“You aren’t going to see any koalas in the wild,” my friends who had been there told me when I said this was my number one reason for visiting Australia. They’re all in sanctuaries and zoos where you can see them, hold them and meet them. But you won’t see koalas in the wild.
A dark sadness fell over my heart. No koalas? Isn’t this Australia? Isn’t this the one place in the world where they live in the wild?
I was undeterred and totally determined I would find Koala Paradise on our journeys. I had to; it was my number one reason for visiting.
As we drove through Australia for nearly 4 weeks, my eyes were glued to the window as we zoomed past trees that morphed into blurs of green and grey. Our car made detours and tournabouts in attempts to verify a few of my vehement demands that I might have actually seen a koala this time-they all turned out to be giant termite nests or weird knots on trees. As we neared the end of our time in Australia, we had held a koala at the Corrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, seen rescued koalas at a Koala Hospital, we had waited at a platypus platform in the Tablelands, spotted thousands of kangaroos, a giant cassowary, a snake, a handful of spiders that were too big for my liking, and even frozen while we searched for fairy penguins at night, but alas, we had seen no koalas in the wild.
I’d read that our best chance would be on the Great Ocean Road. Most people drive this route to see the 12 Apostles, which are now weathered down to to a mere but majestic nine pillars in the ocean and I really wanted to see these too but I couldn’t help but be very hopeful that we would see my koalas on this trip. The day we drove this route the weather decided to do all its tricks. We had pouring rain, brilliant sun and a few rainbows sprinkled in between. When we got to an area near a place called “Kafe Koala” I had read we needed to stop because koalas like to hang out nearby. We parked the car in between a small holiday trailer park and the cafe while we decided what to do. There was a group of people hanging out in this area and parrots were flying all about.
And then a man started in our direction and we thought we were going to be asked to leave and park somewhere else. He walked with the swagger of someone who lived in the area and who might not be happy with people hanging out in his neighborhood. “Hey!” He said and he pointed out a koala hanging out in the tree above our car.
A koala. In the wild. My dream come true.
After telling us about some hawks in the sky, and pointing out more birds, he told us we needed to drive up a mountainous road a little more so we could see more koalas. Just keep your eyes on the trees, he told us. Nevermind that everyone tells you not to talk to strangers and this one was telling us to drive into a forest in the middle of nowhere.
So of course we drove deep into the eucalyptus forest for a few miles and stopped again. And there in the tops of trees we saw koalas, koalas and more koalas. They were eating. They were moving. They were being koalas in trees in the wild. And they were real.
This was the one of of the most magical moments of all of our lives. Strangers can be so amazing. Humanity can be so kind. Sometimes I think we need to trust each other a little more and maybe more of our dreams can come true.
(PS. The rest of the Ocean Road was also lovely too but you probably knew that already……)