In Search of the Elusive Platypus

Sky Window
The Sky Window lookout at Eungella National Park

Today I’ll be continuing my unnamed and out of order series about our road trip through Queensland, which you can catch up with here and here. One of our goals while in Australia was to take in as many unique experiences as we could in a place as unique as Australia. No better is that uniqueness exemplified than in the platypus. Here you have a creature with the bill and webbed feet of a duck, the body and fur of an otter, the tail of a beaver, and the cherry on top, lays eggs like a bird. I mean seriously, no wonder the first scientists to examine it thought they were victims of a hoax.

Well, a creature that interesting just has to be seen. So we detoured off the Bruce Highway  and drove through endless fields of sugarcane towards Eungella National Park, one of the best places to see a wild platypus, to camp for the night. Let me just pause here to rave about parks and campsites in Australia. They are incredible! We spent some of the most magical evenings surrounded by natural beauty and an entire field of stars laid out to greet us. There’s a feeling of peace that comes over you when you’re that connected to nature and parks in Australia offer that in abundance.

Platy Sign
Platypus right this way!

Back to the platypus hunt. Arriving at our campsite, we stopped at a park kiosk that gave tips for platypus spotting. Good thing we did because apparently platypus are incredibly shy and if they are spooked they’ll disappear into the safety of their home for hours. Armed with this new information we headed out to an area marked for potential platypus spotting. We walked the length of the pool our eyes anxiously darting from side to side, critically examining every hint of movement. While doing this, it hit me that in actuality I had no idea what we were looking for. Was it going to be tiny or as big as a dog? Would it swim on the top for a while or just briefly? Could we see it just strolling around on land? Those questions were soon answered when a brown blob the size of a housecat popped up to the surface. It sat there motionless for a few seconds and then in an almost wriggling motion, moved through the water before suddenly diving down again. My wife and I gave each other a very quiet, non-platypus frightening high-five. We had done it, traveled halfway around the world to have the pleasure of watching a truly unique animal swim around.

As we stared in silent anticipation it bobbed up to the top again like a corked bottle with a message in it. More wriggling, this time with a healthy backscratch with its hind leg and then another swift dive into the dark. This continued for almost thirty minutes and we enjoyed every second. Bobbing up, scratching and wriggling, and then diving back down. With darkness and hunger setting in we walked back to our campervan for a delicious cooked meal and to revel in our experience of seeing such an elusive, unique creature.

Platy1
Seemingly calm platypus
Platy2
Diving platypus

The next morning we woke up with the rising sun. We decided to try our luck one more time in seeing a platypus, so we walked the length of the river. The morning was not as kind to us as we only spotted a small platypus, but it was in a part of the river that we couldn’t get close to, so it was really hard to see. With a slight tinge of disappointment of not getting one more good look at the shy creature we packed up and hit the road again.

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