A Day Trip from Melbourne to See Wildlife in the Wild

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Included is also a visit to a wildlife park where you can touch the animals

It was a gray November morning as we set out for Phillip Island in our rented little Toyota Corolla hatchback, with our bulky luggages stashed in the boot. On our way, we made a stop at Moonlit Sanctuary, a wildlife conservation park about 65 kilometres from Melbourne CBD. The roads got quite bumpy at times, as we cruised as fast as we could while doing our best to keep within the speed limit. A four-wheel drive would have worked better on the country and coastal roads, though that would come with a higher rental cost.

We drove past idyllic rolling green fields with cattle, sheeps and horses. Less than an hour later, we found ourselves at Moonlit Sanctuary (550 Tyabb-Tooradin Road Pearcedale Victoria 3912; www.moonlitsanctuary.com.au). At the park, we saw dingos, kangaroos, koalas, tasmanian devil, wombats and all sorts of birds, including the peculiar looking tawny frogmouth, a native Australian bird species that bears some resemblance to a frog or tree branch. We had a great time feeding the roaming kangaroos and wallabies, and petting a koala – which are apparently the two most popular activities among visitors. At some point, we heard a barking and looked around for dogs. We found out, amusingly, that it was the barking owl in the nearby enclosure. As many of the animals are nocturnal, lantern-lit tours are held in the evening for visitors who want a night jaunt in the park.

The next stop was the afternoon seal watching cruise by Wildlife Coast Cruises (www.wildlifecoastcruises.com.au) from Cowes Jetty on Phillip island. We boarded the ship and sailed out about two kilometres off the coast to the seal rocks where about 30,000 seals, a quarter of the total population of Australian fur seals, called home. It became windier the further out the ship sailed. As we were approaching the seal rocks, we heard the sounds made by the seals and seagulls, and spotted some seals swimming around the ship and many more of them on the rocks. We marveled at the captain’s skill in keeping the ship as close as possible to the rocks for us to gawk at the seals, as the choppy currents threatened to crash the ship against the rocks. It is always enchanting to watch wild animals in their natural habitat. The swimming seals did not shy away from human presence, and continued frollicking in the water as our ship bobbed about. On the way back to shore, we were treated to lemon cake and biscuits, which we eagerly munched on to satiate our afternoon hunger pangs.

Back on shore, we dropped a visit to the Nobbies Boardwalk (1320 Ventnor Road; visitphillipisland.com/listing/the-nobbies), a 15 minutes drive away on the western tip of Phillip island. The panoramic ocean views from the Boardwalk was breathtaking, and the seal rocks where we sailed out to earlier was visible in the distance. We strolled along the one-kilometre platform, searching for penguins resting in their burrows, while catching glimpses of wild rabbits foraging among the bushes.

 

As the sun sank lower, it was time to make our way to the Penguin Parade (1019 Ventnor Road; penguins.org.au) at Summerland Beach. Shortly past sunset, we watch as groups of little blue penguins, the smallest penguin species, waddle from the sea across the beach back to their burrows. Just about 30 centimetres tall and weighing one kilogram each, they waddled determinedly uphill to their burrows, flapping their little wings, their fur gleaming in the glow of the lamplights. The bushes came alive with the calls of the penguins as they arrived home. Darkness had fell like a veil, it was time for us to head back to the hotel too.

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