Thursday, February 16, 2012


Ok, maybe Rod Stewart wasn't the sole reason I came to Australia. Maybe. The real reason I am here stems from a lesson taught in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade, at Tokeneke Elementary School, in Darien, Connecticut, I learned all about the 17 different varieties of penguins. I can still picture the book we made with the white plastic ring binding that you manually slipped through the paper's holes. There were the magestic King and Emperor penguins who ruled the penguin world. The Chinstrap has an obviously identified demarcation across it's face. The Rockhopper always seemed a bit aggressive. I swear there was one called the Jackass. And sure, there were penguins that were tropically living off the coasts South America and the Galapagos Islands, but it was the Little Penguins, or as I was taught, the Little Blue Fairy Penguins that stole my heart. They lived in Australia. And ever since then, I've wanted to go to Australia. I always thought my chance would come when I could study abroad during my Junior year of university, however, they don't speak enough Spanish in Australia to count towards any credit for my double major. So as time came and went, I got older, and although my obsession with all things penguins may have diminished a bit (remember the catalogue* of all-things penguins: the slippers, the pajamas, the stuffed animals, the key chains, the stickers, the figurines, calendar, umbrella....I wanted it all, I had it all) my dream to go to Australia never did.

*ohmygoodness I can't believe I just found this website....!!

I always imagined, from the stories I heard in 3rd grade, that the penguins lived along the beach on the south-eastern coast of Australia, causing a ruckus of loud squaking noise under the houses, disturbing all the locals except for me. However, three weeks into my arrival in Western Australia, we take a 40 minute trip down south to what is known as.....PENGUIN ISLAND. $12 for a 5 minute ferry ride and I'll be surrounded by penguins, waddling up to me, flapping around in the water. I could barely speak trying to contain my excitement. At first we were sold tickets for an extra 5 bucks that included the penguin feeding but I challenged the extra charge thinking that we were on Penguin Island, we didn't need to pay to see the penguins being hand-fed like in a zoo. On the ferry ride over, the ferry driver announced that we had arrived at the perfect time to see the penguins as they would be mating and on land, most likely under the boardwalks or nestled into the limestone caves. How perfect!

spot the penguins. that's mean.
We got off the ferry and aimlessly followed the boardwalk that traced the island for 2 km. Our eyes scanned the low green bush for penguin nests, looked over the cliffs upon the coast, crawled into caves, and looked under the boardwalk. No penguins.
not penguins.

We did see a lot of different types of interesting birds though - the pelicans were enormous and beautiful creatures that gracefully glided across the air.
pelicans are gorgeous.
first animal we saw. it's called a stinker something. 

As the trail came around the loop, we decided we should wade in the water around the edge of the island and see if we could see any penguins in the caves. As we rounded the corner, we saw this enormous sea lion stretched out upon the sand. A small crowd of us stopped in awe at its proximity and he got up on his front paws (?) and seemed to soak up the attention and show off....but no, he was just doing his business.
just pooping.

 No bother. He slowly scurried himself off the hot sand and under the protection of one of the dark caves. What a life - hanging out on the beach, sleeping in the shade. As we wandered on, we spotted another sea lion nestled somewhat comfortably between the rocks. He had a couple gashes on his thick skin that looked rather raw. The boys snorkeled while I waded with my purse under my arm, balancing shoes and camera in hand while not getting knocked over by the tide or nibbled by little fish or slipping on seaweed, only later to slice my foot open on one of the protruding rocks that was camaflauged with the color of the sand.
JD snorkling.

Mike snorkling.

We reached the end of the easy wading and realized we could get back in time to see the penguin feeding that we didn't pay for at 12:30 - but not before Mike saw a little octopus in the water, that apparently had blue rings on it, and apparently could kill you in three minutes if the penguin feeeding - immediately!

I'm not sure how as I was limping behind slowly, but we managed to squeeze into the penguin feeding for free. Finally penguins! And they were so cute. Shiny, silvery 10,000-feathered skins, swimming and jumping and bopping for fish in the little fake pool. The girl was very informative about their lives and habits but I don't think I heard one thing I was so enthralled in the little guys. Ok, so it was kinda like being at a zoo. Apparently we were a week too late to see the ones on the island during their mating season. These little ones were not wild, they were spoilt and overfed, they even knew the sound of their own names, but still, they were cute. And still native to the area. I guess it counts for seeing a penguin on Penguin Island.

Maybe it wasn't everything I had hoped and dreamed for, but I still appreciate the trip, am so glad that I went, and I can still look forward to the dog-barking, donkey-braying squeels I always imagined in south-eastern Australia.
they waded back to shore while I laughed at this incredible sign and then limped onto the boat. sympathy? yes please - got loads on the boat and in the bathroom, some French guy implied to JD "i can't believe you left her with all your stuff" hahah!! 

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