On our Great Ocean Road tour, we usually see koalas every day. But each visit to a wild koala in a forest is different, and exciting.
Some wild koalas are seen in dry open forest: furry grey bundles on a huge silver branch, with blue sky as a backdrop. Others live in tall wet forest: furry grey bundles at the top of a 50 metre high statuesque eucalypt. Yet other wild koalas live in scrubby, tangled forest: furry grey bundles hiding in thick green foliage, amongst twisted branches wrapped in bark streamers.
Here are the different forest types, and the different koala experiences we have on the 3 day Great Ocean Road tour:
Day 1: the You Yangs open forest, Little River, Australia.
The wild koalas in the You Yangs live in an open woodland. The trees are short and broad-limbed and spaced well apart with little understorey. If you don’t immediately get the perfect view – or if the koala moves – the group can change position, carefully, for better photography. Read our Sustainable Koala Watching Guidelines here.
The You Yangs koala forest is mostly River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Yellow Gum E. leucoxylon with a smattering of other tree types. These venerable trees have smooth grey bark, with pastel shades of pink, cream, gold and green and koalas look beautiful in their large branches.
The koalas of the You Yangs are a natural population. They are not stressed by overpopulation, nor are they threatened by tree clearing. They are declining due to climate change and dryness (1), but at this time their population is still sufficient to provide for their social needs. The behaviour we see in the You Yangs is the most natural and fascinating of all the koalas we observe.
All the koalas we see in the You Yangs are part of our long-running Wild Koala Research Project. In this location you will not just see a koala, you will learn its name, its history, its family, and hear some funny and interesting stories about the individual.
Read about one of our 4 generation koala dynasties: the Smoky Dynasty.
Day 2 & 3: the diverse forests of the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road has many forest types, and koalas here can be plentiful (and even overabundant in some places) (2), and framed by deep green leaves.
We usually see koalas on Day 2 along the Great Ocean Road around Lorne and in the Otways. Here the forests are tall, green and damp.
Koalas in this area are abundant, but can be hard to see, as the trees are so tall. There is something amazing about seeing a koala right at the top of a forest giant, and knowing that koala has to come down every day, walk to another huge tree, and climb all the way to the top to feed.
Koalas in this region are seen in Mountain Grey Gum Eucalyptus cypellocarpa, the tall-growing form of Manna Gum E viminalis, Messmate E obliqua and occasionally even in the mighty Mountain Ash E. regnans – the tallest flowering plant in the world.
Near the famous Twelve Apostles, we often see koalas in the scrubby, low Manna Gum & Brown Stringybark forest around Port Campbell on Day 2 or 3. There is thick undergrowth in this area. The trees are not very tall, but the foliage is thick and very green. It really looks like paradise for koalas.
Koalas can often be seen from the road, but if the angle isn’t great, there is no way of getting to a better position – the undergrowth is too thick!
The wild koalas here live in Manna E. viminalis and Swamp Gum E. ovata, Messmate E. obliqua and Brown Stringybark E. baxteri. They are also often seen using thick, shady non-food trees like Silver Banksia B. marginata, Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon, and Tree Everlasting Ozothamnus ferrugineus on hot days.
We don’t research these Great Ocean Road koalas. They are currently being researched by some wonderful scientists at Deakin University’s Southern Koala Research Group.
Seeing different wild koalas every day, in different Australian forests, is one of the highlights of our 3 day Great Ocean Road tour. You can never have too much of a good thing.
NOTES & REFERENCES:
Deakin University Southern Koala Research Group: https://victoriankoalaresearch.wordpress.com/
Sustainable Koala Watching Guidelines: https://koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/you-can-help/sustainable-koala-watching
1. About wild koala decline in the You Yangs: https://koalaclancy.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/koala-population-decline-in-the-you-yangs-victoria/
2. About koala overabundance on the Great Ocean Road: https://victoriankoalaresearch.wordpress.com/overabundance/