For a closer encounter get your FREE Binoculars at the Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell
The comical antics of little penguins can be observed from two cliff top vantage points in Port Campbell National Park. Observe the complex social behavior of their nightly return at both the 12 Apostles and London Bridge viewing platforms.
Arrival times vary according to time of year. The best guide is to be settled onto the viewing platform by sunset, penguins generally appear between 10 and 15 minutes after sunset with their mass exit usually occurring 20 and 25 minutes later as twilight fades to dark. Much communication occurs as the penguins return from the sea including the odd territorial dispute.
The population of birds is significantly more at the 12 Apostles (around 800 birds) but viewers are a little closer to the birds at London Bridge.
Little penguins have been recorded diving to depths of up to 60m but dive mostly between 5m and 25m they mainly eat small fish and squid but will also eat crabs, sea horses and shellfish from the sea floor.
Little penguins are the world’s smallest penguin specie and are the only specie to breed on the Australian mainland
And yes, the little penguins of now are the fairy penguins of yesteryear. Much speculation is rife about the changing name, the new name reflects the scientific name Eudyptula Minor (Eudyptula is Greek for good little diver) and has nothing to do with political correctness and use of the term fairy.
Viewing of little penguins is generally not as good during the months of February and March when the birds moult. During moulting the birds spend little time in the water and are hungry and grumpy as a result. The birds won’t resume a normal behavior until their feathers are completely coated with the waterproof waxy film produced by a gland near the base of their tail.
Access: A sealed undulating 600m return path from the main car park to the viewing platform (add 150m for prams and wheelchairs) The walkway from the main viewing area to the car park has down lights present to assist you after dusk.
FREE Binoculars at the Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell for enhanced viewing
During the months of September till April the return to roost of the mutton-bird (short-tailed shearwater) can be observed from a viewing platform at Mutton Bird Island in the Loch Ard Gorge precinct. At this time the 150m by 80m island is home to about 12 000 birds. The nightly swarming return and almost instantaneous disappearance of the birds into their burrows is a spectacle worthy of the incredible backdrop. Arrival times are similar to the penguins making it near impossible to see both displays on the one night.
Both parents incubate the egg which is laid towards the end of November. The chick hatches during the 3rd week of January. After this time both parent birds will return to roost and regurgitate for the chick (effectively doubling the numbers returning each evening)
The annual migration of the Shearwater takes them on a round trip of around 30 000km taking in Northern Asia and the Aleutian islands in the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. Only 10% of birds survive until their 3rd year. 50 000 birds are drowned annually by fishing nets in the North Pacific Ocean.
A joint treaty protecting the short-tailed shearwater exists between Australia and Japan. Both countries monitor the shearwater populations whilst the birds are in their area. Japan and other countries are attempting to minimize the number of birds that are drowned by their fishing operations.
Access: There are no designated accessible car parks at the Mutton-bird island car park.
Access to the top viewing platform is 100m on crushed rock and is suitable for prams and wheelchairs. There are steps to a lower viewing platform
Fairy lights in the forest! Melba Gully (35 minutes east of the 12 Apostles) provides a fitting end to our nightly spectacular. The deep rainforest is home to colonies of glow worms. Glow worms aren’t worms; they are the larvae of fungus gnats.
The eerie green light emanates from the abdomen of the larvae. It is visible throughout the forest and is most brilliant after rain and on non moonlit nights. Disturbing the larvae by shining torches directly or touching them reduces the light and is harmful to the larvae
Access: Accessible car parking spots are clearly marked. A switchback path bypasses the steps to the amenities block and interpretive display. A switchback path also provides access to the sheltered BBQ area (No coins required) The path becomes steep in parts and not entirely suitable for prams and wheelchairs beyond this point.
Caution: Torches are essential; visitors should take extra care on the Great Ocean Road after dark.