Notes From Down Under: Penguin Parade

March 5th, 2017
Somewhere out there, a thousand penguins are getting ready to barf.

Somewhere out there, a thousand penguins are getting ready to barf.

Close your eyes and imagine sitting by the sea. You’re on a multi-level deck, accessed by a long and winding walkway. Now look out over sea, the clouds have gathered around the already set sun. Ask yourself what would make this scene better, perfect actually.

Why penguins, of course, hundreds of ’em. Close to a thousand.

The reason your eyes are closed is because I can’t show you any pictures; photography was strictly forbidden. But be assured, this penguin parade is very real and very cool. It happens every evening, 365 days of the year.

Along the southern coast of Australia there are many areas where a species of little penguins — known technically as “Little Penguins” — come ashore and nest.  Nowhere is this more prevalent and celebrated than on Phillip Island, just across the bridge and a few hours drive from Melbourne. 

Early in the morning, the colony takes off for a long day’s worth of feeding in the Tasman Sea. As the sun goes down, they come back to shore, regurgitate their catch into their chick’s mouths and waddle back up to their nesting areas spread about the dunes.

I know this because I watched it happen at a venue aptly named Penguin Parade, along with thousands of tourists from all over the world. In fact, penguin watchers greatly outnumbered penguins. I don’t speak Penguin, but I think I heard one of the chicks say, ” look ma, it’s a people parade” and then it ate throw up.

It was so amazing sitting there, even as a quick downpour drenched us — hey, it sent a flock of tourists waddling for shelter, giving the rest of us much better views. First in groups of ten or so, then in increasingly larger gangs, the penguins popped out of the surf and began their timid, careful return to their nests.

Timid, because they’re always on the lookout for predators. The two wallabies that hopped by didn’t count; but they did startle a few flocks, sending them scurrying hilariously. Otherwise, the entire parade seemed so well choreographed, including all the squawks begging for vomit as we quiet tourists watched from the decks and walkways (NOTE: I observed no tourists begging for vomit).

Our guide picked us up and drove us back to our lodgings, skipping the Australian restaurant he took us to on the way: McDonalds. Though Marci had the best macaroons there than she’s had anywhere in the world. And no, she didn’t share them with me the way penguins share their delicacies.

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