Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Phillip Island: Ultimate Adventure Tour

If you thought Phillip Island is all about Penguin Parade, you thought wrong. They have 3 other attractions - Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island (enjoy farm activities) and Nobbies Centre (seals and marine life). We found this out a bit too late. Despite conducting some research before, we only realized the other attractions on our drive there. Ah well, another reason to come back. For now, it will just be the Penguin Parade for us. 

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/

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Winter is Coming: A Game of Thrones Experience

Game of Thrones: The Exhibition was in Sydney from 1 - 5 July, 2014. 

Despite hardly any promotion, the 5 day exhibition drew crowds so large it made news daily. Opening day itself saw fans waiting for up to 6 hours just to get through the doors. Nevertheless, the long wait did not deter fans. In fact it probably encouraged fans further to come out in droves. I mean, would there be another chance to sit on the Iron Throne or scale The Wall? 

After close to 6 hours of waiting, numerous views of the Sydney Opera house (from afternoon to sunset to night) and fending off hunger/cold/urge to answer the call of nature, my most priced picture in possession to date.

The unexpected Khaleesi from House of Dawina.

Was it worth the long wait?
Yes it was. A picture of you on the Iron Throne alone is enough to make the whole wait worthwhile! You can sit on it and take as many pictures as you like (until the person behind you says it is enough and they want their turn. That is OK though cause you can happily join back the queue to take another set of pictures).

After the mandatory throne picture, the next attraction would be to scale The Wall. I did not know what to expect and I totally enjoyed the experience! Would not have minded a second or a third round.

Once you have done the mandatory throne pic and the wall scaling, you can leisurely enjoy the rest of the exhibition. Life-size props used in the series were on display. I especially liked it because I could compare how big (more like small) I am to the characters. Certainly put things in perspective.

Even though it was a relatively small exhibition, it was nicely done.

Would I do this again?
Only if they work out a better system to manage the queues. Hahaha. One long wait in a lifetime is enough (for Game of Thrones at least).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Ramadhan Once Again

The holy month of Ramadhan has descended upon us once again. It seemed like only a few months ago we observed Ramadhan last when in truth, one year has passed. 

For the first time since 2002, I would be performing the fasting obligation in winter. It is a common thought that I will be having it easy. In fact a recent article How Long Muslims Fast For Ramadan Around the World by Huffington Post has confirmed that Sydney-siders will be experiencing the shortest fasting day in the world. This has sprouted feelings of envy from certain people especially those who are in Malaysia or experiencing summer.

Without getting into a discussion of who has it easier, let's just say that every Muslim will face their own personal challenges in getting through this month regardless of their geographical location. Challenges could be in the form of
  • weather, 
  • lack of sleep, 
  • ease in getting food for sahur and buka puasa (aka iftar), 
  • waking up for sahur, 
  • ability to buka puasa on time
  • support of family/friends to get you through the day and 
  • everything else that that come our way.
While one might be disadvantaged in one area, they probably have it easier in other ways and vice-versa. Ultimately, the playing field is level whether we like (or realise) it or not.

In addition to the points above, I foresee a different challenge for myself  in the form of feeding Mr H. Although he is not that a fussy eater, I worry whether I am feeding him enough to get through the cold, the long working hours and also the strenuous operations he performs through the day. Having said that, I will take it one day at a time. 

May we all have a fruitful Ramadhan and achieve our personal targets we have set for ourselves.