BEST TWO ECO-TOURS OUTSIDE OF MELBOURNE
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
In January 2020, I spent about two weeks in Melbourne, Australia. This was in the midst of the Australia Bushfire crisis, which shaped a lot of how I viewed the city and my trip. I focused my efforts on noticing the sustainable factors of the city, as well as what companies and organizations were doing to support the bushfires. You can learn more about this piece of my experience in my previous post Visiting Australia During A Fire Crisis.
In the midst of it all, I still managed to venture and try to make the most of my experience in another country. I spoke to locals and friends, who recommended activities in the outside of Melbourne, and who joined me on some of these. This is how I found the top 2 Eco Tours Outside of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and Phillip Island. Both of these tours were hosted by Autopia.
AUTOPIA AND ECO-TOURISM
Autopia offers small guided tours throughout Australia and are a big proponent of eco-tourism. They want to produce the least amount of impact possible to the environment - including how much paper and what type of paper is used, as well as the type of vehicles driven. Autopia as a company, is aware of their environmental impact and influence to the environment, and they have partnered with Green Fleet to offset vehicle emissions. For more information on Autopia's eco-tours, check out this site.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD
The morning began at the assigned meeting spot in Melbourne's CBD. Our tour guide picked us up and we began our journey to The Great Ocean Road.
We completed the following stops: Torquay, Memorial Arch, Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Otway National Rainforest, 12 Apostles, Loch and Gorge, and Colac. My favorites being Otway National Park and Apollo Bay.
OTWAY NATIONAL PARK
At Otway, we had the chance to stretch our legs and go on a nature walk at one of Australias oldest rainforests. We walked through old eucalyptus trees and ferns.
In Apollo Bay, we saw views of the coast, the lighthouse, and rock formations of the 12 apostles (which are not actually 12).
The scenic route and stops were a magnificent way to spend a full day outside of the city. The breaks and stops provided through Autopia allowed an opportunity for a leisurely experience while still packing in numerous activities.
Take a peek at this video of my day trip on the Great Ocean Road to learn more about this tour!
Travel Tip: Although you can do this trip in one day on your own, by the end of if I was exhausted. Most people were even sleeping on the bus on the way back. If you get a car, make sure you can alternate driving or complete fewer stops. Otherwise, try out the Autopia Tours!
This trip is worth it! Going to Phillip Island is the second Autopia tour I went on. The Phillip Island Tour was a full day of animals, chocolate factory, beach and a Penguin Parade. The highlights of this tour were the Antarctic Journey at Nobbies Ocean Discovery, and seeing the penguin's waddle home to their burrows.
Similarly to the Great Ocean Road Tour, this day started at a meeting point in Melbourne's CBD. From there we made our way towards Phillip Island with several stops along the way.
MARU KOALA PARK
The first stop was Maru Koala and Animal Park. Maru is an authorized wildlife shelter where animals are rehabilitated with the goal of returning to the wild. Through tactile experiences with the animals, Maru aims to share knowledge and an appreciation for wildlife.
I certainly felt this during my first experiences feeding the kangaroos. The close proximity to them, and their friendliness was completely unexpected. These specific kangaroos are used to people around them. But in the wild, it is recommended you leave kangaroos alone.
Through it's dedication to education and rehabilitating wildlife, Maru Koala and Animal Park has become an "award winning and professional tourist attraction" (Maru History, 2019).
PANNY'S AMAZING WORLD OF CHOCOLATE
Our second stop, also known as the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, made me feel like a kid again! I completely felt like I was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Panny's is covered in interactive activities, chocolate art and history. This is a self guided tour through a large number of chocolate attractions. One of the coolest things I saw was this almost wall to wall chocolate world map. I wish I had gotten myself in this picture so you could see how large it truly is.
At the end of the self guided tour, I played some chocolate games and won! Leaving with a delicious souvenir.
After Panny's, we went off to the beach and then made our way further down the island to Nobbies Visitor Centre for a nature walk.
NOBBIES VISITOR CENTRE
Unfortunately, once we got to Nobbies, it was hard to do much outside.
The fires and smoke in Australia were pretty bad at this point, so we couldn't be out without breathing smoke. This made it hard to do the nature walk, or see the rock formations on the beach.
Lucky for us, the Antarctic Journey at Nobbies Ocean Discovery had just opened up.
Out of almost three months of travel, this became one of my favorite exhibitions of the entire trip.
Throughout the tour, I learned about how specific animals are impacted by rubbish in the ocean and changes we can make to stop this. For example, fur seals can be caught on plastic packaging. So to prevent this, we can cut plastic that can form a loop into smaller pieces before disposing of it.
An example I would not have thought of, is a baseball cap. This might have flown away, but the small hole in the back of it was harmful to a seal.
The other side of this tour which might be more imminent for some, is the effects in which climate change will have on people and their communities. If Antarctic land ice continues to melt, then this would cause sea levels to rise around the world. This means that coastal cities would be flooded and many people worldwide would lose their homes.
Not only would Antarctic land ice melting affect people and their homes, but it would more quickly affect penguin populations.
Antarctica's emperor penguins breed and raise their babies on sea ice. With less sea ice, there would be less nesting habitat for these chicks to grow.
My favorite thing about this tour is that for every possible scenario, the WWF offers solutions that we can do at home. Some changes we can make would be to switch to a green energy provider, install solar hot water system, and use energy efficient goods.
Key Takeaways: The Antarctic Peninsula gives Marine Scientists information on how quickly climate change is happening. It is the only habitat of it's kind in the world, so we have to do what we can to protect it - and we can do this from home by using more sustainable products, creating less trash, and being aware of our consumption rates.
PENGUINS RETURN HOME
The last, but certainly not least stop was watching the Penguins return home at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.
We made it to the visitor centre a few hours before dusk, giving some time for dinner and roaming. Throughout the visitor centre there is information on things you can do to help penguins. For example, "when penguins become oiled, they will try to preen and clean the toxic oil from their feathers, ingesting it can kill them (Knits for Nature, Penguin Foundation)."
When penguins are rescued, these knitted sweaters protect them from using their beaks to clean themselves.
This buys time for the Phillip Island Wildlife Clinic team to clean the oil off the penguins without causing harm.
After about an hour of walking through the visitor centre, doors opened for the boardwalk to the viewing area. I recommend doing this as there are a lot of people every evening, and the closer you are to the sand, the better your view of the penguins will be.
Once I got a spot, we played the waiting game. Since the smoke was pretty bad this day, we were not sure if the penguins would follow their regular schedule and make it back to land that night.
The viewing area kept filling up with people, and sunset was about to begin. The rangers had a talk with visitors and stated ground rules for the event.
No lights or cameras - this disturbs the penguins and confuses them on their route home.
Be silent and do not make large movements.
Enjoy this natural event.
We started seeing the first few penguins, and from here it was magic! The penguins were going in and out of the water as if deciding whether to make the trip home or not, something which they do every evening. Then they began making their way down the beach in groups - getting closer and closer to us!
They waddled around the viewing area up rocks and towards their burrows.
I left the viewing area and headed down the boardwalk, where you can see hundreds of penguins walking. This was an incredible experience and one that I will always cherish and remember.
It is really special to see animals like this in their natural habitat, and having a way of doing so without causing harm, is incredible.
Both the Great Ocean Road Tour and Phillip Island Tour were made possible by Autopia. This company really thought of every way possible to provide education, conservation information, and animal encounter opportunities. It is an incredible way to spend a day whether you are traveling alone or with family or friends.
Thank you Autopia for these experiences I will not forget!
- Green Voyage