Sleeping Under the Stars With Koalas

Our Australian experience is complete – we slept in the bush with koalas in the trees above us.

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Bimbi Park is the best place to stay in Cape Otway. It’s rustic and close to nature, with hundreds of eucalyptus trees to feed the abundance of koalas which were first introduced from French Island. I also love the smell of these gums. It feels like camping in the bush but more convenient (flatter ground, camp kitchen and lounge, toilets, showers) and every second tree seems to have a koala in it. Although this is causing problems in terms of habitat and food shortages (the koalas are literally eating themselves to death), it was really exciting to come so close to a nocturnal animal.

We took a dusk/night time walk along a track that leads to a remote beach where there is no vehicle access. Wherever we shone the torch we found a koala in a tree. We even saw one with a little joey – very exciting.

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We picked a site away from the other guests (a couple of caravaners) and lay down looking at the stars in the clear, frosty night. At night, we woke to the sound of brumbies neighing and galloping across the field adjacent to Bimbi. In the morning we woke to look across into the fields at kangaroos and wallabies nibbling the grass. Above us was a gum, and in the gum was a koala.

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Exploring the park in the early morning hours was the best way to get a clear look at koalas while they were still active. Or at least as active as koalas generally get. Some of them were so obliging for camera too. A whisper of ‘here, koala, look at me’ had them turning their face for my lens. A solitary walk among the damp gum trees reminded of the things I love about Australia.

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I was still amazed at the number of koalas I could see but information around the park shed some light. All those gorgeous trees means food, which has meant that the koalas are now overpopulated and have started slowing killing the trees with their appetite for eucalyptus leaves. The folk at Bimbi are working with universities and environmental groups for a sustainable solution to the current overpopulation but it’s not clear cut. You’ll see the same bands around trees that are used in cities to prevent possums destroying the arbors. Some koalas are stubborn and manage to get around this but many are encouraged to move on to other areas of Cape Otway.

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Although this is a sobering thought I absolutely loved the abundance of wildlife at Bimbi. I hope to go back in warmer months (though I’m sure it will be much busier with summer holiday campers) and explore more of the walking tracks.

It seems to me like Cape Otway National Park just  might be the best place to see koalas in the wild in Australia and sightings are almost guaranteed. It’s such a thrill to see a koala living life in front of you.

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