The sheer natural and unadulterated simplicity makes Bonnet Island one of my all time favourite wildlife experiences. This tiny island with an old lighthouse is in the middle of Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s Wild West coast, in the mouth of Hell’s Gates. The remote setting has made it the perfect refuge for a colony of Little penguins, living in burrows tucked away in the rocky outcrops, carved out from centuries of pounding waves, co-habiting in harmony with short tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds). A small cruiser takes up to just ten visitors out to the island at twilight every night, with a guide telling haunting tales of early settlers, lighthouse keepers, tragic shipwrecks in stormy nights, whale strandings and aboriginal lore.
The Little penguins, who have been out fishing in the Great Southern Ocean, can be heard rafting back in to the safety of their island refuge. The boat’s small gathering enjoys Tasmanian and cheese before quietly making their way, torch in hand, onto the island in time for the penguins to come clambering up on the rocks, waddling along the little paths and down into their burrows to feed their young. There are no boardwalks, no fences, the penguins are just feet or even inches away from you. This is an entirely natural experience other than a couple of webcams in burrows, carefully placed by Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service which enables you to get a delightful close encounter with the little penguins as they settle down to their night time slumber.