Phillip Island Overhead
– Photo by Norman E. Hill
The Phillip Island side tour started off our Australian excursion. Over a brief two days, I experienced several enjoyable tour attractions. Teamed with a variety of meeting planners, our goal was to discover why Phillip Island is an ideal destination for a pre- or post-trip. Our guide was a dynamic young woman, Sara Bell.
Several times, I was asked to state what I found most notable on Phillip Island. Though I didn’t specify watching the small penguins, that was certainly most enjoyable.
Chocolate lover that I am, probably my most enjoyable experience was stopping at Panny’s Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. This family-owned-and-run operation is operated by an Indian-New Guinea-immigrant to Australia, known by his shortened name as “Panny.” His interesting factory operation reflects a passion for making chocolate in a host of creative ways. Panny says, “We start with the best Belgium couverture chocolate with a high cocoa butter content; we gently heat and cool the chocolate to ensure it has a smooth, glossy finish and a crisp snap. The tempering method has been perfected…over the years and is one of the reasons why our chocolates taste so good.” All of his chocolate is gluten free and the nutritional information is listed on his website.
View from Silverwater Resort – Photo by Norman E. Hill
In addition to Panny’s, our tour started with a stop at the Silverwater Resort, where we left our luggage. This waterfront resort is set high in the hills above San Remo. All units were modern apartments, built on hilltops with scenic views of the ocean or other sites. My accommodation was a duplex, with two bedrooms, a living room, and kitchen. This was more than comfortable, it was delightful. Parking space for automobile travelers was available close by, and these provided convenient access for transporting luggage.
In subgroups of threes, we took a helicopter tour of the island. Phillip Island is a small area, connected by bridge to the mainland. From the air, it was very interesting to see the geographic ins and outs of the island and some of its animals.
On the bus and after the helicopter tour, guide personnel and our own members set up several imaginative games to play. We divided into teams. No money was at stake, only fun.
Silverwater Resort Entrance – Photo courtesy of Silverwater Resort
A koala preserve has been set up on Phillip at the Koala Conservation Centre. These marsupials, unique to Australia, are very gentle and also very fussy eaters. They may eat from up to 70 varieties of trees, but greatly prefer three types of gum trees. These are available to them on the preserve. Koalas may live for around 20 years, but must have sufficient supplies of leaves from these trees. Like humans, the koala females have a longer life expectancy than the males; they can live close to twice as long. Ten years is considered good for a male. Touring the centre, we walked along two boardwalks. One went through the treetops so we could see koalas close up.
We ate dinner at Spice Island. This restaurant and cooking school concentrated on homegrown fresh food products, some of which have been featured in chef/owner Hayden Wood’s (aka “Woody”) book, “Green Food Generation.” We enjoyed several tasty selections from his recipes. The chef said, “There are lots of things in your lifestyle that can affect the way you and your body feel, even the way you sleep at night or think during the day – but none more important than the food you eat. You are what you eat. Eat fresh and free-range, shop locally and ethically…”
After dinner, when the sun had set, we entered the Phillip Island Nature Park set up for the small Fairy Penguins. These animals, up to 12 inches tall, are unique to Australia, but are similar to small penguins we saw previously in South Africa. Phillip Island is home to the largest little penguin colony in the world. For long periods, they roam the sea, filling up on food and trying to avoid predators, such as sharks and seals. They have nests on land, where chicks wait for their return with needed food.
As a sign of the popularity of these penguins, stands built to hold observers became full, even as the temperature fell sharply after dark. Soon, what looked like a miniature sea emerged from the ocean, as a host of the birds slowly came onto shore. They were all on their way to their nests, with one male/female couple per nest. Each couple was able to recognize its own nest and chick, and would only feed the occupant of its own domain.
The following morning, we went to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre. This is a well-known home to a variety of competitive motorsport events every year. Our own group was treated to rides on Champ Karts, going around a track alongside the Grand Prix Circuit itself. We received performance printouts to compare with our associates, on strictly a non-professional basis.
Phillip Island was a great way to start off an Australian tour. It would be an ideal couple, family or incentive destination.
Fairy Penguins in the Sea Headed to the Beach and Nests – Photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Park
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