Highway One: Little penguins of Tasmania
Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia.
FOR A FAR-NORTH QUEENSLANDER, little penguins (also known as fairy penguins) are as exciting to spot in the wild as a crocodile is for travellers from the south.
We spot the first on our trip at Hall Point, a rocky headland at Sulphur Creek, 10km east of Burnie on Tasmania’s northwest coast.
Just after dark, we begin to hear peeping from a nest tunnelled under a huge boulder on the edge of our campsite.
When we venture down to the beach and find a spot on the fringes, we spend a magnificent few hours listening and watching as little penguins emerge from the surf and strike up a melodic singsong, calling to each other as they patiently make their way over a rock shelf, across the sand and through tussock grasses to their nests burrowed into the dunes.
It seems amazing to us that this incredible little rookery shares Hall Point with travellers who are permitted to overnight on the grassy headland for free – especially since only about five per cent of Tasmania’s estimated 110,000 to 190,000 little penguin breeding pairs nest on the mainland.
Locals, for whom penguins might not be quite the fascination they were for us, describe them as noisy and messy. But for us, the peeping and calling was unbelievably magical and we were absolutely thrilled for the incredible opportunity to watch the penguins’ night-time commute.
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