Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trip to Phillip Island

 

Man, I’ve been busy. With all the work in office, calls and meetings and gym and yoga and what not, how many hours does one get for oneself ? I wonder how these Auzzies manage to do it. Now one of the reasons we had considered and decided to move here to Australia is to have fun. Enough of this ‘work yourself to death’ mentality they spread in India.  Have fun. See the world. Have some time for oneself.

So thanks to the Queen’s birthday, we got a long weekend to indulge in this time. Went on trip to Phillip island. Its a small part of the country, isolated in the sea, but now connected via bridge to Melbourne. The whole place is one big reservation basically.  Like a huge national park, for birds, animals. And maybe even trees. Theres hundreds of miles of coastline, beautifully preserved , clean of all those rubbish and eyesore usually seen on (Indian) beaches.  And the weather , don’t get me started on the weather. Even in the winter, the place gets a lot of sun, and its perfect for hiking ! Or in our case, lazily dragging feat through the sand.

The place is about 140 kms away from Melbourne, so under 2 hours of driving time. Tour operators run day services to the place, so no worries if you can’t drive. There are some hotels, but I think most people just stay on Airbnb if one needs to stay overnight. For some reason, there are huge surf shops, everyone is driving huge cars into the beach. There is a Koala reservation centre half way through, but all the one we saw were sleeping high in the trees. Also, they don’t let you hold and cuddle these creatures like they do in the zoo. The southern and western coasts of the island lie within the Phillip Island Important Bird Area, so identified by BirdLife International because of its importance in supporting significant populations of fairy penguins, short-tailed shearwaters and Pacific gulls. In addition, there is a wildlife park where wallabies and kangaroos roam freely amongst the visitors and can be fed by hand. Seal Rocks, at the western end of the island, hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia (up to 16,000). In recent years, other than local population of critically endangered endemic Burrunan dolphins or migratory killer whales, southern right whales and humpback whales are starting to show recoveries in the area long after commercial and illegal hunts by the Soviet Union with the help of Japan in 1970s, and the numbers using the area as nursery are growing rapidly, allowing a rise in hopes to establish commercial whale watching activities in the vicinity of the island.

But the real highlight of the place is the penguin parade. Every evening, a bunch of ~1000 penguins waddle up from the deep blue ocean, into their burrows on the island. They have been continusly studied since the sixties, so by now, they are used to being stared at. Again, they can’t be watched from close quarters, due to it being in the evening, and because the burrow area is restricted to visitors. It is amazing how the staff have taken care not to disturb these gentle creatures in any way, opting to let them enjoy life in the wide open.

We also went trekking to Pinnacles, its a 2 hour return hike at the southern most tip of the island. Blue, pristine waters. High in the air on the cliffs. The feeling cannot be easily explained.

Again, the way these sites have been preserved it astonishing. Auzzies really know mother nature, and have steps in place to preservce ancient sites like these. And visitors happily comply. Most of the hiking areas and beaches are free, and see millions of tourists annually. But there was no litter to be seen on the beach. Neither in the water. With only a few sign boards asking visitors to keep the place clean, they have managed to enforce a cleanliness lockdown.

 

Happy to have moved here. And there are still more places to explore.