I was greeted by people of all ages and nationalities eagerly chatting away. While I couldn’t make out any words, it seemed obvious many were excited about seeing Phillip Island’s amazingly cute little penguins making their way from the water to their burrows.
The arrival of our guide, Greer, enhanced that anticipation especially when she started walking around the group with a taxidermy penguin.
The experience, offered on an Underground Viewing Tour, is one of seven penguin viewing options offered by the Nature Parks. Having experienced a number of these options over the years, this is now one of my favourites along with the Ultimate Penguin Tour. Not only does it offer wonderful views of the penguins, it’s also protected from the elements!
Built below the recently constructed Penguin Plus viewing stand, this bunker style building features a 25-metre viewing window which looks out at ground level onto the path many of the penguins take from the water to their burrows. Indeed, according to Greer, around 70 per cent of penguins take this path.
During Greer’s comprehensive briefing, conducted before the arrival of the penguins, we learnt that 2290 penguins had taken the path the previous evening. Her briefing also included information about the penguins, the behaviours we could expect to see and the rules for the evening. These rules included no photography and speaking quietly so as not to stress the penguins (the window isn’t sound-proof).
While there was a lull in conversations after Greer’s briefing, it was evident again when she pointed to a large television screen which showed the arrival of the first penguins onto the beach. Shortly afterwards penguins appeared close to the viewing window. Then more and more came!
Watching the reaction of the penguins to the window was fascinating. Some ignored it, some came up very close for a look and a couple even bumped into it, ensuring some magical penguin viewing experiences.
Twenty minutes after the arrival of the first penguins we left the bunker and headed up to the Penguin Plus stands, which meant we could hear the many and varied noises the penguins were making. They are a noisy bunch!
Combining both the underground and above ground viewing ensured all in the group came away with a very good understanding of penguin behaviour as well as some magical `penguin watching’ moments.
Given that numbers for Underground Viewing are limited to 70, it’s a good idea to book early. The same advice applies to all penguin watching options, especially during the summer months, when demand is extremely high.
Jenny Burns was a guest of Phillip Island Nature Parks.
For more stories on Phillip Island see Antartic Journey Managing Penguins and People on Phillip Island, Wildlife Always A Delight on Phillip Island, A Watery Adventure at Phillip Island, Silverwater Resort and Ranada Resort Phillip Island.