Now that I’ve had the chance to explore Australia, I’ve come to the realization that the iconic animals of the Pacific Northwest must be shy. Sure, we see squirrels daily and deer and raccoons now and then, but I have never seen a wolf or a bear, and my encounters with elk and a single fox occurred at Yellowstone National Park. True, echidna sightings have been promised to me three or four times now and they still elude me, but on the whole I did not expect to stumble upon such a host of strange animals so easily! I gather that the zoo is the best place to see Tasmanian devils and platypuses (and deadly snakes for that matter), but I have truly been surprised, and thrilled, to encounter Australian fauna during various adventures. I have not even had to hike through the bush.
My latest encounter came during a weekend trip to the Great Ocean Road, just a couple hours south of Melbourne. Here the tourist attraction is the Twelve Apostles—formations that were once part of the cliffside, and now stand alone in the ocean. These tall islands are what draw the crowds, but I think it is the ocean itself that captivated me. I can’t explain it, but it seems like a different texture, perhaps emptier.
After returning to our campsite from a brief excursion to see glowworms (very cool, but not glowy enough for photos), I heard a guttural sound coming from a nearby gum. Another camper told me that there had been a koala there earlier in the day, and sure enough we saw it clinging to a leafy branch not five feet off the ground. In fact, this female koala was in the process of making clear to a male visitor that she was not interested in his company. The next morning we walked out of the campground to find koalas filling the trees along with bright, chatty birds. I finally understood why our campsite cost 44 dollars. On the following night we stayed at a different campground and this time I awoke to a mob of kangaroos just a short ways from my tent, which explained the droppings we had been unable to avoid the night before. At this point I am so spoiled on encountering wildlife that I haven’t bothered to go to the zoo yet.
Australians are keen to warn travelers of the presence of drop bears in wooded areas. It’s hard to believe in these vicious oversized koala-type creatures, until it’s too late, that is, and they have already set upon you from above. For more information, please visit: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear. And for any Australian readers, do be careful to avoid gruesome injury via tree octopus when traveling in the Pacific Northwest.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Bailey is a comparative politics major at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Her academic interests stretch across the social sciences, from history to geography to criminology, and, of course, to politics. Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Bailey is an devoted ultimate frisbee player and can't wait for Australian Rules Ultimate. When she's not on the field or nerding out about population growth in various countries, you can find her singing along to the best of the '60s and '70s and/or working to capture life, place, and person on camera. She is ready and eager to dive into life at a big university in a big city, all in the wonder Down Under.</span></p>