Phillip Island on Victoria’s Bass Coast is a weekend destination under a two-hour drive from Melbourne. It’s where a torrent of waves from Bass Strait collide into craggy cliffs stretching the breadth of the island. Phillip Island is naturally staged for a weekend nature adventure, furnished by wild and wondrous bushland and inhabited by unique wildlife spotting opportunities including the world-famous Penguin Parade.
Collectively, the Koala Conservation Centre, Seal Rock and Penguin Parade are three of the most popular nature areas that make up much of the Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded organisation that’d dedicated to the conservation of wildlife that live here. Phillip Island Nature Parks’ tagline is simple but effective – ‘discover your wild side’ Wild is how Phillip Island prefers its wilderness, especially for the conservation of those species who call this area home.
Vegans will tell you they are opposed to the exploitation of animals for the sake of human gain. Yet, there are vegans in the community of Melbourne who are unopposed by experiencing these three nature experiences found at Phillip Island. The conservational benefits this non-profit establishment affords are evident, focusing on the ecology for these native stars of such a lush and diversity-rich area. Just take a detouring wander through the bushland trails nearby for a snapshot. Overall, each experience provides vegans (and non-vegans) travelling to Phillip Island the opportunity to witness koalas, seals and penguins in their natural habitats, with as much non-interference from visitors at each stepping stone as possible.
The open air, tree-top boardwalks circumnavigating the Koala Conservation Centre lead visitors around a concourse of eucalypt trees. Fluffy koalas can be found sleeping in the forks of branches and it’s as if visitors here are ‘walking with’ these adorable Australian marsupials; the koalas themselves climb lazily as they’re tempted by young, fresh eucalypt leaves to munch on. On occasion, it’s a beautiful setting to spot a mother and her little joey clinging confidently to her back. Though, these ‘mum and bub’ sightings can be a little far and few between, depending when you visit. Given their sedentary lifestyle, koalas are big-sleepers and often sleep up to 18 hours a day. This is because their diet of eucalypt leaves is low in energy.
Upon my visit to the Koala Conservation Centre, one tourist was keen for a photo and was a little eager, to put it lightly. He discovered a sleepy koala in a low baring bough and the poor creature was shaken awake by the tourist who rattled the branch that was within easy-reach. More often than not staff are wandering the boardwalk to supervise. Yet it was at this moment that timing was futile for the koala. I took it upon myself to tell the tourist to stop, reminding him that his actions were detrimental to the wildlife. He composed himself and proceeded to wander the boardwalk amidst unsavoury glances from other tourists.
The point here is that while the Koala Conservation Centre aims to conserve koalas in their natural habitat, an unruly tourist is always going to appear at any moment and it’s up to us to take the initiative and educate. This is especially important, in this age when urbanisation, land-clearing and loss of habitat are real issues wildlife face regularly. It’s ultimately our role to conserve what is left so Phillip Island doesn’t its priceless treasures – the wildlife.
You can experience the Koala Conservation Centre for yourself. 1810 Phillip Island Road, Phillip Island, Victoria Australia 3923. The Koala Conservation Centre is open 10am to 5pm daily and extended hours operate in the Australian summer months of December through to February.
Adult (16 years+) tickets cost $12.80, child (4-15 years) $6.40, family (2 adults and 2 children) $32.00 and Australian Pensioner (ID required) $8.95
The Koala Conservation Centre is accessible by car and car-parking is free. Public transport is limited to Cowes via V-Line bus from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD (does not go to the Koala Conservation Centre). Taxis are available via Phillip Island Taxis on 03 5952 2200.
Be sure to look out for Part 2 where you'll learn more about the wildlife on Phillip Island: The Penguin Parade and an EcoBoat ride for seal-watching.