24 December 2019 to 11 January 2020
In that truly literal Australian way, just along the coast from Burnie there is a small town which is home to a colony of nearly 4000 Little Penguins so, of course, it is named Penguin.
Penguin is a really lovely seaside town and we fell fast for its charms, returning a number of times to sit drinking coffee looking out into Bass Strait and for Stefan to visit the barber.
Even if you missed the sign, it doesn’t take long to realise you are in Penguin. There are penguins everywhere and, of course,
Penguin is home to the Big Penguin. When we first visited he was all dressed up for Christmas but on our last visit was back to his birthday suit. But despite all the penguins around town we didn’t see a real one. We were never there at home time.
However, like Penguin, Burnie has its own colony of Little Penguins. Smaller than the one that comes ashore every night at Phillip Island but a healthy one all the same. One night after dinner we headed down to the seafront to see them come back to their nests. The volunteer guides gave us a short introduction to these smallest of penguins. They live up to their name, growing to only 33cm in height.
We were lucky to be there when the baby Little Penguins were starting to become more independent but still young enough to remain in their nests during the day. As the sun started to fade they started to become more active, emerging from their concrete burrows. It was incredible how close we were able to get to them. They seemed very used to human interaction.
As dark descended any photography skills I have began to fail me (night shots are definitely not my thing), so forgive the fuzziness of these chicks becoming increasingly impatient for their parents return
and my great big shadow right in the middle of one of these equally out of focus shots of the parents eventually emerging from the sea and up the rocks but it was very exciting to watch them return to land after a full day’s fishing.
Tasmania is also one of the best places in Australia to see platypus in the wild but I’ve got to be honest at both Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and D’Aguilar National Park it had been hard enough to see them in captivity so I didn’t have high hopes we would see any in their natural habitat.
But exploring around Burnie we discovered Fern Glade, one of the best places in Tasmania to spot a platypus – apparently.
On a day when we woke up to the sight and smell of thick smoke in the air (smoke that had made its way incredibly all the way across the Bass Strait from the fires in East Gippsland) we found Fern Glade. So when we first visited it felt quite eerie with the smoke hanging in the air.
With ferns tumbling down to the shallow Emu River this really was one of the most beautiful places – so peaceful and still. It reminded me of a print of ferns in New Zealand that both my parents and my Godmother, Averil, have hanging at home.
We returned a couple of times to wander quietly amongst the giant ferns, hoping to spot a platypus.
We found lots of pademelons,
tiny wrens and other birds
but no platypus. We know they are there though because we found evidence of their slides through the bushes to the water and, on one occasion, one of the volunteer guides told us she had seen one only that morning by the bridge.
I bet if we’d had time to go back again we would have seen one but even if we didn’t see a platypus Fern Glade will remain one of our favourite places on this trip.