Rhyll Inlet Walk
Trying to spot birds and wildlife on a nature hike is a little like walking through a Hidden Pictures page from Highlights children’s magazine. You know you should be able to find them – sometimes you can even hear them – but they can be elusive, blending in with the landscape, just out of view, not cooperating even for those with the utmost of patience. Even more frustrating is sometimes not knowing exactly what you are looking for. You’ll hear the trail guide say, “Look, over there!” and at least ten voices will respond, “Where?!” never actually finding what it was we were supposed to see.
The Seabourn Encore had anchored off Phillip Island, a farming community and popular vacation destination in Victoria, Australia, near Melbourne. Herb and I were joining an excursion led by Seabourn’s Ventures team to Rhyll Inlet, a bird habitat and mangrove-filled wetlands conservation area. We rode the ship’s tender to the small town of Rhyll and boarded a bus to the trail.
The summer sun was already in full force as we began our walk. The sandy dirt trail was dry, protected in parts by an arching canopy of trees reaching from one side of the trail to the other. Tall amber grasses surrounded the open spaces. Our guide pointed out a couple of birds, but mostly it was quiet, with only the sound of our footsteps interrupting the solitude.
The path was becoming more open, and soon we could see a marshy inlet peeking through the trees. The trail split off toward the inlet, where a large flock of black-necked swans dotted the water. The area felt completely different from where we had just walked, a transition in terrain and scenery.
The next section of trail was a wooden boardwalk that wound its way along bright green-leaved mangrove trees. Mangroves can thrive in harsh tropical coastal conditions and have strong lateral roots to support them in the thick mud. And oh, was it muddy below that boardwalk!
At the end of the boardwalk, the trail resumed a short distance through forests and grasses. Our bus was waiting nearby, ready to take us to the island’s Koala Conservation Center. A few in our group stayed at Rhyll Inlet to hike another section, but most of us moved on to the koalas. We grabbed some much-needed water, thanked our guide and headed to our next Phillip Island destination.
Koala Conservation Centre
It’s about a ten-minute drive from Rhyll to the middle of Phillip Island, where the Koala Conservation Centre makes its home. Established in 1991, the environmentally sustainable park is dedicated to koala research and conservation. It’s a beautiful setting on acres of Australian bushlands, grasslands and eucalyptus trees. Although other native animals live there, the main focus is protecting and saving the endangered koala’s population.
The visitor center is housed at the front of a modern white building with a blue-and-green koala logo above the door. Inside are a café, gift shop and an interesting exhibit about all things koala. Just beyond is the door to the marsupials’ world, with pathways and boardwalks nestled among lacy eucalyptus trees.
We began our self-guided tour at the Koala Boardwalk, where a chalkboard sign informed us that five koalas could be found. Because these sweet creatures sleep as much as 20 hours a day, we would have to spend most of our time looking up. More “hidden pictures” on this day of hidden pictures!
With all koalas present and accounted for, we moved on to the Woodland Walk, a forested path that had a similar feel to some of the Rhyll Inlet trail.
We stopped at the Centre’s café for a quick lunch before boarding the bus to Rhyll and catching the tender back to the ship. It was mid-afternoon, and we would be heading back to Phillip Island at sunset for a hike at Cape Woolamai. Ship. Tender. Bus. Walk. Not a bad way to get around.