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Having slept very well in my first night in the beach house I woke just before 9 and had a quick breakfast of more multigrain weet-bix. After clearing away we all made our way down to the beach for low tide to see the rock pools.

The beach was very different to yesterday as the tide was out about 75 meters. This left a wide expanse of rock exposed which had pockets of rock-pools with a wide variety of aquatic fauna and flora in each. In our first rock pool we found a small crab underneath a rock. There were also a number of sea stars (small limpet type creatures) lining the edge of the pools. These could easily be prised off to observe closely. On closer inspection there was a circular mouth on its underside. I also found a selection of large sea snails some with shells as long as 5-8cm. A particularly elusive creature was the chiton, we had seen a number of its shells washed up along the shore line and it was quite tricky to find. After several fruitless attempts we stumbled across a couple of large ones attached limpet like again to the sides of rockpools. They have segmented shells which have a blue/green glossy hue and look like armoured slugs. The Internet says that they are quite delicious, we left them alone in peace however.

In some of the larger pools there were groups of people snorkelling and looking at the fish. Although they weren’t brightly coloured they were still interesting looking and had various bandings or spots along their bodies. We were able to walk out quite a long way on the rocks and watched as groups of fishers stood casting lines out into the sea. Some were obviously quite inexperienced and it was quite amusing to see the struggle to reel in land some of the tiniest fish or mainly seaweed!

The water in the smaller pools had been heated by the sun and was actually very warm indeed, nearing bath temperature! One of the pools was big enough to watch people snorkel up and down looking at fish, crabs and a wide variety of seaweed we were able to look in from above and see a large number of toad fish, these had speckally stripes and were as long as 15cm, also visible were some eels and a particularly large crab at least 20cm in width and 10cm in length just walking around on top of a pile of seaweed under the water. We are going to head back down later in the week to do some snorkelling ourselves.

As the weather was looking so good we decided to drive around the coast to the next seaside village Cape Patterson. We were due to meet Kevin and Cathy, geologist friends of Luciano and Susie. As we drove up to their house Cathy was standing waving to us from their first floor balcony with Cody, their miniature Lassie type dog. After brief introductions all five of us made our way down to to beach.

The beach at Cape Patterson was very thin at the high tide when we arrived with a couple of hundred people sandwiched between the tide mark and the steep sand dunes. As with most British beaches the masses had simply dumped themselves and their kit within a couple of meters of the stairs down. We decided to walk up 50m to the lifeguarded section where there were two flags out signalling that it was safe in that area. The beach had seams of rounded rocks – just popping their heads up from the sand – heading out to sea and so there were sections which looked perfect but had danger hidden beneath. Body boarding was amazing fun! The swell was huge, some waves towered over my head as I stood and you had to jump just to try and keep your head above them. I caught the first wave I tried for and felt like I was flying rapidly towards the beach on the breaker. I think Luciano took a number of pictures which may appear sometime soon if they come out!

I was only ‘dumped’ by one wave, it was a large one which I caught before realising that there was yet another behind it. The water plunged over me, in my mouth, up my nose and reminded me I was in Australia (the land where everything is out to kill you and where everyone stands on their heads.) Underwater I had no idea where the sky or the ground were, but managed to kick my way to the surface to stand up and spit out the small ocean I had swallowed!

After about an hour of surfing in the reasonably warm waves we made our way back up to Kevin & Cathy’s house where we ate a light supper which we had brought with us to share with them. The view from their dining room on the first floor was of the bay and looked out towards Wilson’s Promontory – not that it was quite visible, but the wind turbines could be seen in the far distance. We finished off half of the remaining Christmas ham for lunch with a selection of olive tapenade and homemade cheeses from Katy in Bendigo.

We all ate lunch slowly and conversationally and we eventually finished eating a few hours later when we realised that we needed to get moving as Amy and I had bought tickets to the Penguin arrivals at Phillip Island that evening and needed to set of in the next few minutes if we were in with a chance of making it on time.

We arrived at Phillip Island amoungst the last of the cars to watch Penguins arriving. The place was very busy and full of tourists, thankfully the centre has a really strict no photography policy (to make sure that the penguins weren’t disturbed by flashes) and enforced it. This meant that unlike all the other attractions that I’ve been to people were not able to wander around looking at the incredible scenery or sights through their phones or iPads. Unfortunately there were still so many people that we were jammed in like sardines onto concrete raked seating areas. We estimated that there were around 3,000 people sat waiting, watching a beach.

It was worth it though as slowly blocks of, what looked like, little ducks swam along the surface and up to the beach. Once on dry land they seemed to wait for something then waddled along bunched closely together. If they even so much as smelt danger they would turn and run. This was quite comical as time after time they would manage to escape the waves, climb some of the beach bunched together be close to achieving their goal before one of the back most penguins would get jumpy and turn round running for the safety of the waves. The rest of the group would usually follow like a wave going through the group until just one would be left, lonely at the front wondering where all his mates had gone!

After about ten minutes some of the tourists had clearly started having withdrawal symptoms from their gadgets and left the spectacle of the arriving penguins and would make their way back up off the beach to the heathland home of the penguins at the top of the dune. We stayed riveted to the amazing sight for about an our before the waves full of penguins started to die down and the darkness was setting in, so making it quite difficult to see them anyway, and climbed back up to the top of the dunes where the penguins were now making their way back to their chicks and burrows for the night. The whole site was carefully managed with lots of boardwalks that the Penguins could easily walk under and were completely separated from us. We were still able to look out and see them waddling their way home to their chicks. Happy (or hungry) reunions took place between chicks and parents and squabbles broke out between chicks and other parents.

Once everything had really started to die down we left and I drove back off Phillip Island and back toward Wanthaggi. We stopped at a petrol station to refil and managed to pick up some more milk and a icecreams to keep us going for the hour long drive back home. We arrived back just before midnight, I didn’t even need to get a cup of tea before going to bed I was so tired!

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