There are lots of daytrips to be done from Melbourne. The wilderness is all around you! We did two daytrips while we were there; one self-drive and one via a tour.
As you know, Australia’s home to many interesting animals, not found elsewhere in the world. A few examples are kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, dingos and wombats- pretty cool! I love visiting sanctuaries, more so than zoos, simply because I believe sanctuaries are meant to benefit animals and for conservation purposes in general, while zoos are more catered towards tourists, although of course some of them do have conservation goals but let’s not go there. Anyway, like I said, just my preference!
So for the day, we planned two places; First, Moonlit Sanctuary followed by the Penguin Parade! If you’re an animal-lover, you’d love the day I have planned!
The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park opened on September 2001, and is about 25acres big. There are approximately 30 different species, and over 200 animals, though not all are on display of course.
Moonlit Sanctuary opens at 10am, and it takes about an hour to get there from Melbourne. We signed up for a few encounters for the day –
- Dingo Walk
- Koala Encounter
- Behind the Scenes tour
You may find out more about the encounter prices and timings here.
The Dingo Walk starts at 10am, right when the park opens. We met Scorch and Blaze, a brother-sister duo, at the car park, and began our walk. I learned so much about them and the unfortunate reputation dingoes have in the eyes of farmers. Can you believe these beautiful creatures are currently listed as “Endangered” all across Australia, yet there’s been little movement to protect their species from extinction.
Why? Because they are considered by farmers, who believe them to be deadly predators and harmful to their livestock populations and are therefore baited, trapped and killed by most farmers. Truth is, dingoes mainly hunt for native wildlife, eg. Kangaroos and wallabies, and keep their populations in check. They generally avoid livestock, as it’s not in their natural instincts to hunt farmed animals. In fact, dingoes protect farmlands by keeping away foxes, feral cats etc, real livestock predators. Without them, these predators thrive and devastate local farm populations.
Thankfully, farmers are increasingly being educated on the true way of life of dingoes, and the importance of dingoes in the Australian landscape is slowly being recognised, and hopefully, in a few years, the situation will improve for the dingoes. There’s a small spark of hope though – Dingoes have been recognised as a threatened, protected species in Victoria.
It was fun – and educational!- taking Scorch and Blaze for a walk – walking them felt like walking dogs, and they’re just so soft and fluffy!
Next, we headed to the Koala enclosure for our photo-op with the Koala. In Victoria, you’re not allowed to physically carry/cuddle a koala, but that’s okay, having the opportunity to get up close and pet the little furry one was reward enough! As you can tell, he was completely unfazed by the attention – he just wanted the Eucalyptus!
We stopped for a quick bite at the cafe before our “Behind the Scenes” Tour, and enjoyed the Beef Steak Pie very much!
Time for the “Behind the Scenes” tour! We spent the next hour learning about various animals, and it’s so worth it.
This was such a memorable and interactive experience, and the keeper, Ryan, couldn’t be nicer! Ask for him as your keeper, he has the most interesting facts and stories to share(which I won’t spoil here!). We learned so much about all the animals he showed us, and the photo opportunities alone make this worth every penny!
After the tour, we went around the park. One of the highlights around here is the feeding of resident kangaroos and wallabies (and some ducks!). You’ll never be able to get near them in the wild so if you want to pet a kangaroo/wallaby, Moonlit Sanctuary is the way to go. Just look at their adorable faces!! They’ll even hold onto to your palm until they’re finished, then you’re allowed to refill. Smart critters.
We finished feeding, literally, when the food ran out, and went around the park looking at the other exhibits.
Most of the animals here have a story, and that includes the newest residents of Moonlit Sanctuary, a pair of Wedge Tailed Eagles, the largest raptors in Australia. Due to previous domestication, this pair’s only chance of survival lies in captivity.
According to Moonlit Sanctuary’s spokesman, “The male Wedgie was found severely underweight and begging for food on a farmer’s property, while the female was injured in an accident and required surgery to amputate two talons.”
That’s heartbreaking. I’ll never understand why people would want birds as pets – they’re meant to be soar. I have great respect admiration for Moonlit Sanctuary for swooping in(pun intended) and saving these birds, by building them their own private home, away from threats, and with space to fly and be comfortable. We watched them for a good 10 minutes; I love how regal they look.
Last but not least, the animal show! There’s an animal show daily at 2.30pm, and depending on the days, you might different animals, so no two visits are ever the same.
I very much enjoyed Moonlit Sanctuary! I love the interaction between the keepers and animals, you can tell there’s so much love between them and they’ve forged strong bonds with each other. Most of the animals each have a story, and almost every keeper have hand-reared at least one of the animals here – not surprising considering they are constantly rescuing animals in need and conservation is of the utmost importance here, with approximately 25% of Moonlit Sanctuary’s species marked as endangered or threatened with extinction.
Visit their website here for more info and tickets!
Nobbies Centre/ Penguin Parade
After the park, we headed off to our next destination – the Antarctic Journey Experience at the Nobbies Centre, our first stop before the Penguin Parade. It takes about an hour’s drive to get from Moonlit Sanctuary to the Antarctic Journey. Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late to experience the Antarctic Journey (doors close at 4pm in autumn), bummer! Be sure to check out their website for timings during different seasons.
The Antarctic Journey is a joint venture between Phillip Island Nature Parks and WWF-Australia and brings with it interactive and immersive activities and well worth your time to check it out. They’ve got exhibits to educate and entertain, including a state of the art multimedia experience where you stand on ice and watch marine marvels appear on the wide screen before you.
As the sun began to set, we made our way towards the Penguin Parade, less than 5 mins’ drive away from the Nobbies Centre! There are three tiers; the General Viewing, Penguins Plus, and Underground Viewing. Tickets can be pre-purchased on their website here.
Waiting in the comforts of the Underground viewing platform We were told to keep our voices down and put away any recording devices – no photography/video recording/audio recording is allowed – for the sake of the Penguins. This applies to all viewing platforms, which is nice, so you’ll be able to appreciate the “performance” in all its glory without distractions!
As the sun began to set, we witnessed the first group of penguins landing on the shore and it was hard to contain our excitement! They’re the cutest things, and their waddling just made our hearts melt. They looked drunk, haha!
These penguins are known as Fairy, or Little Penguins, and are the smallest species of penguins in the world. Adult little penguins are the only penguins in the world with blue and white feathers and average around 1kg and 33cm tall – pint-sized! Phillip Island is home to an estimated 32,000 penguins – just imagine! They spend 80% of their lives in the sea, only coming up onto land after sunset when they please (and when their land predators are sleeping), to socialise, breed, moult and basically, take a break from the sea.
I’ve never experienced a “Penguin Parade” before this and I’m so glad I did it, and now understand why EVERYONE wants to do it. Tickets to the parade go towards a great cause – to protect and enhance Phillip Island’s natural environment through research, conservation and education programs so they may continue to support the diverse wildlife populations that look to it as home for current and future generations to come. You get to watch an amazing, aww-inducing penguin “performance” and the money spent supports wildlife and their habitats – it’s a win-win!
Want a little preview of the precious penguins? They’ve got an a Penguin Parade App that’ll take you behind the scenes and give you access to the burrow camera where you can penguins playing house!
Like I said, I’ve always loved animals, and this day couldn’t have gone any better. First at Moonlit Sanctuary with some of Australia’s iconic animals, and ending off the day with the cutest parade in the world.
Tomorrow, we indulge!