Until recently, the closest I’ve come to a Koala in Australia has been at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, Queensland. Whilst this was one of the coolest wildlife enclosures I’ve ever seen (and I actually got to hold a furry friend, dreams can come true) I was keen to see these cute marsupials in their natural habitat.
In April this year I experienced one of the best road trips Australia has to offer, along the Great Ocean Road. It was the kind of Australia that you read about in books, offering a scenic 243 kilometre drive along stunning coastline. Epic stops included the iconic 12 Apostles, bushwalks, surfer towns, the lot. It was pure bucket list stuff and left me wanting more.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I got to literally sleep under koalas at Cape Otway National Park.
As a brit from London who always dreamt about living in Australia and seeing its amazing wildlife, this was definitely one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. I think I got to feel like an Ozzie seeing snow for the first time. It was majestic.
But finding koalas in the wild is no walk in the park. For starters, they’re quite small, numbers are on the decline and they sleep for most of the day. You won’t spot them like pidgins in the city.
If you want to know the secret you’re going to need to read on.
How To Spot Wild Koalas In Australia
Step 1: Find their regional hood
As you can see on the map, koalas are mainly found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and with a few scatterings in South Australia.
Since I was living in Melbourne, a friend of mine recommended a trip to the lush National Park of Great Otway, located along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Step 2: Stay in a caravan park where the little dudes hang-out
Great Otway is pretty big and there are a few caravan parks there. But there is only one caravan park where you can literally sleep under koalas. Yes, l-i-t-e-r-a-l-l-y sleep under koalas.
I stayed at Bimbi Park for this trip, at a very reasonable $50 p/n. If like me, your trip is only for a couple of nights, and you’re a bit lazy to pitch up a tent (shh, I’m secretly only a one-day camper!) then their caravan option is ideal and comes equipt with a double bed, kitchen and space out-front to BBQ/soak-up the rural atmosphere. Alternately they also have camping pods, more luxurious cabins or DIY tent spots.
Step 3: Look closely… and Listen
If staying at Bimbi Park, then take a hike to the Cape Otway lighthouse. This makes for a gorgeous 4k walk through the bush, with stunning views along the coast. We spotted three koalas on this trip (Tip: Don’t forget to look up at the manna gum trees!)
At Bimbi Park, their tagline is ‘Camping Under Koalas’, except on the first night, I didn’t see one koala. I kind of expected them to be everywhere.
But the truth is, I just didn’t know the secret and what signs to look for.
It all started on the first night.
I had a little walk around the park and noticed they had a chicken coup. When it got dark, I also heard pigs snorting. I tried looking for the pigs but couldn’t see them anywhere.
During dusk of the second night, I went for a walk and swing near the kiosk to capture a bit of internet connection.
When I strolled back to the caravan, I heard the pigs again. I tried looking around again for them, but saw nothing.
Then I realised that the noise wasn’t coming from the ground, it was coming from the TREE!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. As this furry and cute looking creature climbed in the tree, it was making an loud, angry snorting noises that resembled Miss. Piggy.
If you’ve never heard a koala make this sound before, then watch this:
After I realised the secret, I spotted heaps more! I just has to listen out for them.
To put the cherry on the cake, as it was nearly dark, I heard a rustling in the leaves next to the caravan. It looked and moved like a possum…but it was hard to tell. Then I realised that it was another koala!
This one jumped and climbed a spindly tree, but it was too heavy and nearly fell off (yes, we nearly had a drop bear situation.) So it ninja-d over to the bigger tree next to it and slept there all night.
I was literally sleeping under a koala that night and for me, this was the perfect way to encounter these amazing natives in the wild.