Bicheno Penguin Tours is a privately owned company, fully licensed and accredited to conduct nightly penguin tours each evening. Paul Male and Nic Wardlaw formed Bicheno Penguin Tours in 1992. The two, Male the landscape gardener, Wardlaw the music teacher, are soul mates in the joy of surfing Tasmania’s coastline and embracing the natural world.
“We were looking for a business which would help us maintain our lifestyle on the coast, and one which had an involvement with the environment,” Male said. Both were aware of the penguin rookery in the town, and of the degradation it had suffered from feral cats and dogsconvinced that in the coastal holiday township there was an opportunity for soft adventure and eco-tourism, particularly after-dark tours.
Their achievements have now attracted international attention and have been showcased at the World Tourism Convention in Hobart. The two men, neither with scientific training, have, in partnership with the Parks and Wildlife Service, created a "David Attenborough-like experience".
When they began in 1992, the penguin colony had been reduced to 40 birds because of the assault of feral cats and local dogs. In their first season, Male and Wardlaw culled more than 40 cats and today no more than two or three still roam that part of the coast. Now as many as 600 birds come ashore at the peak of the season, and year round there is a continuing presence.
The guides, all locals, share their enthusiasm despite the fact that some of them turn out five or six times a week. So secure are the birds, and so well prepared are the boardwalks and the guides, that the hour passes in a unique acknowledgement of the species. The penguins seem happy and undisturbed; the tourists are enraptured.
This is Tasmania and a part of its natural world made richer by two local men with a philosophy that nature needs only a little help to deliver the best of both worlds.
The partners have already begun construction of a small interpretation centre tucked in behind the beach.