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Remembering Bicheno, Tasmania

Sunday, 13th July 2014

Destination Specialist

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Greg won the travel writing competition in the 2012 edition of our Cloud 9 magazine. His evocative account of an ‘almost’ perfect evening in Bicheno, Tasmania is sure to raise a knowing smile from many of us. 

“Did you bring the camera?” my wife asked, but the tone of her voice indicated she already knew the answer.
“No I didn’t. Won’t need it,” I bravely replied.

For the first time on our holiday I’d left the camera back in our hotel room, convinced that this was nothing more than a wild goose chase. Or should I say, wild penguin chase?

We’d only just arrived in the pretty little Tasmanian town of Bicheno, famous for its guided tours of a nearby penguin colony. Sadly there was no tour on this particular day, so we decided to head for the beach and try our luck. Problem was there are miles of beach around Bicheno and we had no idea where a penguin might be loitering.

“We were alone, completely relaxed and simply enjoying the marvellous silence and serenity of our surroundings.”

We wandered along the beach for about an hour before we finally gave up. Tired and a little disappointed, we found a large rock right on the water’s edge and sat down. It was absolutely idyllic – beautiful beach, perfect temperature, great early evening light, tiny waves were lapping gently at the base of our rock. After a short while our ill-fated search had been forgotten. We were alone, completely relaxed and simply enjoying the marvellous silence and serenity of our surroundings.

“So why didn’t you bring the camera?” she asked.
“Because there isn’t a penguin within 100 miles,” I answered wearily.
“How can you be sure? You just never know when we might get lucky.”

But I knew. We had a long history of not seeing the advertised animals on our travels. The current trip to Australia was the perfect example – there’d been no platypus at Eungella National Park, the whales had stayed submerged at Hervey Bay and the few kangaroos we’d seen were either too far away or moving so fast they’d been impossible to photograph.

“Did you hear that noise?” she asked suddenly.
Now apart from being a world authority on the deployment of cameras, my wife has truly incredible hearing. So this was not a remark to be ignored. “What noise?” I replied.
“Don’t know, sort of like a quacking sound.”
“Oh great,” I thought to myself, “I’ve travelled 12,000 miles to see a duck.”

But before I could say anything, a penguin splashed out of the water just a few yards from our rock. It was two foot high, grey-black in colour and just about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. Instinctively, I reached for my camera. It wasn’t there of course. My wife looked at me, and as she slowly shook her head, two more penguins emerged from the water. Then another one, and another, and within minutes there were at least fifty assembled on the beach side of our rock.

They were so close we could have reached out and touched them. Somehow we resisted the temptation. They seemed totally unaware of our presence, so we remained silent and watched the show – our own personal penguins, a sea of them, each with their own personality, their own sound and their own distinctive way of waddling around. After twenty or thirty exhilarating minutes they left our rock and disappeared up the beach.

My wife loves watching wildlife as much as I do, so this had been truly magical for both of us. I suddenly realised she hadn’t spoken for what seemed an eternity. But how could one possibly describe the miracle that had just unfolded before our disbelieving eyes? She turned to me, smiling sweetly and tried as best she could to put our wonderful shared experience into words.

“Amazing!” she said. “Can’t wait to see your photos.”

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