Postcard from Tasmania: George Town Day 1 (aka The Penguins!)

Our first night in Tasmania was spent in Low Head, just outside of George Town, on the northern coast. While our travel across Bass Straight the night before was relatively calm, the windstorm that developed over our first day on the island made me grateful that we weren’t currently on a ship. I feel queasy just thinking about it.

Our cabin at the Low Head Tourist park was great. It was cozy for the six of us but came with a kitchenette which was perfect for our money and time-saving strategy to eat cereal for breakfast before we headed out each day. As a bonus, the “soccer field” provided an ocean view.

Kei and I decided to take a walk along the rocky beach which, thanks to the gale-force winds, was freezing but still pretty.

After finding some Fish and Chips for dinner (my first of the trip which must be a new record), we eagerly drove a short distance to one of the most anticipated parts of our trip – for me, anyway. A couple of weeks earlier I had booked us all in for a penguin tour and I could not have been more excited. I may not have been the only one…

Our enjoyment was hindered a little by the gale force winds that chilled us all to the bone, but what’s a small breeze when we have penguins to see? The big lesson of the day? The small birds that I had called “Fairy Penguins” my entire life are now known as “Little Penguins”. Political correctness is officially out of control.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the tour group huddled behind one of the bushes that we used as an ineffective wind break but, instead, I decided to capture some of our surroundings as the moon came up and we eagerly waited for our tour to begin.

We were split into three or four large groups who each took their turn sitting in the bleachers and then walking (gently) down onto the beach and through the dunes where the penguins would return to their burrows. Our group started on the bleachers and listened to our guide share a bunch of interesting penguin facts like the fact that they abandon their young after just a few months and then the babies work out how to fish and swim on their own. Seems harsh but it works. We also passed around a little stuffed penguin who, I’m sure, died of natural causes.

It was a lot darker than it looks in these photos.

We waited for what felt like a REALLY long time and were able to walk down to the beach before our patience finally paid off.

The penguins can’t see the yellow light which is great for penguin spotting but gave my color photos an amber glow.

These penguins are very accustomed to seeing people on the beach. The guides explained that they think of us like trees or another part of nature. It doesn’t make them more vulnerable because they retain the same defense mechanism again natural predators. It does mean, however, that we were not allowed to touch them (not that I would want to risk losing a finger). Still, I was surprised at how close we could get without scaring them off. We witnessed two boy penguins fighting over a girl, dedicated Mums regurgitating fish for hungry, demanding babies and a little hanky panky in the bushes. And I don’t think I need to mention how incredibly cute they were.

After a couple of hours, Samuel finally couldn’t take the cold and exhaustion anymore so we bid a farewell to our new penguin friends. And, just like that, my dream of taking my children to see a penguin parade in Australia was complete. The best part is that we didn’t have to fight the crowds at Philip Island for the experience.

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