The Penguin Parade

The chilly sea wind blew through my blanket, my jumper, it hugged me tightly with its icy arms but I didn’t care, the little penguins had my full attention.
I had boarded a bus at St. Kilda in Melbourne, earlier in the afternoon with my fellow travellers, to go to a little Island which was separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of sea. Our destination was Phillip Island, home of the Penguin Parade.
The bus had steadily driven out of Melbourne City, over enclosed grey motorways before finally veering off the concrete roads and entering the beautiful picturesque Australian countryside, until just a bridge lay in front of us.
Driving over the bridge, the clear blue ocean flowed underneath, my eyes were captured by striking surroundings. The bus squeezed itself along a small narrow road looking out of place in this stunning nature reserve.
When the bus stopped we were ushered into a tourist centre. A countdown clock, proudly displayed on a wall, showed when the penguin parade would start. I wasted time in the canteen and gift shop but my main focus was always the clock. Closer and closer the timer ticked down to when the penguins would be arriving, and soon enough groups of people slowly started walking towards the beach and I quickly fell in step with them.
Walking down the boardwalk, daylight was still very much prevalent. We looked out over the wooden barriers scanning the luscious green landscape, looking out for the penguin’s tiny huts. We rounded a bend and were welcomed with open arms by the most magnificent sight. In front of us lay a beautiful beach. The sand was a clean creamy colour and the ocean was a clear striking blue, gently lapping up along the sand. We scrambled down onto giant concrete steps. Quickly putting our name on the perfect spot, we wrapped blankets around ourselves and settled down to wait.
Hoards of seagulls flocked overhead as we waited. The sun slowly set. I was afraid to move for fear of missing the first sighting. Scanning the gentle and calming surf I was rewarded with my first glimpse. A little blue head popped up out of the waves. Then another one, and another one. Slowly, after our long wait, small groups of little penguins pushed their heads up out of the water and after a while of looking at this magnificent sight I glanced to my left and was at a privilege to see a small group of penguins waddling up the beach. Away from the dim floodlights, bathed in just moonlight- the crowd seem to not have spotted them. It was at this moment that I felt alone, just me and the penguins. I couldn’t bare to peel my eyes off them, their smallness amazed me. From the corner of my eye I spotted another cluster of penguins popping up out of the water. Their tiny heads created an image of an army, crawling up the sand protecting each other.
We only sat and watched for about an hour, time was upon us and we had a bus to catch. The penguins continued to emerge from the sand as we begrudgingly made our way back up the giant concrete steps. Walking back up the weather-worn boardwalk the night sky proudly displayed clusters of magnificent and sparkling stars. Hundreds and thousands twinkled brightly in the dark sky because there was no artificial light to distort or block them out.
The little penguins marched up the sand dunes barely acknowledging the two hundred or so people gawping at them. Dozens of penguins surrounded the area. Baby penguins sat under the boardwalk like little balls of fluff and a chick waited for its food. Penguins were sitting and walking around so close I could have touched them. It was a truly magical evening.
Reaching the bus I was at a loss for words, silenced by the beauty I had just witnessed. One quick look under the bus for lost penguins and we were gone, leaving behind the penguins to go on with their parade but carrying in our memory one of nature’s most beautiful places.

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