A Tour with a Difference: Phillip Island, Melbourne

Another post so overdue (> 1 year), I can’t believe it… So let’s dive right in!

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First stop of our Phillip Island tour was The Gurdies Winery. Since it was winter, the grapes were “asleep”.

To be honest, this part of the tour was a bit of a letdown. Let me quote from their website:

“Sample (and you can buy at discounted prices as well) some of the area’s finest wines whilst enjoying a selection of local cheeses and olives with tasty fresh crusty bread and crackers, fruit in season and other local produce.”

Sounds great, huh? In my mind I was picturing something like this:

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Or at the very least something like this:

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This was what we had:

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Okay, so it doesn’t look that bad. But here’s the thing: the winery was in fact closed that day. So we had to sit outdoors with the winter chill seeping into our bones. Yes, I understand that travelling to Melbourne in July means having to brave the cold weather, so that’s no one’s fault. But why bring us to a winery when it wasn’t even open?

The makeshift picnic was prepared by our tour guide, who also brought along three bottles of wine for us to sample: two white and a rosé. Personally, I prefer white wine, so it’s fine by me, but my merlot-loving sister would’ve been disappointed.

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Our tasting session didn’t last very long. After everyone had maybe a thimbleful amount of wine, our guide collected the bottles and loaded them back into the van. I get that “sample” doesn’t mean “drink copious amounts of wine”, but the experience just left a bad taste in my mouth (pun fully intended). I mean, could we even buy the wine if we were interested, given that the winery wasn’t open for business?

Next up was Panny’s Chocolate Factory. My gosh… this was probably the worst part of the trip. If you have read previous posts on this blog, you’ll know that I rarely complain. But I really do want to share my travel experiences, the good and the bad.

Once again, let me quote from the ATWAD website:

“This is not just a “stop and shop” stop, we take you on a guided tour of the factory where you will see and learn how it is made, and of course, you get lots of FREE samples along the way.”

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The guided tour (done by Panny’s staff) was incredibly short, and I couldn’t hear ANYTHING at all because two minutes after we entered the premises, a busload of tourists poured in and it was GAME OVER from there. The kid in the red shirt happily elbowed his way to the front, and proceeded to invade every single photograph I took in that place.

To put things in perspective, everyone else in this photo (not including the guide) was from my group. We were originally in front since we were first to arrive – makes sense, yeah? Didn’t stay that way for long.

We were given some time to take a closer look at the exhibits, and some of them looked pretty fun, but it just couldn’t be done. Some particularly obnoxious people were pushing and shoving the whole time, and after a while I gave up and joined my mum, who had wisely made a beeline for the exit the moment it got crowded.

Oh, and the part about “lots of free samples”? ONE piece of chocolate, about the size of a one dollar coin. I’m never trusting anyone’s sales pitch ever again.

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Taking pictures outside while waiting for the other family whom we were travelling with. They were a family of four, and plus my mum and me it was only six people. The small group size was partly why I went with this particular tour. I did not pay 280 Aussie dollars (not including tips) for this day trip to be trapped in enclosed spaces with loud, inconsiderate tourists.

Thankfully, the next part of the tour was much, much better. We visited the Philip Island Wildlife Park, and it was (mostly) glorious. We were up close and personal with lots of animals native to Australia, and even got to hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies!

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We were each given a bag of these pellet things to feed the animals, which weren’t shy, to say the least. They know that the humans come with food!

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This little guy is a wallaby!

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Hey guys, anyone hungry?

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Aww… Look at its little paws. What could be cuter?

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Well, there’s the answer right there.

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Mama Swan guarding her egg(s). You can see how she’s eyeing the camera suspiciously.

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Echidna (the “ch” is pronounced like a “k”). Fun fact: echidnas and platypuses are the only two living mammals that lay eggs.

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Adorable! This scene looks like it could be in a children’s book.

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Daddy (?) tags along.

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White-bellied sea eagle. I didn’t manage to capture the moment in which one of them flew across the aviary. But oh, it was quite a sight.

Just yesterday, Edwin and I had a conversation about birds in aviaries, and about animals in captivity. It was sad to know that these eagles may never know just how high they can soar. On the other hand, the white-bellied sea eagle is ranked as Threatened in Victoria and Vulnerable in South Australia and Tasmania (source) so I suppose it’s safer in here.

Would you want to spend your life safely in a cage, or would you want to live freely (and possibly dangerously)? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

Alright, moving on from philosophical musings…

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Dingoes! At one point they all came together and had a meeting.

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I’m guessing this was Mama Swan’s mate?

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There were koalas too, but they were the least exciting animals. Honestly, they do absolutely nothing. When you finally come across a koala that is close enough for you to take a decent photo, there’s a 90% chance that it’s sleeping.

There was also a small room which housed a variety of snakes and lizards. I didn’t take photos, as it was rather dim and I didn’t want use flash and risk provoking the creatures. Just saying, the glass cases didn’t look particularly sturdy and I did not want to be in an enclosed space with them for long. It’d be just slightly worse than being with those tourists in Panny’s Chocolate Factory.

In case you weren’t particularly impressed with what you’ve seen so far, how about this?

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Have you ever seen so many kangaroos in your life? It was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen, and it was also a little scary. Remember when I said they know that the humans come with food?

Now imagine literally dozens of them jumping towards YOU, and you’re pretty low on supplies because you didn’t expect there’d be this many of them hanging around in the furthest corner of the park. Also, many of them were much larger than the ones who greeted us near the entrance.

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So yeah, these guys ate whatever was left in my bag and the bag itself. I didn’t mean to feed them paper – they just tore up the bag and ate it up before I could get it back.

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Mama and baby kangaroo! So cool seeing them up close.

That’s it for the wildlife park!

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Before heading to see the penguins, we had dinner at what looked like a sleepy seaside town with gorgeous views.

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Turns out Philip Island is known for other kinds of birds too.

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Had dinner in this lovely cafe! (Yes, dinner is included in the tour package.)

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Mum ordered a salad with anchovies on the side. And just to show how different our dining preferences are…

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Muahaha… My chicken parmesan that looks like a massive Valentine heart!

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Waiting for the penguins to come to shore. It was FREEZING, and even with the blankets that the tour provided, we were shaking!

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And… just our luck, it started raining. Heavily. I tried to wait in the rain (the blankets were waterproof), but my mum was having none of it and dragged me into a sheltered section. We did manage to see a few penguins later on, but unfortunately the viewing experience was marred by other people pushing and shoving.

At that moment, the real horror was that flashes were going off everywhere, even though all the guests were repeatedly reminded that flash photography was strictly prohibited. The flashes would not only startle the penguins, but could also cause them to be disoriented and thus be unable to find their way home.

So many people seem to be unaware that when observing animals in their natural habitats, we need to be as unobtrusive as possible. I get that humans are naturally curious, but we mustn’t forget that it’s their planet too.

Okay, semi-preachy end to a long and winding post. Quite a few highs and lows in this one, and I applaud you for making it all the way to the end. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’m just sharing my personal experiences.

If a long post like this one reads like it’s going in different directions, it’s most likely because it’s been sitting in “Drafts” for a long time, and I add on to it whenever I can. In any case, I’m glad that this one is finally seeing the light of day, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve got a few more posts coming up, so stay tuned!

A Tour with a Difference
http://www.atwad.com.au/

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One thought on “A Tour with a Difference: Phillip Island, Melbourne

  1. Pingback: St Anne’s Winery, Melbourne, Australia – Dresses, Desserts, and Directions

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