“Hey mate, move away from the trolleys” boomed a voice as I waited for my bags at the airport carousel. I looked around, not finding the source, I continued staring at the carousel. “Hey you, the Indian guy, move away” the voice boomed louder. I turned around and saw a portly porter with tattoos of Ganesha over his arms gravely staring at me. I was apparently on the line for airport luggage trolleys. To be frank the line seemed a fair bit away from where I was standing. Anyway, I moved away realizing, the 120kg of blurb was not worth picking a fight with. So, that was my initiation to down under.
That was the only not so happy point of my trip in Australia. We had just landed after a 16hours flight from Bangalore. Fair to say we were pretty drained. We then hired a Kluger from the airport and drove to our hotel at around 10 pm. For a progressive city, Melbourne sleeps early. We could hardly see a soul on our 45 min drive.
Australians had a reputation to live up to. being a cricket fan I had grown up watching Aussies bully their way all through cricket matches. I expected much the same when I was here. But, not so disappointingly, our stay here was as pleasant as it could be. Starting with the lady at the car rental until we headed back from Sydney, we felt the Aussies were more straightforward than rude. Of course, the accent doesn’t help. That’s not to say, we did not thoroughly enjoy our stay here.
Melbourne is a melting pot of cultures much like Sydney, given of course that most of the Australia live here. I’m amazed by the city which boasts of attractions like the Philip Island, Great Ocean Road etc all just a pleasant drive away. My three-year-old son had been yearning to see penguins since we landed. So Philip Island was first on the agenda.
Philip Island: The Kluger glided on the fresh asphalt toward the Island. You could almost taste the sea salt. My pal Gautham had the wheel and the tires suddenly screeched. A Kangaroo with a Joey stood on the side of the road preparing to hop across. It stared at us for a short second and hopped away. My three-year-old son could hardly peel his eyes of the bushes from then on. Awaiting a Kangaroo…
The Philip Island is an awe-inspiring location for seeing a variety of animals.
We first went to the Koala Conservation Center. It has a handful of Koalas over two boardwalks. You can get quite close to them and watch the.. well snooze.. They snooze up to 20hrs a day. At the conservatory, you can also see Wallabies and a few birds. Should be in and out in a couple of hours. Entrance fee: Adult (16 years+) – $12.80, Child (4-15 years) – $6.40
We then headed to the Nobbies center. It has a small experience centre with an awesome multimedia places, especially for kids (The Antartic Journey). They will enjoy their live projection videos on a virtual iceberg adjacent to Seals, Penguins etc. Kids will love it. You can also get good views of the ocean from the cliff and the boardwalks. A good pit stop before show-stopper, the Penguin Parade. Entrance fee: Adult (16+): $18.00, Child (4-15): $9.00
The Penguin Parade: This world famous Penguin conservatory is a natural habitat of the Widow or little penguins. They stay in the burrows lined along the shore. Every morning, they go for a swim, eat their fish and return at sunset. On their return, they are greeted by hundreds of wide-eyed visitors at the centre.
You can basically choose from general viewing ticket or special view platforms with peepholes at the level of the burrows. Once you take your seats at the Amphitheaterish setting and bear the cold, you just wait till the sun sets. Also, beware the Albatrosses that are only too happy to socialize and snatch your food. At dawn, the cute little penguins waddle onto the beach from the sea, walk in their characteristic cartoony gait and reach their burrows. You can see them also on their way to burrows alongside the boardwalks. You can get quite close to them. No flash photography is allowed, as they are light sensitive. You can use their PLR photos though. Tickets: Adult (16+): $25.70, Child (4-15): $12.80, Website.