I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published October 26th 2014
Penguins are just one of the many animals to see on Kangaroo Island and after ticking the others (seals, sea lions, koalas, kangaroos and even an echidna) off my list I was determined to see some Little Penguins too. There are two locations where you can see them on the island, Kingscote and Penneshaw, and I chose to do a tour from Penneshaw Penguin Centre at the latter (purely because it was closer to my accommodation).
The town of Penneshaw, where the ferry to the mainland arrives and departs
The penguins come up through here from the beachc to find their burrows
Tours take place after dark every night and when I visited in September/October this meant they ran at 7.00pm and 8.00pm. However, times change, probably depending on when the sun goes down at different times of the year, so you should enquire in advance.
The experience begins with video inside the centre. It's pretty rudimentary and includes footage from when the colony here was a lot larger. When it's finished you're armed with torches (specifically red ones) and set off to find some penguins.
While the places you explore on the tour are open during the day, which means you can get a feel of where the burrows are in daylight, it's only on a tour that you can get into them after dark, though some parts are visible from Bay Terrace. It'salso the only time that penguins are generally in the burrows too, as during the day they are out at sea (as well as during the whole month of February).
The experienced guide leading the tour knows which penguins are around regularly and which burrows are being used. With my guide's help, on my tour we managed to see four. Apparently this result isn't too great, as it was recommended we return for the later tour, or come on another night.
Over the other side of the road, rocks have to be conquered
It does sound like you always get to see some penguins on the tour though, but less than you used too. Numbers have been diminishing in the last few years so that there is only around 15 pairs of penguins in the Penneshaw colony, very small compared to what it used to be like, when the images for the video were taken.
Most of the burrows the penguins live in are man-made
Booking for the Penneshaw Penguin Centre Nocturnal Tours is recommended as groups are kept small. I visited during the September school holidays and on my first attempt to get on a tour I found that night's ones were already full. Luckily I managed to go on another the day before I returned home. I think individuals or pairs would have a better chance of getting on with late notice.