Kayaking to Penguin Island

Penguin Island.

By Morgan Pettersson.

Set amongst some of the beautiful Western Australian coastline, Penguin Island and Seal Island offer a beautiful escape for those wanting to venture out and get an island feel close to home.

Penguin Island and Seal Island are both part of the Shoalwater Marine Park located 50 kilometres south of Perth.

The park is home to a variety of exotic wildlife such as dolphins, little penguins, sea lions and a variety of fish and other underwater wildlife.

The islands themselves are unique from each other as well.

Penguin Island is the tourist mecca, with plenty of people visiting to witness the small and unique little penguins who call this island home all year round.

Whilst next-door Seal Island is only inhabited by the local sea-lion colony, and humans are not permitted on the island, which is just as well because the sea lions are highly territorial.

I had only ever been to Penguin Island once, and jumped at the chance to go out there and experience my own backyard with a friend.

My friend and I were anxious to have an adventure, similar to the ones that I always have when I travel overseas.

After some negotiating to borrow some kayaks and a ute, we were off and ready for our adventure.

From the shore the islands seemed quite a long way out to sea, and as a novice kayaker I was sceptical as to whether or not I would simply get too tired half way across to carry on paddling.

Surprisingly it only took half an hour to kayak on the way there, with the wind favourably blowing in our direction, and considering my lack of fitness I found the exercise quite easy.

A quick side note about the two kayaks myself and my friend had scrounged for our journey.

One was sleek and wonderful and fit perfectly to my frame, the other was perhaps better suited to a gentleman far taller and wider than both of us, and for this my friend found herself in a great deal of trouble on the way over trying to keep control of the overly large kayak.

As we exited the deep blue water of the channel and floated into the turquoise waters of the bay, and I felt a sense of relief that everything had gone smoothly.

Suddenly my friend pointed to my right and exclaimed ‘what is that?!’.

Oh great I thought, a shark, just what I had been hoping for.

Through a series of deductions we came to the conclusion that it was not a shark, nor a penguin, nor a stingray; it was in fact a young grey sea-lion having a merry old-time rolling about in the shallows.

He kept rolling and playing in the water, completely oblivious to our presence, as we ran to take our kayaks ashore and follow him as he lazily drifted along the shore.

Little Penguins.

Suddenly he looked up, alarmed that we were there.

It was almost as if we had caught a glimpse of embarrassment on his face.

‘The humans have caught me rolling embarrassingly’ he must have thought, and he turned and proceeded to swim off for a few metres, before re commencing his frolicking.

This was the most amazing part of the day, being able to see such a magnificent creature in the wild, and so close to my own home too.

I started to wonder why I had not thought to come here sooner.

After securing our kayaks we sat down to lunch under a tree; still facing the water and watching the sea-lion float up and down the shore, although most of our food was wet and soggy from not being wrapped properly.

Presently a large group of tourists spotted the seal lion, and he slowly made his way ashore to sit and dry himself (although I rather thought it was to pose for photographs).

After lunch we explored the island, which is really quite small, only around a kilometre long, and we quickly ran around the whole island.

Excepting the adeptly named ‘Pelican Rock’, which is covered in Pelicans, the island is basically free for you to explore along a series of paths and look out points.

On the opposite side of the island, you can gaze out to sea, fish and swim or body board in the gentle waves.

There is also a system of caves that run along the shoreline, some are tiny and others are spacious with the water lapping at the entrance.

The first inhabitant of the island in the 20th century was an eccentric New Zealand man named Seaforth Mckenzie.

He attempted to turn the islands caves into a boutique hotel, and you can still see nails in the walls of the some of the caves as testimony to his hotel attempts.

Today the only inhabitants of the island are the wide variety of local wildlife and over one thousand little penguins.

My friend and I found a cave that as almost enclosed except for the roof and a metre wide opening with the view of the ocean and a white yacht sailing past with white sand on the floor.

This really was paradise, and something reminiscent of the wild and untamed Greek islands that I visited last summer.

Too soon it was time to kayak back to shore, and unfortunately our journey was not so peaceful on the way back.

The wind had not yet changed direction, so we were kayaking into the wind.

I had also commandeered the big kayak for the journey back, and had immense trouble keeping it under control.

It took almost an hour to kayak back to shore, and this time I struggled, as my arms became sore and heavy.

After coming back to shore and watching my friend capsize her canoe in the shallows, I sat and gazed at the island I had just come from.

Still so rugged and wild, with suburbia across the road spilling out onto the beach, sea lions ruling the waves, and little penguins hiding in the dunes, it really is a must visit destination for anyone visiting Perth.

*This was the first version of the article that I wrote that was published on Australian Traveller magazines website. The condensed version can be read here on my blog, and here on the AT website*

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