After an entire day travelling down from Queensland and 2 days off in Melbourne (where the more British weather has been a bit of a shock to the system) it was time to get stuck into Block 5 of ‘All Over The Place – Oz’ with my new co-presenter Michelle. We were off the meet some penguins.
Took a couple of hours to get down to Phillip Island, and we knocked off a sketch on the beach with me dressed as a clown first, but after lunch we finally got to come face to face with one. We hooked up with a ranger from the ‘Penguin Parade’ experience who took us down to the nesting boxes that have been placed along the coast since 1968, when human beings were coming close to driving penguins off the island altogether. Thanks to the programs now in place there are up to 33,000 penguins living on the island, and as the ranger lifted the lid off one of the boxes nestled in the hillside we were greeted by two very angry looking ones who were clearly not very happy about us busting in on them. The ranger dodged their pecking beaks to pick them up and weigh them in a bag (there’re the smallest species of penguin, the ‘Little Penguin’, and only grow to be 33cm tall), and then put them back in the box where they grumbled about us to each other very loudly.
That was the only peak at a penguin we got until dusk, when up to a 1,000 of them come to shore after being out at sea for up to a month. Banks of seating have been built along the beach for visitors to watch as “rafts” of penguins come to shore, travelling in groups to offer safety in numbers from predators such as sea eagles and Pacific gulls. Once on dry land they waddle off to check on their burrows and feed any chicks they might have (by vomiting fish into their mouths!). Human beings must stay on the wooden walkways and not interfere with them in any way, and lighting is kept very low, which proved interesting in trying to film them, but hopefully we captured enough to do it all justice. Some of the penguins live 2km in land, and as we walked back to the car there were still loads of them purposefully making their way home, and all manner of strange penguin noises being emitted from bushes, burrows and boxes. What awesome little dudes they are.