One of our very first delightful discoveries in our exploration of Tas’ was the many colonies of Little Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, that range along the coastline in colonies. Predominantly found in the shelter of the northern stretch of island, but running well down the east coast and in colonies all around the coastline of the island, these little penguins live in an intrepid harmony with the rest of the population.
Much of Tasmania has opened its arms up to caravaner’s and travellers in more recent years as they have come to recognize the benefits of this form of tourism, including the freedom campers. There a number of caravan parks which can accommodate those bringing their rec’ vehicles and mobile homes across the Bass Strait from the mainland. The Spirit of Tasmania is the usual means of transit and it is on these great vehicular ferries that the traveller more often arrives. Amongst these are many who likes to campout in a more natural setting than the caravan park can provide and Tas’ has embraced these travellers and nomads. The Spirit of Tasmania Ferries disgorge their passengers at the central northern harbour town of Devonport and this is from where the travellers radiate out. They usually head either south or east, but often the adventurer will take a right hand swing and take on the more remote western coast as we did. Venturing along the Great Nature Trail, west of Devonport and delving up into the region of beautiful gorges and the remote and beautiful country of the Tarkine in the NW corner is a very different experience than you find on the Mainland.
At the very least, along this stretch of coast as you travel west, nestle colony after colony of the entertaining little penguin. There are area’s such as at near Leith, at Penguin and Burnie where viewing platforms have been provided to help protect the colonies, and where wonderful local volunteers come each evening to advise and supervise the curious
visitors. In some places, such as Halls Point at Sulphur Creek, barely 40ks west of Devonport, you can even camp-up right inside the penguin colony and spend the night listening to these silken feathered, little girls and guys, court and breed. We spent many entertaining hours with our red-cellophaned torch (the penguins hate white light) searching out these lovely little characters on their nightly trek back to their nests.
The penguins are most easily found between Nov-Jan, which is their chick-rearing cycle, although the chance of seeing them is all year round between egg-laying, chick rearing, moulting and buffing up. The colder months are their non-breeding season and there is only 20% chance of finding the little beggars over the winter.
When planning a trip to Tasmania, you are also advised to arrange a grey water collection system for this very reason, and others. Tasmania has a sensitive eco system where wildlife that often rellies on your consideration and organization. A grey water collection tank is essential and Councils are now rightly insisting on caravaner’s being fully self-contained. For anyone wanting to get off the beaten track or freedom camp along the way, this has become a necessity and often camping (ie tenting) is disallowed for this reason as few tent campers collect their grey water and usually have no means to do so. Crapping in the bush, something wicked campers have a tendency to do, is also a serious hazard to the little penguins. Yet these same sites will permit the stopover of the self-contained vehicles for often 48 hours and more.
Free-camping, as it is termed, has now been welcomed by many towns around Tas’ readily. An interesting experience a local from Halls Point recounted was that about the once vibrant penguin colony on their doorstep and shorefront. Dogs and cats wreck havoc with the penguin communities and unfortunately this is what occurred at Halls Point, a popular overnight stop for RV vehicles. A dog, as in singular, managed to decimate the colony of the little penguins there and in a bid to protect the colony the local council banned all RV vehicles from staying overnight and erected barriers to that effect. Unfortunately this also encouraged the use of the area by local kids on bikes and a number of tracks were cut through the low bush that the penguins use for nesting, further endangering the colony.
After considerable debate they reopened the RV rest are for overnight stays, which in turn kept the hoons out and after putting up barriers restricting the camp area to the entrance to the small headland, the colony of penguins is now once more regaining its strength. It was actually good to read on Wickicamps about one campers complaint that the noise from courting penguins and their youngsters kept him up during the night.
Hearing the tales and experiences that local townspeople have with travellers, RV’s and tourists is often an entertaining pastime but repeatedly I hear of the many benefits of embracing the growing demographic of the travelling adventurer and freedom camper. There are many ways and means by which to see this beautiful country of ours and as our population ages, and more people discover the delights in travel in their retirement, it is good to see communities recognize that not all of us want the same experience offered traditionally in the caravan and holiday park. Life is wonderfully varied and its diversity is the very heart of a healthy community. To see the small townships around Tasmania benefit from the mainland travellers exploring their beautiful corner of our world is also a wonderful thing.
Jan is a Traveller and an Author. You can find out more about her books on travel on the page dedicated to Oldies at Large, where you will also find a list of her blog postings in topic.
Tales of adventure across Australia
Discovering Australia and Her Lore
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