Posted in City activities, Melbourne, Victoria

Looking for penguins

Penguins. Those cute little birds that can’t fly but can glide under water with almost equal grace. The ones that live in cold places like Antarctica.

Well, OK, there are a few of them that come to some beaches in South Africa and Australia. But that’s way down in Phillip Island, and frightfully touristy and expensive…

Well, not quite true. Because there is a colony of Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) that have made the breakwaters of St. Kilda Beach their home. And those we went to visit.

St. Kilda Pier is located at the northern end of St. Kilda beach.
St. Kilda Pier is located at the northern end of St. Kilda beach.

In the 1970’s  a colony of Little Penguins established itself in the St. Kilda Breakwaters and have been studied every since. They nest at the end of the pier and usually come out just after dark.

The pier, with its restaurant situated right in the middle, reaches out into the bay.
The pier, with its restaurant situated right in the middle, reaches out into the bay.

Each night, this spectacle draws quite a few spectators. These are mostly tourists, which makes for quite the multi-language background while everybody is waiting for the sun to finally set.

Several signs advertise the fact that the penguins are there and are to be left alone.
Several signs advertise the fact that the penguins are here and are to be left alone.
The end of the pier has been closed off for the general public to preserve the habitat of these little birds.
The end of the pier has been closed off for the general public to preserve the habitat of these little birds.

The pictures so far have been taken in January, when we first visited the pier. Then, due to it being summer vacation time, it was a lot busier. It was also a lot later in the day, which is why we didn’t see too much then and went home fairly soon after it got dark.

However, as we have family from Europe over at the moment, we figured it would be a great opportunity to make use of the “showing the visitors the touristy things” excuse and go again.

By the time we got there, it was already dark.
By the time we got there, it was already dark.
And we were not alone, either.
And we were not alone, either.
But within seconds of arriving, we got to see our first penguin.
But within seconds of arriving, we got to see our first penguin.

The little ones were out in force. Kai counted over fifty sightings of different animals, sitting on and between the rocks. Some of them were very quiet, while others really had a go at each other over wanting to sit on that particular piece of rock themselves. Quite the ruckus.

Along the pier were a number of guides (all volunteers) with red-tinted torches, showing us different animals and telling us about the penguins and their habits. So we even got an education out of a very enjoyable evening.

The red light used by the guides does not hurt the eyes of the penguins.
The red light used by the guides does not hurt the eyes of the penguins.

Maybe it’s not quite as grand a show as the Phillip Island Penguins. But the fact that it’s not 30 minutes away from home by car (20 minutes by tram from Flinders Street), a lot less crowded and does not cost you AU$ 60,- just to get in, more than made up for that. It can also serve you as a great start for an evening on the town, as there are quite a few restaurants and bars in the area.

I would definitely recommend this spectacle to everyone visiting (or living in) Melbourne. There is no need to wait for an excuse, either.

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