The popular Meet the Maremma tours are back, with more tours to run than ever before.
The sessions will be held twice a day from December 1 until April 15 and increase to three times a day during school holidays.
A new format will see tours begin at the Pavilion where guests will learn about Warrnambool’s little penguin colony and discover how Maremma dogs are used to protect it.
A trip to Middle Island will no longer be included on the tours, with guests able to meet a Maremma dog on the beach at Stingray Bay instead.
An experienced member of the project team will guide the tours and a dog handler will lead a Maremma for guests to meet, pat and take photos with.
The tours will also be more interactive, with people able to get a hands-on experience of what it is like to work in penguin conservation.
“These tours give people better access to Maremma dogs while preserving Middle Island as a conservation site,” said Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network Penguin Monitoring Coordinator Dr Trish Corbett.
“The fluctuations in the tide meant that it was not always safe to take groups of people to the island.
“This change has also allowed us to run tours more often, which is great news as they were regularly booked out last summer.”
All proceeds from the tours are used to support the Middle Island Maremma Project.
Dr Corbett said that young Maremmas Avis and Amor will fulfil the role of ambassador dogs while two new dogs, named Mezzo and Isola (which is Italian for Middle and Island) train to protect the Middle Island penguin colony.
“The new Maremmas will be strictly working dogs and will have very limited contact with the public,” she said.
“That being the case, we have seen over recent years that meeting a Maremma dog is one of the best ways to spread the word about the important conservation work taking place on Middle Island.
“Avis and Amor are very people-friendly, which makes them perfect candidates for off-island duties such as Meet the Maremma tours.”
Tours can be booked at www.visitwarrnambool.com.au/middle-island. Alternatively, you can book at the Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre by calling 1800 637 725 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access to Middle Island is prohibited. A fine of $792.85 (5 penalty units) will be incurred by any persons found on Middle Island.