The Road to Becoming OZ Experienced – Phillip Island from Melbourne

Photojournalist David Savage travels Australia on the OZ Experience

Phillip Island
Phillip Island is just a two-hour drive from Melbourne. As we crossed the bridge joining the mainland to the island we entered an Island that was declared a Nature Park in 1997. The Island is home to Australia’s famous colony of ‘Little Penguins’ at ‘Penguin Parade’, Great White Sharks, Seal Colonies, Kangaroos and Koalas. In contrast, Phillip Island is again famous for hosting the Australian Motor Bike Grand Prix every year.

Penguin Parade (03 5956 8300), is dubbed to be the “Zoo of the Future” and our driver even told us that it’s Australia’s second most popular tourist attraction next to Uluru. The ‘Little Penguins’ leave their burrows, crossing the beach to the sea at dawn and return just after sun down each day. The spectacle became such a tourist attraction that there became a need to protect the penguins. Today the whole beach and nesting environment is a ‘controlled environment’. This way the penguins are left undisturbed to do their daily thing, the tourists get to say, “Ooh, aren’t they cute”, and an understanding between man and nature is struck. If the ‘Zoo of the Future’ is a Zoo without walls, bars or wire fencing, then Penguin Parade is leading the way.

I stayed at the Amaroo YHA, (03 5952 2548), on the Island, which has a range of accommodation from self-catering units, double rooms to dorm beds. The hostel also has an arrangement with a local surf shop to offer guests discounted Surf Lessons. Phillip Island is renowned for it’s surfing beaches along its south and west coasts. If you feel like a little dry exercise then you can hire out a mountain bike from the hostel and set off around the Island to explore. After two months of travelling hard it was great to be served up with my first cooked breakfast in all that time. This is a little unusual as far as hostels go, but I wasn’t complaining. The hostel also arranges different day tours around the Island and to Wilson Promontory for backpackers.

In the bar at the Amaroo YHA, there is a big photograph of an eighty-year old Great White Shark caught by professional shark hunter Vic Hislop. Hislop claims to hunt Great White Sharks for the protection of penguins, seals, whales and man. As far as penguins and seals go, I wonder if Hislop has ever heard of natural selection. As far as Man goes, attached to the poster in the bar is a statistic, ‘only one person between 1980 and 1990 was killed by a shark in Australia’.

In reality Hislop is no more than a Blood Sport Hunter and his two Shark Museums in Australia, do little more than feed off people’s fear. I wonder what right he had to kill an animal of eighty years old that had probably lived peacefully away from man for it’s whole life. Further more, I once heard that over two hundred people are killed each year by coconuts falling out of tree’s, compared to less than six deaths per year by shark attacks. ‘There you go Vic, go do something useful and hunt some coconut trees – but be careful, your odds aren’t so good!’

Staying On…
Phillip Island has other Nature Reserves for travellers to visit. Rhyll Inlet has a bird-life observation area, inland you’ll find the Koala Conservation Centre, to the south-west is the Seal Rocks Sea Life Centre and in the centre of the Island is the Phillip Island Wildlife Park.