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.|
|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|