I’m proud to be able to boast that our little city of Rockingham, Western Australia, is home to a race of adorable tiny little creatures. These are the Little Penguins, so-called for their small stature.
The Little Penguin, or Fairy Penguin (I love that name!), is the world’s smallest species of penguins. They stand little more than a foot high. End to end, one would fit nicely from the crook of your elbow to your fingertips, that’s how tiny they are. They can be found along the coastlines of southern Australia. In New Zealand they are called Blue Penguins. Rockingham, Western Australia is about the furthest north these little critters go, and we are all the better for that. Penguin Island hosts the largest colony of Little Penguins in Western Australia.
Penguin Island is called that because…well, obviously because it’s where the colony of penguins live. But not just penguins call the island home – on Penguin Island itself, and on its neighbouring islands are large colonies of pelicans, seagulls and seals. You can take a tour in a glassbottomed boat further out to sea and see playful dolphins, and even swim with them. On Penguin Island there are several nature walks (watch out for raucous seagulls guarding their nests, eggs and young!), a picnic area (bring your own food and drink), caves you can explore, even the occasional basking sealion on the beach!
There is a tidal bar or sandbar from Rockingham across to Penguin Island, and people were allowed to walk across until recently…the sandbar unfortunately does not go out in a straight line, like a bridge, but curves and zig-zags underwater, and is extremely difficult to see underfoot when the tide is rising or in strong winds. Step off the sandbar and you would plunge into the sea, or worse, be swept by strong currents onto jagged rocks.
I recall reading about an unfortunate family from India who had just had a picnic on Penguin Island on 28th December 2010. They, along with around 10 other tourists, had either missed the ferry or wanted to experience walking on the sandbar. The tide started coming in, so they quickened their pace to get back to the Rockingham shore. Unfortunately, the 2 Indian wives were swept off the sand bar into the sea, and their husbands jumped in to save them. The women and other tourists were subsequently rescued, but the men drowned. These days, there is a huge sign on the beach strongly discouraging anyone from using the sand bar.
So, please, if you are planning to visit Penguin Island, do it safely. Take the ferry. The cost of it covers you to and from the island, and you can also combine it with the cost of the Penguin Island Discovery Centre Show aka feeding time for the Little Penguins. You can see them up close and learn about their habits, watch them swim, play and eat. They really are the sweetest little things.
Penguin Island is closed to the public during the penguins’ winter nesting period, from June til mid-September each year. But the wildlife cruises are still operational all year round. During the breeding season, there are up to 1000 pairs of Little Penguins on or around Penguin Island. The penguins that you see on show are either orphaned or rejected and rescued and are now permanent residents of the Centre, or those found injured and nursed back to health.
Where I live, each morning at sunrise, large flocks of wild birds fly over my house: seagulls, pelicans, cockatoos of all colours – white, pink and white, green, black. The cacophony is unbelievable and enough to wake the dead! And the same happens at sunset each day. I absolutely love it.
(All photos courtesy of Google images).
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