After spending our first week in Australia exploring Brisbane, we were ready for a bit of outdoors adventure. Our local friends mentioned that we should take a day or two and explore Eungella National Park. “It’s one of the only places to see platypus in the wild,” they said. We jumped at that chance as we’re always up for seeing unique wildlife and doing a bit of hiking. Eungella is also home to an isolated section of rainforest left along the east coast of Australia. Since it has been so isolated from other rain forests over the years, many of the creatures in Eungella have evolved into their own unique species.
We checked into our room at the Broken River Mountain Resort and immediately headed down to the river to poke around and check things out. Broken River Mountain Resort is the lodge that is closest to the river, so we decided to stay there so we could just walk to hikes and to see the platypus. It’s kind of a local secret and the folks who run the lodge were excited and surprised to be hosting Americans.
It was the middle of the afternoon, so still too bright for the platypus to be out, but we had a good time hiking around on the river. We watched the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos kick up a racket (Wow can they shriek!)
It’s amazing to walk around outside here in Aussie….so many bird and insect sounds that are completely foreign to us.
Finally, it was time to head over to the lookout to see if any platypus would appear. We crept quietly along the path and sat very still on the platform scanning the river for the tell tale signs of platypus: bubbles in the water and circular ripples with a small wave.
We didn’t see anything for the longest time, then saw a small wave way down the river from where we were. A platypus! But too far off for us to actually see anything except for the wave. We were a bit disappointed, and tried to get closer with the mega zoom on our camera, but to no avail. No platypus for us this afternoon.
Disappointed, we decided to head down to another area of the river to see if we could see any birds or interesting things. We’d been down that way earlier and seen a goana and loads of other cool things so we headed down to an area called the Rock Pool. And as we were quietly standing on the bank of the river, chatting about our day, a platypus came out of her burrow right next to us! We watched her swim around, diving down to eat the small shrimp and crayfish at the bottom of the river, and then following her bubble trail to watch her resurface. We had seen our first platypus!
Platypus are one of only three animals in the monotreme family. Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs (rather than gestating them internally). The only other monotremes are two different species of echidnas. Platypus live in carefully created, and well hidden, burrows along the shores of the river.
Platypus look really odd but they are perfectly designed to take advantage of their environment. They have a broad tail that helps them stabilize in the water and build their burrows, thick outer fur for insulation, webbed feet to help them swim and steer in the water and waddle about on land, and a soft rubbery super-sensitive bill that helps them locate their food by using electrical impulses.
The thing that surprised us the most about platypus is how small they are, only about 12-18 inches in length. And they are funny looking creatures that are a lot of fun to watch. Here is a video Kyle took of one in the water.
We went down to the river several more times: once at night and again early the next morning. Morning was the jackpot for us. We saw 5 platypus feeding and hanging out on logs in the river, including a mama and her two babies. The babies are learning to feed and all still hang out together. It was one of those amazing moments where you can’t believe you’re actually seeing something that, up until now, you have only read about in books. We’d never even seen one in a zoo because they are very difficult to breed and maintain in captivity.
Over the course of the afternoon, night, and following morning, we spotted 10 platypus. Many people at the resort when we were there didn’t see any and our friends told us about a woman who had returned to the resort every year for 8 years and only saw a platypus for the first time on her most recent trip.
Our time in Eungella was truly a once in a lifetime experience. And not one we would have ever known about if our friends hadn’t told us about it. We can’t believe how lucky we were.