I’m a member of CouchSurfing, an online community of thousands that was originally started as a way to find couches to sleep on, but has evolved to be this huge project of acceptance, learning and exploration of other cultures. Far from [just] hippies, CSers look to get more out of travel than just seeing the sights…they look to connect. A free place to stay, a friendly stranger to show you the ropes…it really is an awesome thing!
Another great thing about CouchSurfing, is that there are constantly meet-ups happening. Whether you’re traveling to a new city, or you’re in the city that you call home, you can attend a meet-up and meet a few new faces. Events can be as simple as a pub night, or as big as a week-long adventure.
Eager to meet people, I went to a CS meet-up to see some penguins in St. Kilda. I was originally thinking I should check out the famed Phillip Island to see their 30,000+ penguins do their thing* but this popped up, free, and just a few neighbourhoods over, so I jumped at it.
We met at a vegetarian restaurant for dinner first, and about 25 people showed up, including the organizer, Alisdar (a lovely, open, friendly, warm, interesting man, who I kind’ve just want to take for beer and listen to him talk about everything in the world. He’s great!). After filling up on some of the best tofu curries I’ve tasted, we took a short walk down to the St. Kilda pier.
The penguins were out! It was dark and hard to see, but we had a flashlight with red cellophane on it to brighten things up a bit (the birds don’t like bright white/yellow light as it scares them). They were hiding/sleeping in between crevices in the big rocks, but a few were just hanging out on top of rocks, preening and being all “hey whatever I’m a penguin and I’m awesome”. And they were.
About 1300 Tiny Penguins (they were really tiny!) call Melbourne and St. Kilda home. Not quite as impressive as the penguins at Phillip Island, but still cool nonetheless. Hop off a tram, walk a few meters and bam. You’re face to tiny face with them.
That was….pretty much it. We watched them preen, watched another couple leave the water and try to make their way across the pathway (we probably scared them, so they just hung out on the other side of the rocks) and we went home. It was really neat to see them in the wild!
Another bonus: almost every Melbournian I’ve met has NO idea there are penguins at St. Kilda. I get to play tour guide to the locals!
If you find yourself in St. Kilda, be sure to head down to the pier just after sunset and hang with the penguins. It’s easy, free, and totally worth it.
*their thing is hopping out of the ocean and trekking back to their homes each night, all cute-like