We were getting worried that we wouldn’t see a koala in the wild, or a kangaroo for that matter. After all, a 30-something man in Sydney told us he had only seen one koala in the wild his entire life, and rarely a kangaroo. So we went to the zoo to make sure that we could see and identify these strange and wonderful animals.
It’s been five weeks and we’ve seen all kinds of wildlife – except for koalas and kangaroos. And we’ve looked. We drove the rural outback for 3,500 kilometers and flew to Tasmania, always looking. We even risked driving rural roads in the late evening and stared at groves of eucalyptus until our eyes dried out, always looking. We were getting worried that we wouldn’t see the two animals that embody the Australian wildlife.
We would have been happy with the wildlife we’ve seen and we were hoping that we would see these animals on Kangaroo Island. Then, they seemed to materialize from the bush. They were part of the scrub and the eucalyptus forest. Maybe they were always there and we just couldn’t see them before. Maybe, we just hadn’t been here long enough and couldn’t be trusted.
Once you see one, they seem to appear on branches all around you. Little fur balls sitting in a crook of a branch so they won’t fall while sleeping. Koalas just sit in a tree. It’s what they do for 18 to 20 hours a day – just sit there. They stop sitting once in a while to eat some eucalyptus leaves or change their position, and then they go back to sitting. It’s part of what makes them cute.
While the koalas were hard to spot, the kangaroos had actually fooled us. We’ve seen hundreds of wallabies (really, hundreds) during our travels and we thought we knew the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo. But a few kangaroos had snuck into our photos without telling us and now we know the difference.
However, we simply weren’t prepared for the koalas and magnificent kangaroos that we’ve seen on Cape Otway near the Great Ocean Road. We’ve seen koalas in the trees (the usual perch) and on the ground, young and old. They like to have one tree to themselves. A group in one area is called a “parliament.” The only thing that they eat is a particular eucalyptus leaf that is their whole source of nourishment and water. It is spring in Oz now, the mating season. These cute, cuddly balls of fur are looking for love. You’d think they’d make a simple, loving, cooing sound. But, no… the male koala grunts – like an old pig! The female responds with a nagging, chattering shout.
Often, you will see one kangaroo, but there are almost always more nearby. We saw our first Eastern Grey Kangaroo on a golf course. The next mob (a group of roos) we encountered was near the Great Ocean Ecolodge on Cape Otway. One large male over seven feet tall, males and females of varying sizes, and little joeys, all complacently feeding on the green grasses of the bush.
We have to move on – Kangaroo Island is calling – but we could have spent days with these animals. They have a surreal beauty that is unique and common for Oz, but is so unusual for us. We can’t wait to find more as we travel the last legs of our journey.