Phillip Island is a popular day trip destination from Melbourne and I was determined to experience the little island before leaving Australia for good. A month ago when my grandmother came to visit me in Melbourne to run the Great Ocean Road Marathon I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally visit Phillip Island.
I had been advised by friends who attempted the trip on their own with a rental car that a day trip tour is worth the splurge because there is so much to do on the island in one day. I booked a day trip with STA travel because they had an office on the Uni campus. I thought I was being smart because I thought by booking with the specific STA branch it would ensure that we were picked up close to campus. It turns out I was very wrong. What made matters worse was that I thought I knew where the pick up place was only to get there and be told we were at least a 3o minute walk away from the pick up point and we had 20 minutes to get there or the bus would leave without us. So Nita and I did what Barrera’s do best- we ran. And ran. And ran. Keep in mind this was at 8am with a slight hang over, without breakfast, while everyone else is trying to get to work and its lightly raining outside. I got to the office winded, red in the face and fighting the urge to spew on the freshly cleaned office floor. My grandmother, the marathon runner, walked into the office barely winded and with a bounce in her step. It is then that we found out the bus driver was running an hour behind schedule.
When we finally got on the road we were briefed about our busy schedule for the day. Our first stop was an animal reserve where I finally got to meet the national symbols of Australia- the emu and kangaroo. I also got to cuddle a koala and feed wallabies, something I have been dying to do since I first arrived in Australia. The emu was not a very polite creature. It violently pecked at my out stretched hand spilling most of the food on the floor while giving my hand a wrenching pinch. Nita was too scared of it to even feed it.
We moved on the Dingo enclosure where I found my new favorite Australian animal. The Dingo looks very much like a North American wolf, one of my favorite animals, with its regal face canine features. There is a particular dog breed from Australia called a Kelpie which allegedly is a descendant of the Dingo. I am planning on owning a Kelpie when I get a house.
After the Dingoes we met the resident Victorian Koala. Apparently Victorian koalas are significantly larger than normal koalas. As such Victorian law mandates that unless a Victorian koala is born in captivity it cannot be held by humans. So I didn’t actually get to physically hold the koala but I did get to put my arms around him while he placidly munched on Eucalyptus leaves.
After the koala cuddle we went through Wallaby Walk with three full bags of corn feed in hopes of hand feeding wallabies. The moment we started on the path the wallabies heard our foot steps and started poking their heads out from behind trees and bushes and tentatively made their way towards us. When they realized we weren’t threat and a source of food we were surrounded by wallabies. It was amazing! They ate of my hand so gently and would then just look at me with their soft brown eyes while they chewed thoughtfully on the dried corn. And if I offered my hand to another wallaby when one wasn’t finished it would reach out it’s surprisingly human-like claws and gently hold my hand in place while it continued to eat from my hand. I don’t know why I thought feeding the wallabies was so magical but maybe it had to do with their sweet and gentle demeanor. What ever the reason I couldn’t tear myself away from them and Nita and I almost missed the bus!
From there we drove to a koala sanctuary and saw a few koalas snuggled up in the tree tops blissfully asleep. After the Koalas we moved on to a farmstead and watched a sheep herding and sheep shearing demonstration. I of course made friends with the huge Clydesdales on the farm. Once people saw that the horses were eating the grass I offered them they all started tearing at the lawn to feed the horses.
We made a quick stop at a delicious chocolate factory where we ordered a hot chocolate and bought some nibbles for the road.
And then we went to the night-time penguin parade, the event for which Phillip Island is known for. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures. Apparently these Australian penguins’ retinas are so sensitive that after a few camera flashes go off in their faces they go completely blind. It was really entertaining and fascinating watching all the little penguin families swim up to shore and then getting the whole family together before embarking across the sand to the safety of the tall beach grass. Their was structure to how they traveled and if there wasn’t enough penguins in their group they would not risk the long journey into the grass. They would wait, swimming in the shallow water until enough penguins swam up and then they would join them.
Phillip Island was a wonderful action packed day trip but by the end of the day I was absolutely knackered. I passed out only moments after sitting down on the bus for the hour drive back to Melbourne Central.