Tasmania is fortunate in having several penguin rookeries along the coast where penguins can be easily observed. The following guidelines are intended to both protect penguins and to allow you to see them under natural conditions. Please be sure you are familiar with them before visiting a penguin colony.
Left to themselves, penguins will start to leave the water at last light so that they are under the cover of darkness. This helps to protect them from predators. At this time they are very vulnerable (remember they regard you as a potential predator) and hence are wary. If they sense a threat or are disturbed by torchlight or loud noise they stay at sea longer. This is stressful for them and can interfere with breeding, or may prevent them reaching their hungry young in the burrow. Besides, if they stay at sea, you may not see them at all.
Please read and observe any information signs which may be placed at the penguin colony.
Remember you need to wear dark clothing for camouflage. Also, ensure you will remain warm.
Approach your observation point from the land, preferably not by walking along the beach as this blocks the penguins access to their burrows. Use existing tracks and do not walk through the colony as it destroys burrows. Please do not damage vegetation.
Choose a viewing position which is at least 3 m from, and does not block, the penguins' access to their burrows. Choose a site which has a dark background to camouflage yourself.
Settle yourself comfortably before last light. If there are experienced personnel available, please take their advice. Remain quiet and keep movement to a minimum. Penguins have excellent vision and easily spot movement, especially if they see you outlined against the sky.
Only dim torches emitting a red light (red cellophane over the lens is OK) should be used and then never toward the water or directly at the penguins. Flash cameras should not be used on the beach. Video cameras, without spotlights, can be used and produce better results at dusk than conventional cameras. Often the best places to view penguins are behind the beach where they feel more secure. Again, only use red light. To aid viewing, binoculars are useful, even at night.
Do not under any circumstances visit a colony with dogs (or cats). They are a major threat to penguins. Even if dogs are leashed their smell remains to attract others. Take your food scraps away as these also attract dogs and cats.
Penguins are protected wildlife. It is illegal to catch, attempt to catch or otherwise harass penguins. If this type of behaviour is observed, please report it to the nearest ranger. Offences are taken seriously. If you have interests or concern about your local penguin population please contact the Marine Conservation Program, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.