One of the absolute highlights of my time in Australia so far: last weekend, I got to see wild koalas!!
Last weekend, the Wagga family that I’ve been working for headed down to visit their family in Tocumwal. They offered to bring me along to “Toc”, adding that they could probably help me see a koala there, and I jumped at the chance.
On Saturday morning, two of them (Sarah and Don) carved out time to take me to the banks of the Murray River, where they said koalas liked to hang out.
I figured finding a wild koala would entail wandering around in the bush with my neck craned, scanning the treetops. Instead, we parked just off the road, and Don walked up to somebody’s campsite and asked if they’d seen any koalas lately.
The first guy we asked had seen one, just the day before. The koala had moved since then, but the camper told us how to recognize koala scat, assured us that koalas don’t go very far, and spent twenty minutes walking through the bush with us, trying to spot it. We couldn’t find it, so thanked him and moved on.
The second person we asked wasn’t sure where to find a koala, but they knew someone who would know, so they pulled her out of her camping trailer. She spent about fifteen minutes walking down the trail with us and spotted one, sleeping at the very top branches of a tree!
It was REALLY far away and basically just looked like a stationary, furry lump in the tree. Koalas spend about 22 hours a day sleeping, because it takes so much energy to digest the toxic plants they eat. They sleep all day and will typically only move around from tree to tree at nighttime.
See the koala? (if my koala guide hadn’t pointed it out, I never would have found this one):
We were running out of time in the morning, so had to head back to the house at that point. On the way out, Sarah spotted another koala up a tree!
It was right near where we had been initially looking – this must have been the koala that the first person was trying to help us find. We got a much better look at this one:
The rest of Saturday, we spent collecting a load of firewood to take back to Wagga, and had a little picnic lunch on the beach.
Sunday morning, Kim took me out fishing on the Murray River.
While sitting out in the sunshine on the water, I glanced up and saw a koala in a nearby tree! Once again, it basically looked like a little grey, furry lump. I was nonetheless thrilled at a third koala spotting.
We didn’t catch any fish, but spent a very enjoyable couple of hours on the water. In addition to the koala, we also saw an Azure Kingfisher, a beautiful little bird with bright orange and blue feathers.
It was an excellent weekend. I was impressed by the kindness of Australians – the strangers that spent time trying to help me find a koala, and the family I was with, making sure I got to enjoy some quintessential Australian things.