Sunday, 4 March 2012

King Island - Penguin magic

Penguins would have to be one of my favourite animals. After seeing Happy Feet, I am even more convinced that they are just adorable creatures. To see one up close would be amazing. And guess what? It was VERY amazing. Our visit to King Island made this possible.

As the sun dipped over the horizon we waited in happy anticipation at the sight we were about to see. Of course, if there weren't others there with their torches covered in red cellophane, we could have quite easily missed the whole magical show. NOTE: Penguins have flat corneas, so you must not use a bright light, or aim a light directly in their eyes.

Our group of watchers grew steadily, and we spoke in hushed tones. OK, sometimes the tones were not so hushed as we tried to quieten the children. We did the best we could.

Suddenly, as the torch bearers looked for evidence of the penguins, we spotted one quite close. Where there is one, there are many, as they travel in flocks for safety. They were wary, aware they were not alone and being observed. They made their way slowly up from the shore, toward their burrows.

They kept coming in droves, with their cute distinctive waddle. Before long there were hundreds on the shore and still more coming. They must be quite used to an audience, as they came quite close to our group, observing us as they did.

I had read the information board before the sun had set, and learned of their song. My daughter was quite enamoured with the penguins singing in Happy Feet. I told her to be still and listen to hear them sing. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes we heard a tone, softly at first. It got louder. As the penguin sang I can only describe it as a cross between a pigeon's coo, and a cat's purr. It was melodic and beautiful. My son was amazed, and his little face lit up as he heard it too. "When will they dance Mummy" he asked. He is a fan of Happy Feet too. I had to explain that we may not see them dance, but he could listen to them sing.
It was a lovely experience.

Especially, shared as a family.
King Island Penguins
photo courtesy of King Island Tours