ITV’s Wild Australia with Ray Mears has been delving into spectacularly diverse Australian landscapes looking at the weird and wonderful life forms that are native Down Under. In episode five, Ray explored the wildlife of Victoria’s southern coast from the Mornington Peninsula to Cape Bridgewater on the Great Ocean Road.
If you’ve been inspired by the programme and would like to encounter these incredible and sometimes elusive creatures for yourself, then a road trip in Victoria is one of the best ways to do this. Here are some tips on how to see this wildlife for yourself.
The Weedy Sea-Dragon
When Ray encountered a weedy sea-dragon off the Portsea Pier on the Mornington Peninsula he was amazed by the creature’s natural disguise; “It just looks like a piece of dead seaweed until you get close and then you see these little beating fins, it’s fantastic.”
See if you can spot one of these rare creatures for yourself by joining local wildlife experts on a snorkelling or diving tour off the Mornington Peninsula.
The Burrunan dolphin
A rare species of the bottlenose dolphin, the Burrunan dolphins are native to Victoria’s coast and there are only an estimated 150 in existence. During his travels in Victoria, Ray was lucky enough to swim with two of htese dolphins. He described it as “one of the most amazing experiences on earth… really magical.”
If you’d like to swim with these friendly dolphins too, just off the Sorrento Pier in the Mornington Peninsula, Polperro Tours offer Dolphin and Seal Swims and Sightseeing trips.
There are several colonies of Little Penguins – the smallest species of penguins – along Victoria’s coastline. Whilst on his travels, Ray discovered the story of the Middle Island Penguin colony that has survived near extinction thanks to Maremma guard-dogs that stay on the island to keep away predator foxes. Since 2006 the island has been an area of conservation and there is just one public tour a year to the island.
The best place to see Little Penguins year-round in Victoria is most certainly on Phillip Island. Each night at sunset, a Penguin Parade sees a colony of these cute creatures waddle up the beach to their homes in the sand dunes as they return from a day’s fishing.
Visitors can watch this spectacle from several vantage points including a Penguin Sky Box, an Underground Viewing area and several Penguin Tours are available.
Australian fur sealsThe Australian fur seals are the largest of all fur seals, famous for their big eyes and pointed snouts and their streamline shape and strong flippers make them skillful hunters. “They may move like slugs on land,” Ray noted, “but underwater, they are action heroes.”
In Wild Australia, Ray traveled to the rocky outcrop of Cape Bridgewater where he finds a large colony of fur seals. A trail path along the coast leads to a viewing platform where you can watch the seals at play and cruise tours allow a closer view from the water.
There are lots of good places to spot these fur seals along Victoria’s south coast from the Great Ocean Road down to the rocky shoreline of Phillip Island. Look out over seal colonies from cliff tops and beaches, paddle out in kayaks and canoes, or join a cruise to get a closer look.
From May to September, Victoria’s southern coast offers plenty of opportunity for whale watching several different species. On the Great Ocean Road, head to Logans Beach and from the viewing platform, catch a glimpse of a Southern Right Whale. These giants of the sea return here each year to give birth and raise their calves– they can often be seen just 100 metres from shore. Other nearby spots to see these incredible creatures are Portland and along the coast from Narrawong to Cape Bridgewater.
Humbank Whales, Southern Right Whales and Orcas can be spotted off the coast of Phillip Island as they migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters off Queensland for calving. Spot them from the shoreline, take to the high seas on a whale cruises or hop in a helicopter for a flight over the water to watch these magnificent creatures make their way north.
See more of this vast and beautiful stretch of coastal road here…