*Penguin Tours nightly
*Aquarium Fish fed on tour
*On the Kingscote Wharf
(formerly Kangaroo Island Marine Centre)
Understanding & Protecting Our Little Penguins
Little Penguins are sometimes also referred to as Fairy Penguins or Blue Penguins, but don’t be confused. All of these names refer to the same little birds that make their home each year in the rocky burrows of the Kingscote foreshore.
What you should know about the Penguins
Breeding season for Kingscote’s Little Penguins is from April through to the end of November each year and this is definitely the best time to visit. During this time, the adult penguins are concentrating on family matters - mating, laying eggs or returning from sea to feed their chicks. For the chicks, of course there is really just one thing to do - patiently waiting for parents to arrive with dinner!
In December and January, although we still see some chicks and their parents, the number of penguins seen moving about on the evening tours will decline. There are two reasons for this. While the chicks have grown and left the burrows to live their life at sea, the adults begin their annual moult and become increasingly secretive and sedentary. The annual moult is a very important event. All adult penguins need to replace their feathers each year. They do this by shedding their old coat and growing a brand new one. The moult takes about 2 ½ weeks and of course, the penguins are confined to land in their burrows or amongst the rocks until they have their new waterproof coat. We still see the penguins, but they are not as active while moulting.
For the month of February the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre closes because all penguins live at sea to eat and gain weight lost during the annual moult. Our penguins return to land in March to begin looking for their mates and readying their burrows to lay eggs once again.
Penguins forage at sea during the day, so naturally Penguin Tours are conducted at night.
Not made to “Parade”
Little Penguins in Kingscote don’t come ashore in large groups all at once to walk up the beach together. It’s not that they aren’t sociable, as you’ll discover when you come across those who venture out of their burrows during the evening tours. Actually, it is the geography of a beach or foreshore that determines the way penguin colonies come ashore. Since Kingscote’s foreshore is long and narrow with rocks close handy for protection, the penguins in our colony come ashore near their own burrow home - often by themselves or in twos or threes over a period of about 3 hours.
Rather than watch for penguins to arrive from a vantage point near the beach, our trained Guides take you into the protected colony after dark to see penguins outside their burrows or in rocks on the beach. We see them in their colony interacting with other penguins, in couples or by themselves.
Taking care of Penguin eyes
Penguins have very sensitive eyesight so white torches/flashlights cannot be used, nor camera flashes, so our experienced and knowledgeable guides take groups of visitors into the colony after dark, equipped with specially adapted dimming red torches which provide a softer light than white. It is also believed that Penguins don’t see the red spectrum so our torches do not bother the birds. Since we are in the colony at night time the camera flash is very disturbing to the penguins, so we ask that your camera flash be turned off whilst on the tour.
If you are hoping to capture pictures or video you will be able to do so. Our red lights are bright enough for modern digital and video photography to be possible and our guides will do their best to ensure that those with cameras have the opportunity to get close enough.
If you are concerned about your photos or video being spoiled with a red caste, ask us about adjusting colour balance to eliminate the red colour. For an example of the great results that can be achieved, take a look at the sample photos provided and the tour video on our home page.
When in a Penguin colony - Do as the penguins do!
Fairy Penguins have excellent hearing and are well aware of our presence. Although they don't mind our talking, excessive movement does disturb them so we move slowly through the colony, and stand still when near birds. When we do this, we can approach to within two and a half to three metres of the birds, and sometimes they will walk even closer to us! We must keep very still at those times to avoid disturbing them.
The penguin tour is preceded by an entertaining and educational aquarium tour and, weather permitting, a laser guided talk through the southern constellations, all included in the price.
* Penguin tours will not be conducted from Feb 1 to Feb 28th/29th while penguins live at sea feeding.