Mr H and I decided we would greet the penguins when they make their way back "home" for the day on Queen's birthday holiday. With several ticket options to choose from, we opted for Ultimate Adventure Tour ($84.20 per person). You need to be at least 16 years old to be part of this tour and is restricted to a maximum of 10 people.We felt this was more "VIP" than the VIP tour because you would be seated right on the beach as opposed to viewing the penguins from the confines of a box.
Our ultimate adventure was set to begin about sunset (about 5pm when we were there) and visitors were advised to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier in order to facilitate whatever paperwork required. Having underestimated the duration of the drive from Melbourne city, we arrived late. Hahaha. Lucky for us, we were not barred from joining the tour. Yup, there is a cut-off time to arrive. Perhaps our every 10 minute call update helped. By the 3rd call, the lady who answered the phone realized we were not arriving any faster and decided to focus on helping us instead - she advised us where to park and which entrance to head to.
Since it was the Queen's birthday, the parking lot was close to full. We found a car park furthest away and practically ran towards the entrance. From there, we were promptly ushered to a holding room where briefing had begun where we were exposed to educational information on the penguins, historical information of the park and the area as well as the conservation plans of the park. This is also the time they would make you change to their dark warm and waterproof jackets and over pants if you turned up in brightly coloured clothing like yours truly. After receiving our night vision scope and headsets, we grabbed a cushion before bundling ourselves into the van that would take us to the start point of the tour.
Making ourselves comfortable by a hill slope on the beach, we sat as quietly as possible while waiting for the penguins to come home. The penguins would arrive in batches and Mr. Ranger would alert us on where to look with our night vision scope. He is able to spot them from afar, even before they reach the beach. No matter how hard I tried, I could only see them when they were right in front of me. Hahaha.. Approximately 45 minutes and 98 penguins later, we made our way back to the centre on foot. We had to walk back as the area is off limits to vehicles from about 5pm to the next morning. The curfew was implemented to save the penguin population as some penguins tend to stray up to the road and a large number are killed yearly. The curfew is a success story tho since the number of penguin deaths have reduced significantly.
Once back in the warmth of the centre, we capped off the tour with a complimentary cup of coffee from the cafe.
For future visitors, here are my tips and suggestions:
1. Allocate 1 day to visit Phillip Island. This will allow you to visit all attractions. Buy the 3 park pass for a better deal.
2. If you don't have 1 day to spare, at least arrive 1 hour earlier. While the Penguin Parade is the main attraction, the centre also has educational information on display.
3. If you arrive just in time for Penguin Parade, you will not have time to explore the centre. I was told your ticket could still be used to access the centre the next morning. Just inform them that you were there for Penguin Parade the night before.
4. Wear warm clothes that are dark coloured. Bright coloured clothing is not allowed and you will need to use the jackets provided by them.
5. Check the age limit of the tour you intend to purchase.
6. No camera and mobile phones while on the Ultimate Adventure tour.
For more information on Phillip Island and its attractions, visit their official website at http://www.penguins.org.au/