By Mario Ng
If you are a fan of seals, marine animals, or nature, this tour in Phillip Island is definitely a must-go!
Starting from Cowes jetty in Phillip Island itself, the Phillip Island Seal Watching Ecoboat Tour is approximately 1.5hrs long, where the seal watching itself lasts approximately 30 minutes (Click here to find out more about this tour!). For sure, this is not to say that the boat ride is just some boring ride that takes you from point A to point B.
The captain of the boat is extremely experienced, and the boat itself is a high-powered one, which can make turns quickly in a safe manner. This means that the boat ride itself is adventurous and full of fun. :)
Seals relaxing about on the rocks
On the day of the tour, you will first head to the tourist centre just by Cowes jetty to register and check in for the tour. You will then be informed to slowly make your way down to the jetty and wait for the tour to start.
Once at the jetty, it is quite hard to miss the boat, as there is usually only the one, and you can also see excited people waiting to board it! Once in the boat, the captain will first describe the sea conditions for that day, and explain if it might be choppy, or simply calm. It is important to take his words seriously, and listen attentively. Fasten the seat belts tightly, and never stand up until the captain says it is safe to do so. You will also be accompanied by two rangers, who complements the captain to give the tour.
Our ride for the day
After the safety briefing is completed, the boat will slowly move away from the jetty, to hit the seas. Be warned though, that in times of choppy seas, the front end of the boat will face the most impact, while the back of the boat is more stable. This means that if you are looking for more fun and excitement, simply sit at the front of the boat! Not to worry too much though, as we saw a young child (5 years old?) sit in the middle section, with no hints whatsover, of motion sickness!
Once the boat hits high speeds, enjoy the light bumps as the boat cuts through the seas. This takes place for some 10 to 15 minutes, as we enjoyed the winds blowing against our faces. Of course, the boat changes course suddenly and we find ourselves turning to the right. Very surprisingly, we did not feel like we were being thrown about. Rather, we still felt upright, even as the boat suddenly changed course again to the left. That is not to say that it was not exciting. Rather, we did not feel like vomiting despite the sudden turns!
Looking at one of the seals' cave and home
As we slowed to a stop, the ranger gave us an explanation of how penguins treat the island as their home, and how their numbers initially dwindled due to human activity on the island. After the authorities noticed this drop in number and took action to address this, they finally noticed a gradual and consistent increase in penguin numbers again. Now, the penguins have all returned, and are happy to call Phillip Island their home again.
As the boat set off again, we could notice how the seas were considerably rougher. Not thinking too much, we anticipated seeing the seals in a short while. The bumps started getting harder, and just as we noticed it, we went airborne! And back onto the surface, with a huge bump! Excitement overload! The captain expertly slowed down the boat when necessary, and pressed on again, just to give us sufficient fun without the need for a vomit bag. Before we knew it, airborne again! What fun! The rough seas definitely helped in creating the fun, although full credit must be given to the captain for managing the boat through the seas so well.
The seas can be quite rough while you are cruising about on the surface
However, for those who might not take too well to rough seas and too much excitement, there is little need to worry. Simply let the rangers know in advance before the boat moves off from the jetty, and they will take note accordingly. The rangers will in fact inform passengers on the potential rough seas as well. So, you can let them know at this point that you are afraid if the seas get too rough. Of course, if you prefer to, take a motion sickness pill before the boat ride. This will help make sure you have a great time and not fear you might vomit! Just a note though, that vomit bags are provided too!
Next stop, we were taken to an area just off The Nobbies Centre, an area on the island that was built to allow people to spot seals. We were then informed that the caves just off the island are actually homes for the seals to take shelter, and how the caves and indeed, the island itself, are natural homes for the seals.
Taking a closer look at the entrance to the seals' home
Finally, we were brought to the seals. Hundreds, if not thousands, of seals lay resting on the rocks in the afternoon sun. Doing nothing, but chilling and resting. The rangers told us that those seals are usually the older ones, while the younger seals preferred to swim in the seas, enjoying the water against their skins. Up close, we see a pup of seals swimming, and seemingly wave at us. Of course, we waved back, not knowing any better. We found out that the waving action was actually to cool themselves down, much like how humans slip a leg out from the warm blanket when we sleep to cool our body down. Interesting fun fact!
The younger seals prefer swimming about in the seas
Time flies when you are enjoying yourself. Before long, it is time to head back to the shore already. About an hour has already passed. What?! Yeap. As we started heading back to the shore, the captain continued to be a wonder, keeping his passengers calm in the rough seas. Sure, there were still a few bumps here and there, but we have already become experienced seamen by now, and feared no waves! Oh wait, here comes the sudden turns again! Even the rangers were enjoying it, and joked and laughed with us as the captain expertly sliced through the seas. The captain also put on a performance for us, twisting and turning the boat about to get our adrenaline pumping, and everyone on the boat, young and old, thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Looking back at Phillip Island as the tour comes to an end
Soon, the jetty was in sight. And yet, there is always time for more excitement. The captain gave us a final show, as we turned about with the boat. After it ended, we gave the captain a well-deserved round of applause for thrilling us to no end. Kudos!
In a short 1.5hrs, the tour has come to an end. It was fun, thrilling, informative, and amazing, to have witnessed so many seals at their home, and to be given such an unforgettable boat ride. For sure, we absolutely enjoyed this tour of seal-watching!
The jetty where the Phillip Island seal watching ecoboat tour begins from
Daily departure timings: 3pm and 5pm (currently not operating)
Tour price: -
Tour information: https://www.penguins.org.au/attractions/ecoboat-tours/
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