In Pursuit of Platypus

Waving sugar cane fields of the Pioneer Valley

Miles of fields of bright green sugarcane wave gently in the breeze as I drive through the Pioneer Valley, passing wooden Queenslander houses and avoiding the cane trains as they criss cross the country roads on their narrow tracks.

As the car climbed higher up the steep, twisty tracks leading up to Eungella National Park the vegetation changed from the flat, cultivated fields of waving sugar cane into a wild, rain forest of palms and ferns. As the foliage became denser the temperatures dropped until a damp chill could be felt in the air and the clouds closed in grey and heavy. 

Once at the top of the range I glanced back over a glorious view of the Pioneer Valley; the patchwork of multitude shades of bright green and yellow that had become home as I worked and lived in a rural pub in the heart of the valley. 

The view from Eungella over the Pioneer Valley

The skies were foreboding and I shivered as it started to drizzle however this overcast weather would actually turn out to work in favour of my mission today – to spot a platypus in the wild. 

Eungella National Park in Queensland is one of the best places in the world to see these unique animals in their natural habitat.

Platypuses are semi aquatic mammals only found in eastern parts of Australia. Platypuses are monotremes which means they are mammals but they lay eggs instead of giving birth and they play an important part in the study of evolutionary biology. 

Cute platypus with its distinctive duck like bill, Photo credit: www.nationalgeographic.com

The road winded through the small village perched on top of the range and through patches of rainforest until reaching Broken River. I headed under the bridge to a platform by the river hidden amongst the foliage. 

Broken River is a great place to spot Platypuses in the wild

I stood quietly and patiently for about 10 minutes, platypuses are hard to spot and are shy, nocturnal creatures. Usually they are only visible at dusk and dawn however the overcast, drizzling conditions worked in my favour. 

How to see a platypus

The platypus makes burrows in the riverbanks where it sleeps but spends most of the time swimming in the water foraging for food. They are carnivores and dig worms, insect larvae, shrimps and crayfish out of the river bed or catch them while swimming but the platypus needs to come up to the surface in order to eat.

As I kept my eyes peeled, focused on the water, at last I spotted the tell tale ripples that meant the platypus was swimming below the murky waters.

The ripple means the platypus is nearby

Suddenly the petite, brown furred, four legged platypus with its distinctive duck like bill popped out above the water line and paddled around on the surface for a few moments before diving back under.

Small, incredibly cute platypuses paddle around in the river

I was surprised at just how small it was but also how cute, the platypuses tail was not dissimilar to an beaver and its feet like a otter. A few minutes later he reappeared slightly downstream paddling around. 

The platypus dives under the surface catching food as it swims along the riverbed. Photo credit: www.ryanphotographic.com

Soon there were 3 cute, little platypuses, popping up, paddling around and diving down under the murky waters. I watched with a big grin on my face at the delight of seeing these unique and incredibly cute creatures frolicking in their natural habitat.

The distinctive looking platypus is important in the study of evolutionary biology

So caught up in these mesmerising monotremes that I hadn’t realised that I was shivering in the cool mountain air and my clothes were almost soaked through and so I started to descend to the warmer climate of the valley below but spotting these unique animals is well worth getting wet for!

Heading back to the warmer climate of the patchwork of green sugarcane fields of the Pioneer Valley.

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