photo essay

Exploring Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park

As we speed towards the cooler months, we Victorians might think it’s time to say goodbye to outdoor activities for a while. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Cold weather is all relative – and winter is the time of year when whales come up from Antarctica to breed and take advantage of our comparatively “warmer” waters in Bass Strait. So, now is the perfect time for whale-watching!

Last year I went on a boat trip around the islands of Wilsons Promontory, and my eyes were opened to the magical and majestic underwater world that lives just on our doorstep this time of year. I thought I’d share with you a few snapshots from the day.

First, we saw the Australasian Gannets (Morus serrator), plunging straight into the waves to catch fish. They were so quick, often you would just catch a splash out of the corner of your eye.

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Then came the pod of dolphins keeping pace with the boat and jumping above the waves. These Short-beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) live in large pods (I couldn’t count how many we saw!), and can be found in offshore waters around Australia.

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

We then passed some Australian Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) lounging on the rocks in the intermittent sun and frolicking in the waves. Apparently when they “wave” their flipper in the air, it’s not to say hello - they are actually using the air to evaporate water and cool down their body temperature.

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

But we were always on the lookout for those elusive creatures that had drawn us all there – the Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). And finally, just peaking above the water, the back of a male humpback in the distance. Much still remains a mystery about these amazing creatures – they are arguably the hardest and most expensive vertebrate to work on because of their lifestyle, mobility and remote habitat. But catching a glimpse of one was truly a rare and exciting gift.

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Ella Kelly.jpeg

Ella Kelly

Ella is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, where she spends a lot of time thinking about why some quolls don’t eat cane toads (if only she could ask them!). She also enjoys talking and writing about science, and would ultimately love to have an actual impact on the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

You can find her on Twitter at @ecology_ella

Banner image courtesy of Ella Kelly.

The walks and wonders of Phillip Island

Last year I explored Phillip Island and its nature and conservation reserves, each location providing insight into the significance of this popular coastal destination. During my short stay of a few days, bushwalking and taking photos of the landscapes and the wonders within them were high on my priority list.

Bushwalk One: Rhyll Inlet State Wildlife Reserve

This reserve is situated within the Western Port RAMSAR Site, and is of international significance. RAMSAR sites are related to The Convention on Wetlands, which is an intergovernmental treaty for their protection. Within this RAMSAR site, saltbushes (Beaded Glassworts or Sarcocornia quinqueflora) are present, as well as many other floral species and a variety of birdlife.


Bushwalk Two: Churchill Island

Located on the south-east side of Phillip Island, Churchill Island was also of interest to me. Although holding more of a historical significance relating to European settlement, there are a few leisurely walks that showcase its rugged coastline and its range of flora and fauna. Found amongst tree branches was a bright orange lichen, in strong contrast to the background of green foliage. The twisted branches of ancient Moonah Trees are an impressive sight, whilst looking out onto the grazing pasture of Scottish Highland Cattle is a somewhat unusual experience on this walk.


Bushwalk Three: A beach walk along the coastline

The coastline of Phillip Island is rugged yet beautiful, and provides the perfect opportunity to investigate the small wonders hiding amongst rocks and sand. Discoveries include barnacles on the side of an orange, sun-glazed coastal rock, a delicate sea sponge submerged in sand, and a fragile wildflower found casting shadows next to a coastal cliff-face. 


Bushwalk Four: Phillip Island Nature Park

The final destination on my list before leaving the island was Phillip Island Nature Park, home to the Little Penguin colony. The nature park provides a vital conservation area for the penguins. Education, research and restoration practices are all part of the conservation efforts being being made to protect this iconic species. Boardwalks provide observation areas with views across the landscape as well of the wildlife (providing a glimpse of penguin burrows).


Although only a short getaway, my time on Phillip Island provided many great photo opportunities and glimpses of the area's incredible landscapes, flora and fauna.

Until next time.

Christine Slade has completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science, and is in her final year of a Masters of Environment and Sustainability at Monash University. She is interested in engaging the public with the environment through photography, and to also raise awareness of conservation practices. She hopes to work in environmental consulting or education.

All images courtesy of Christine Slade.