Friday, 27 March 2015

Raymond Island, Victoria - the best place to see koalas in the bush.

Raymond Island is a small island in the Gippsland Lakes District of Victoria. It is 7.6 sq km and has a population of about 550 people. The only access is by boat or car ferry. In 1953, 42 koalas were re-located there from Phillip Island as part of a conservation program. They took to their new home so well that today their numbers must be managed to prevent over-population. At last count, in 2013, there were 307.

Yesterday we visited Raymond Island. I was in koala heaven. Without a doubt this is the best place I have ever found to see koalas in the bush - and I feel like I have spent half my life looking. The only other places which come close are a few of the campgrounds along The Great Ocean Road.






A car and passenger ferry to the island departs every twenty minutes from Paynesville, not far from Bairnsdale. The crossing is about 250 metres and only takes a couple of minutes. Foot and bicycle passengers are free and cars are $11.  We left the car on the mainland and took our bikes. An island, without much traffic measuring 6 km by 2 km  is perfect for cycling - besides I figured it would be easier to spot koalas if we were on bikes.

The Raymond Island Koala Trail starts at the ferry wharf. Clearly signposted, it is about 1.2 km long winding past houses to a bush reserve and then back to the ferry. It is supposed to take about twenty minutes. It took us more than an hour. There were koalas every few metres. Many were either asleep or in that dazed-out torpor koalas seem to excel at. I read somewhere they get drunk on eucalyptus leaves but it turns out this is an urban myth. Their 'drunken stupor' is a result of a very low metabolic rate. That and their habit of sleeping 20 hours a day allows them to survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves very low in nutrients. One little guy however was wide awake. We watched with a small group of other tourists while he moved from one tree to another and then another without ever coming to the ground. Gravity just wasn't an issue for him as he sailed from branch to branch grabbing on and then hanging by his front claws in mid-air until he lazily brought his back legs across.

After satiating ourselves on koala cuteness we decided to cycle away from the main settlement to the less inhabited end of the island. As we passed the houses along the foreshore we spotted another koala and I'm sure we missed a few as well. There are said to be pockets of them all over the island. I hoped to catch a glimpse of the island's other inhabitants; kangaroos, wallabies and echidnas.  I was rewarded with two echidnas, both by the side of the road and a group of kangaroos about 20 metres away in the bush. The second echidna  was a little darling. As echidnas do, he dug into the dirt and pulled himself into a ball with spikes extended when he sensed our presence. The problem was, this was in the middle of the road. We stayed to protect him from the occasional oncoming car until he finally uncurled and finished crossing.













An echidna crossing the road.
Digging in!


Raymond Island isn't all about marsupials - there were lots of Black Swans to admire.

A car came along shortly after I spotted the group of kangaroos and they darted into the bush.

Raymond Island Fast Facts:

  • Where is it? - Raymond Island is in the Gippsland Lakes District of Victoria, Australia - a four hour drive from Melbourne and six hours from Canberra.
  • How do I get there? - Take the ferry across from Paynesville. The crossing is about 250 metres. The ferry is free for pedestrians and cyclists and $11 each way for cars. 
  • Do I need to take my car? - Only to get to Paynesville, after that walk, or better yet, cycle. The Koala walk begins right at the ferry wharf. If you want to go further into the island and you don't have a bike it is probably worth taking your car across. You will stand a much better chance of seeing kangaroos if you get away from the houses.
  • What other wildlife will I see? - Apart from koalas we saw kangaroos and echidnas. If you want to maximise your chances of seeing kangaroos go at dusk or dawn. They are much more active at this time. Koalas are just as easily seen during the day - they don't move about that much.
  • Can I get lunch on Raymond Island? - No; not unless you bring it yourself. There are some lovely picnic spots but no cafes or shops.  There are shops and cafes on the Paynesville side of the ferry crossing.
  • How many koalas will I see? - Lots. We spotted about 12 but we really didn't look that hard - I'm pretty sure we missed quite a few. Just make sure you look up - you hardly ever see them on the ground. Look for them in the forks of the branches.
  • Can I stay overnight on the Island? - There are lots of holiday houses on the island but no hotels or motels.


The Raymond Island Ferry
If you are visiting the Gippsland region of Victoria, check out the posts by my fellow blogger and Gippsland resident Mark Wyld at Wyld Family Travel. He has loads of great, local information.

57 comments:

  1. I would have been in heaven! I'm so glad that you got to have this wonderful experience! I'll definitely have to put this on my bucket list!

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    1. Hi Alexandria, It was just fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone.

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  2. We had such a brief introduction to Australia a year ago that I didn't get a chance to see a Koala bear. I love, love, love you photos and will keep this in mind if and when we get back there!

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    1. Hi Jackie, Koalas are quite elusive and can be difficult to spot. They don't move around much so you can be standing right underneath one and not even know it. I love seeing animals in the bush and have spent many, many holidays looking for koalas with mixed success. You really have to know where to go. I'm planning a post soon on the best places to see them so keep an eye out for it - or send me an e-mail and I'll let you know when I post it. Lyn

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  3. Koalas are so cute, but like to have a pee on you at times. Really beautiful photos. You did a great job.

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    1. Hi Paula, Yes. Didn't one of our politicians - or an overseas dignitary or something - get famously peed on once.

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  4. Your 2nd and sixth koala photos are so gorgeous. What a great collection of photos. We live in Townsville and nearby at Magnetic Island you can always find koalas on the Forts Walk, but not that many. We usually only see two, but it is good to know we can take visitors there and be sure of seeing some.

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    1. Hi Jan, Magnetic Island is a great place. We took our boys koala spotting there many years ago. We got advice from a local and spotted three or four, but they were very high up in the trees. The car ferry across to Magnetic was lots of fun. I remember thinking that if the ferry sank we would lose our car - for some reason I wasn't worried about us, just the car.

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    2. Hi Lyn, I'm glad you have been to Magnetic Island and have seen the koalas. The ones I see are quite low down in smaller trees, so I guess I've been lucky. :)

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    3. That's the problem with animal spotting - there is a large element of luck in it. I was told recently that they go higher in the trees on hot days trying to catch the breeze. I'm not sure if its true.

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  5. Cool. Raymond Island looks like a place to add to our bucket list. We haven't been to Victoria yet, but we did see a Koala in the bush in Noosa, which was pretty wonderful, but nothing compared to the number you have seen here. Thanks for linking up on Weekend Travel Inspiration.

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    1. Hi Rhonda, If you do go to Victoria make sure you drive The Great Ocean Rd. There are some wonderful koala spotting campgrounds along there. We don't camp but you just have to walk around the campgrounds during the day to spot lots of koalas.

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  6. Hi There,
    I have just nominated you for a Liebster award If you’d like to accept and pass along the love, here’s all the information http://www.thewanderingmum.com/blog/liebster-award
    I look forward to your future blog posts.
    Amy (The Wandering Mum)

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    1. Wow, Thank you. I have heard of the Liebster award but don't really know what it is. I'll accept though and check it out in a minute - when the cricket (World Cup Aust v. NZ) breaks for dinner.

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  7. This is amazing! I would LOVE to go here!

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    1. Hi Jamie, I know what you mean. Raymond Island was on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it. I live in Sydney I can't believe I didn't know about it before.

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    2. Well, Australia is on my MUST-SEE travel bucket list and I can't wait to check everything out there! (one day...)

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    1. Oh so cute! I was in Australia but only in Sydney so I did not see any (I saw kangaroos though). If I go back I'll put Raymond island on my list. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Hi Colibrist, You don't see a lot of kangaroos in Sydney, although we do see the occasional wallaby on a cycle track just north of where we live. Raymond Island is fantastic for koalas but if you want kangaroos then you can't go past Kangaroo Island or as a friend said recently 'pretty much anywhere he drives in the countryside at dusk and dawn'.

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  9. So many beautiful animals, I'd love to go.

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    1. It's only a couple of day's drive from Sydney and the area around it, The Gippsland Lakes, has beautiful scenery.

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  10. When I first started this post, I was thinking about Victoria, Canada and I was wondering why I had never heard about the koala bears there. Then, I had an "aha moment" when I realized you were talking about Victoria, Australia. Koalas certainly are cute.

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    1. Ha ha. Oooopppps! Maybe I should have made that clear? I don't think there are any koalas outside of Australia, even in zoos. They are such picky eaters they don't survive. I remember a few were sent to Japan many years ago but sadly they all died fairly quickly.

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  11. Great shots of the koalas! They are so languid that it's fun when they demonstrate a little liveliness. One thing I was unprepared for was how ferocious their growl is.

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    1. Hi Betsy, You don't hear them growl very often - maybe they're always in a good mood. We heard one growling on Phillip Island a couple of years ago and you're right it is a strong noise for such a cute animal.

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  12. What a beautiful island! And all those exotic animals that've I've never seen in real life in their own habitat. I love the Koala bear sleeping in the tree... he is adorable!

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    1. Hi agala, Their sleepy personality makes them one of the cutest animals in the world I think. If you want to see really cute wait till my Kangaroo Island post - I found the world's cutest koala sleeping in a tree there.

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  13. Great to see there are still places with such a good density of koalas. We are lucky enough to have a couple of locals who spend the occasional day in our garden but I have definitely added this to our around Australia 'must do' file

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    1. Hi Toni. I do envy you having koalas. We have a magnificent gum tree but, living in the middle of suburbia, sadly no koalas. I just wish I had known about Raymond Island when my sons were little.

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  14. Eee, echidnas! Koalas are adorable, of course, but echidnas are my favorite - they're just so bizarre and cute.

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    1. Hi Jess, We sometimes see echidnas in a national park very close to where we live in
      Sydney. It's tricky to tell you where to go to see them because they are very widespread but very timid - so you don't see them that often.

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  15. Wow! This, this is why I read blogs. Raymond Island has now officially been added to my list of things to do...by bike! I want to see the echnidna!

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    1. Hi Corinne, If you are coming from a long way away which I gather you would be, you might want to include Kangaroo Island (next post -I'm in the middle of writing it) and The Great Ocean Rd on your itinerary. The Great Ocean Rd has some stunning scenery but best of all it is also a great place to see koalas. The Great Ocean Rd post will come after Kangaroo Island. Needless to say, Kangaroo Island, is just fantastic for kangaroos.

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  16. As Australians, we are lucky to have such and amazing and unique collection of animals. The most koalas I have seen in the wild was walking the boardwalk from Noosa downtown to the national park. I had my mother-in-law visiting from Germany and she was totally awe-struck. We were also lucky enough to have one visit a tree about 10m from our deck when we lived in the Byron Bay hinterland. He left after a couple of days - probably to find food since he was sitting in a Camphor Laurel! At the property we also say a lot of echidnas - they are so cute when the roll themselves into a ball and pretend they are invisible to all. Great photos - made me a tad homesick!

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    1. Hi Yasha, Thank you very much for your comment. I know you had trouble getting it to publish and I appreciate your persistence. In Australia, I have always lived in either Sydney or Canberra -you don't see koalas in either city. My great aunt, who is long dead now, used to have them walk along her back fence at Avalon in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, but that was a long time ago. They are such wonderful animals - I love your story about the Camphor Laurel. I'm with you on echidnas and pretty much all Australian animals really. I even get excited when we see snakes - as long as they aren't too close.

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  17. What cute guys those koalas are. I watched a program about an area of Australia that was intruding into their area and the people were trying to rehome them. Would love to visit Ramond Island for a picnic, and also would love to see one of those echidnas.

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    1. Hi Carole, The program was probably about the koalas along The Great Ocean Rd in Victoria. A few years ago there was a large cull there. We drove through the area a few days before Raymond Island and there were lots of dead trees where the koala population had got out of control. Apparently they eat so many leaves that the trees die and then, of course, the over-population problem becomes worse and worse.

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  18. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful place, Lyn. I feel like I visited the isle of enchantment! How fun for you to see and watch so many koalas in their natural environment. And the kangaroos, echidnas and black swans must have been icing on the cake!

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  19. Oh wow! What an amazing range of animals you got to see, those koalas are cuties! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hi clem and marcella. It was fantastic but wait till you see my next post - on Kangaroo Island.

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  20. Oh my god, the sleeping koala is so sweet! It must have been hard to leave :)

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    1. Hi A Cook Not Mad - He was a little darling - maybe I should make him my screen-saver.

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  21. Wowwww awesome pictures! So much wildlife, so much fun!!

    Greig

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    1. Hi Winederlusting. It was just great.

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  22. So cute! Love me a dose of Australia each week when I read your posts. Thanks for joining #SundayTraveler again.

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    1. Hi SJ. You can take the person out of Australia but you will never take Australia out of the person - we learnt that during a couple of stints living overseas. Glad you're enjoying the posts.

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  23. Magical! One of my dreams is to visit the Koala's. I have loved them ever since I was a little girl and they just look soo cuddly (although I had an Aussie friend tell me they stink. haha)

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    1. Hi Madeline. I have never noticed a smell. Maybe if you are holding one but I have only held one once, when I was very little. I don't remember it but I have an old photo showing me with a koala and a huge grin.

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  24. Lyn it is so great to be able to get around and see our wildlife. In all our travels I have only ever seen one koala in the wild but are lucky as we have seen cassowary! Thanks for sharing on #mumbomonday

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    1. Hi Jenn, I have never seen a cassowary but my sister told me recently she saw a couple near Mission Beach in Qld. D and I will be passing through there in August so I'm going to get detailed directions and keep my eyes open - lol.

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  25. It is actually really hard to spot koalas in the wild so this looks fabulous. And it seems it wont be long and the koala population will outstrip the humans. How awesome is that!

    Thanks for linking up for #wednesdaywanderlust. Sorry for the late reply but I've had a few technical glitches. All back on track again this week though.

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    1. Hi Malinda. I agree koalas are hard to find in the wild. They don't make any noise or move about much. To be successful at seeing them you either have to be lucky or go some place like Raymond Island where there are so many you can't avoid seeing them. I have spent half my life looking for them and until lately only ever saw a few in the wild,

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  26. Great shots!! Definitely adding this to my list for next time I'm down south. The boys would love it!

    Next wanderlust link up is 6th May. See you then! #teamwanderlust

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    1. Hi Talia, Somehow I missed your comment. My apologies - better late than never.

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