Winter time is penguin nesting season! This is a critical time for the little penguins as they spend more time ashore to find a mate, lay some eggs and raise the chicks. To ensure minimal disturbance during this time, WA’s Parks & Wildlife Services closes Penguin Island to the general public but have allowed Rockingham Wild Encounters to conduct strictly managed guided walks as part of our winter cruise program. Read on below for full details. The Penguin Island ferry service and full cruise program will resume from September 15, 2018.
IS THE PENGUIN ISLAND WILDLIFE CRUISE SUITABLE FOR ME?
It’s perfect for everyone and a great way to see a lot in a short time. The cruise stays within the sheltered waters of Shoalwater Bay so it’s smooth sailing and sea sickness is highly unlikely. It’s suitable for all ages and people with limited mobility. Our gangways and glass bottom boat are wheelchair and pram friendly. The guided walk is fairly easy for people with average fitness but includes a short section along the beach and several steps up to the southern lookout. If you would prefer not to walk, then you’re welcome to rest under the trees in the picnic area.
Cruises are subject to weather. When you book your cruise it is important that you leave us with a contact number for where you are staying in Perth (preferably a mobile that you will be carrying on the day of your tour). If we cancel due to weather, we will contact you to see if you can reschedule for another date. There is no charge if we have to cancel due to weather.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
On the boat, it’s important that you are adequately dressed because it can be cold, especially in winter. A warm weatherproof jacket is essential. Gloves, scarves & beanies for the colder days are a good idea. We recommend comfortable shoes and a rain jacket for the guided walk on the island.
WHAT WILDLIFE WILL WE SEE?
We visit the wildlife sanctuary zone of the marine park which has the best viewing opportunities including the Australian Sea Lion! There can be up to 30 sea lions ‘hauling out’ on the beach at Seal Island but numbers vary especially during the breeding season. There’s lots of sea birds and we typically sea pelicans, ospreys, terns and cormorants most days. We will also do our best to find you some dolphins but this can’t be guaranteed as our cruise is restricted to inside the sheltered waters of Shoalwater Bay. The dolphins do spend a lot of time here but they also go out to sea at times where our glass bottom boat is not licensed to go. If you really want dolphins then consider our Adventure Cruise or Swim with Wild Dolphins Cruise which operate from September 15 to early June!
Will we see little penguins during the guided walk?
Winter is nesting season for the little penguins so there are plenty that stay on the island during the day at this time of year. Please understand that this is a critical time for the penguins and most will be tucked up in their burrows and within nesting boxes sitting on eggs or attending to chicks so sightings are likely to be brief and can’t be guaranteed. As we walk around the island, your guide will be pointing out nesting boxes and burrows and if we’re lucky, you may spot little penguins at the entrances. If you’re lucky enough to spot a penguin we ask that you remain quiet, move slowly and give the penguin plenty of space (at least a few metres). Also please ensure your flash is turned off if taking photos.
WHAT WILL WE SEE THROUGH THE GLASS BOTTOM?
Beneath the surface Shoalwater Bay has an interesting diversity of marine habitats including seagrass meadows, limestone reefs and sandy sea beds that are home to plenty of fish, crabs, stingrays, rock lobster, octopus and more. Our guides will endeavour to share the best underwater viewing on every cruise, however, visitors should not expect brightly coloured tropical reef and fish that they may have experienced on other glass bottom boats. The colours here are more subdued as we’re operating in temperate waters and we also don’t feed the fish to attract them under the glass (it’s bad for their health and the environment!). Viewing Shoalwater’s underwater world is just one component of our Penguin and Sea Lion cruise and some days limited visibility can make it difficult. Most of the local wildlife and scenic highlights are above the water so this is where our guides will focus your attention.
Due to the open and stable nature of our boat, few passengers get sea sick, however everyone’s susceptibility is different. If you suspect sea sickness will be an issue for you we recommend the following:
- Purchase some Travel Calm tablets at check in.
- Select a seat in the rear half of the boat where there is less movement.
- Keep your body temperature on the cooler side.
- If you wear glasses keep the lenses clean at all times.
- Avoid looking through cameras or binoculars.
- Stay away from acidic foods before the cruise such as orange juice and coffee.
- Avoid going into the toilet to be sick. Confined spaces will only make you feel worse.
- If you start to feel sick, let our crew know so we can assist.
CAN WE TOUCH THE DOLPHINS & HOW CLOSE WILL THEY COME?
They come incredibly close. They often enjoy ‘surfing the bow’ of the boat where they sit in the pressure wave created by the movement of the boats hull through the water. To ensure that we do not harm the dolphins in anyway by transmitting skin diseases or damaging their protective skin layer we adhere to a strict ‘no touch policy’.
CAN WE FEED THE DOLPHINS?
Definitely not! It’s terrible for their health and would ruin the unique friendship we have with them which is based on a mutual curiosity and enjoyment of one another’s company, rather than food. Feeding wild dolphins (and most other species of wild animals) results in an increased mortality rate and decrease in reproductive success.