OTWAY COAST The most spectacular part of the Great Ocean Road

Where to see Koalas

The Otway Coast is one of the best places in Australia to see Koalas in the wild. There are many big colonies in and around the Otway Coast towns so you will be guaranteed close sightings.

Because they are now a protected species Koalas are fearless and snooze and eat on manna and blue gum everywhere. They also inhabit trees in gardens in the villages and they cross the road occasionally and sit on people’s balconies.

 

Where to see Koalas on the Otway Coast

Grey River / Kennett River / Wye River / Wongarra

Koala Cove Café and Kennett Caravan Park at Kennett River are popular spots.

Drive further along the Grey River road adjacent to the Cafe and you will be guaranteed to see Koalas every day.

Or stay at one of the holiday houses in these villages and you may be able to get close to Koalas in the trees surrounding the houses.

About Koalas

The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an iconic Australian marsupial which is recognised all throughout the world. Everyone wants to see these lovely animals with their fluffy ears and black button noses sometime. People from Japan, US and Europe recently said in a tourism survey that seeing a koala was a big factor in their trip to Australia.

The koala gets its name from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” because it receives over 90% of its water from the indigestible Eucalyptus or gum leaves it eats.

The Koala is found in most coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia as well as in inland woodlands. Victoria has the largest koala populations while there are non at all in Tasmania or West Australia.

Koalas spend about three of their five active hours eating usually at night. They chew the leaves with their powerful jaws to a fine paste before swallowing. Koalas eat about 50 out of the 500 different types of eucalypt leaves but mainly manna gum, blue gum, swamp gum and red river gum.

Baby Koalas (joeys) are born hairless, blind, and earless. Tiny at birth, the joey crawls into the pouch on the mother’s belly (which is closed by a drawstring-like muscle that the mother can tighten at will) and attaches itself to one of the two teats.

Over the next 6 months the joey remains inside the pouch until it has grown its ears, the eyes are open and its body is covered in soft fur. At this stage the joey begins to spend time outside the pouch on its mother’s back feeding on milk and leaves until weaning is complete at about a year old.

Did you know? Ten little known facts about Koalas.

  • Koalas often make extremely loud and aggressive growling noises, which people confuse with all sorts of other wild animals, like pigs
  • They eat up to half a kilo of leaves per day
  • Koalas are often called bears but are not bears at all
  • Disease, habitat loss and hunting for fur meant the koala came quite close to extinction at the beginning of the 20th century
  • They store their food in their cheek pouches until they swallow.
  • They have a very keen sense of smell which they use to make sure they are eating the right eucalyptus leaves and not the many poisonous ones
  • Koalas rub their chests against trees to mark their territory
  • Koalas are gentle and docile animals except when teased or frightened when they can become quite aggressive
  • The life-span of a wild koala is around 10-12 years
  • Koalas are excellent swimmers and able to cross rivers at times of flooding
  • Koalas are good jumpers and can jump from one tree to the next.

More info on Koalas

Koalas have minimal energy needs because they have evolved the smallest relative brain size of any mammal. The Koala’s brain is so small that it doesn’t even fill its skull cavity. The tough leathery eucalypt leaves that Koalas eat appreared in Australia about 30 million years ago. Although Koalas often denude entire tree areas some of the eucalypts can protect themselves against this. The Manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalsi) is one of the Koala’s favourite food and its youngest and smallest leaves are full of prussic acid which deters the Koalas from eating these and stripping the tree.

It’s widely believed that Koalas eat nothing but eucalypt leaves. However they do also occassionally eat soil for the trace minerals it holds. Unfortunately soil can cause them the serious fungal disease that so many of them are suffering from now.

In most areas of Australia Koalas are difficult to spot as they sit high up snuggled against eucalypt branches. Indiginous people would often spot Koalas by looking for their shadows against thin eucalyptus leaves which turn the narrow edge to the sun so that less moisture is lost. But come to Otway Coast and you won’t have any trouble seeing Koalas in all our townships. Have fun.