise. It was still cool to see them so close up.
The next place we went was not part of our package, but it was only $11 to get in and promised a close look at many, many Australian animals. It was the Phillip Island Wildlife Park. It was by far one of the coolest places I have ever been. Most of the animals (the safe ones) just wander around free range on a huge property that is several acres. Right when we came through the door, three Wallabies hopped right up. They knew we had bags of food and wanted in on the action. They're so sweet and soft and you could pet them and feed them. I couldn't believe how tame and cuddly they were. And smart. I'd be feeding one, and the other would put his nose in my jacket pocket to try to get at the bag of food. We also saw Dingoes, which were not running free, as they're dangerous. I always thought they'd be ugly little angry dogs, but they looked like the kind of dog you'd like to take home, except that they might eat your baby.
There were Tasmanian Devils and Wombats, but we didn't see them because they were burrowed into the earth. Emus were running wild and I will say, they're a little creepy. For starters, they stand as tall as I do. Secondly, they sort of stalk you. I tried to feed them, but they opened up their giant beaks and I noticed my whole fist would fit in there. The pecks were not pleasant, but I couldn't get away from them. There would be one, then two, and then I'd turn around and 5 of them would be surrounding me. They're like the bird mafia.
Best of all, there were TONS of Kangaroos running (jumping) free. There were three or four different kinds. Jim was a bit afraid of them for some reason, so he sent me into the field on my own. It was just me and a whole community of Kangas. They were laying, lounging, some had Joeys in their pouches. They are such a friendly breed of animals. It was just me out there - no one else, no rangers - just me and 100 kangaroos. They were all very well behaved, except for one or two of the large grey ones. Those ones stand nearly as tall as me, and they have big claws on their hands. Most of them didn't use their hands and would just eat out of my palm, but a couple of them were a little more aggressive and would grab my hand with those claws and not let me go until they were done eating, as they pushed others out of the way. It was by far one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, and I want to take one home!
They also had Koalas there, and these ones were awake! I found these two that were not only awake and moving, but just a couple of feet from the raised boardwalk, and practically posing for the photo. I'd heard recently that there is some lesbianism among Koalas. For James - I don't know if this is two females or what, but this is the closest I came to girl on girl Koala action.
Next stop, The Nobbies. The Nobbies are some rock formations off the southern tip of the island, and it's where the Seals hang out. Not close enough to see them without binoculars, though, and I didn't want to pay money to use theirs. I've seen seals. We did have a nice lunch there, though, and took a walk around out in the cold wind - beautiful cliffs and surf pounding against rocks.
Our last stop of the day was the Penguin Parade. Just after sun set every night, Little Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins) come up out of the ocean and march in groups up the sand and hill to their burrows. They are the smallest of all penguins, and are dark blue and white. Blue on top so preying birds can't tell them from the sea water, and white below so preying fish can not tell them from the white sunlight above. They stand maybe a foot tall and are the cutest thing you've ever seen. Right before sunset, we went down to the beach to this raised bleachers area and waited. Sure enough, right after darkness, the little penguins came out of the surf in the hundreds! They walked right past our platform for about 40 minutes. Jim and I had front row seats and they were literally 5 feet away from us. They are so very precious. Unfortunately, you couldn't take photos out there in the dark, which I totally understand. I bought some photos there, but will have to scan them to show you later. At any rate, it was one of the best days ever. So many experiences I will never be able to have anywhere else.
Today, I'm off wandering the city on my own. I hope you all enjoy the photos!