Now for starters it’s important to remember one very important fact if you want to see the beautiful, unique and enigmatic Koala (which by the way is not a bear) in the wild…
… You need to travel over to Australia!
But once you arrive in Australia there are a few important factors to consider to make sure you head to the right areas of the country if its your wish to see them in the wild… If you’re not that bothered about the wild part and just want to see a koala in Australia, you can do at just about every zoo over there!
What Koalas Need in the Wild
The most important factor is eucalyptus… If you end up going somewhere which has no eucalyptus, you’re not going to find any koalas – certainly not any live ones, as this is the only food they can survive and be healthy on in the wild (and in zoos for that matter)! Food sources are by far the most important factor for them. However not just any eucalyptus will do either… each sub species of koala prefers a certain type of eucalyptus, and even amongst those there will be slight differences in the place where a particular individual koala lives – it all depends on which eucalyptus species are available there!
It is also important to remember that koalas do not live in every part of Australia… This is a very varied country with a huge range of different types of habitat ranging from humid rainforests through to dry desert like areas… Koalas cant live in all of these conditions, and as such you can only find them here:
This is the smallest of the koalas and can be found throughout much of Queensland, however in most of this state they can be difficult to spot, with most numerous populations found in the south east.
New South Wales Koala
This mid sized sub species can be found in New South Wales, however they are not very abundant, and can mostly just be found the Pilliga State Forests.
The Victoria koala is the largest and has the thickest fur of all the koala subspecies and can be found throughout Victoria.
You’re in the Right Area – What Now?
Once you have found your way to the right areas – what is the next step to actually seeing one of Australia’s most enigmatic animals in the wild? The first thing you need to remember is that this is an arboreal animals, meaning it spends most of its time in the trees! So look up.
They also don’t spend a huge amount of time moving around, so don’t expect them to just jump out and be like, “Here I am!”… If you want the privilege of seeing a wild koala, you’re going to have to work for the pleasure, and be patient whilst doing so. The best thing to do is either walk along some routes, or take it easy whilst driving (in which case you will want a spotter – keep your eyes on the road), to take in as much of the tree line as possible.
When you do find a koala, it is very important that you leave them alone! By all means watch them, they are usually very chilled out animals, and take plenty of photos to savour the moment. One of the greatest things about koalas is that they are super easy to photograph! Please don’t try to touch them as they are susceptible to stress and may even bite… and certainly don’t do things to try and make them move.
Most importantly, and this applies to any time where there is wildlife in Australia, especially at dusk, dawn and during the night – take it easy when driving! One of the biggest threats to Australian wildlife is the risk of being hit by a car… I’m sure you wouldn’t want a gorgeous koala, wombat, wallaby or echidna stuck to the front of your car!
Some Location Tips
As mentioned above, koalas can’t be seen everywhere, so why not take a little bit of the luck out of the equation with a few little tips about where we managed to see these awesome animals (a map can be found at the end of this page which shows you where these places are):
1 – Phillip Island
All over Phillip Island there are perfect places to find koalas, however the easiest place to see them is around the Phillip Island Koala Conservation Center. There are captive koalas here, however because they are in the area (especially females) some of the wild ones are attracted to the surrounding sites… And if you strike out – go in to the conservation center.
2 – Kennet River
This is a small town on the great ocean road which is famous for the koalas there. As you turn off the great ocean road you will see the koala café, and generally there will be a ton of tourists there, crowded around one or two koalas. Ignore them and drive up Grey River Road (be warned it is a bumpy gravel track, all the way)… There are koalas in the trees which line this road, and the tourists don’t generally wander up it far.
If you want to enjoy driving on rough terrain through some awesome woodland, make sure you bring some lunch, be prepared to do your business without the luxury of a toilet and have a few hours to kill. It was worth the experience for us!
3 – Lake Elizabeth
This lake is in the Otways National Park near a small town called Forrest. It’s not that easy to find, especially if you need to rely on a sat nav, but it is absolutely worth while.
It is actually famous for the platypus which live here, although to see these you need to try and get there for dusk or dawn (we left Melbourne slightly too late sadly). However it’s a beautiful area to see anyway and there is loads of other wildlife there, including koalas, so don’t just keep your eyes on the water or looking for the flash of colour from the many birds there.
4 – Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills area of the city is about 20 minutes east of the downtown Adelaide and covers a huge area of dry woodland, all fairly easily accessible by road. It is thought that when European settlers came to Australia, the South Australia region hadn’t had wild koalas in the area for a long time, however in the 1920s individuals were released on Kangaroo Island, with more being released in the mount lofty region near Adelaide hills in the 1950s and 60s. It is now believed that there are as many as 200,000 individuals living in South Australia… So a pretty good place to find them!
You don’t need to go far, you can often see them from the road in the trees lining the winding thin roads in the area. However in most places it is not safe to stop by the side of the road here, so find a car park and walk along these areas for a better chance. Also be careful when driving – one the one hand the koalas do come down to the ground and are frequently hit by cars, but also keep your eye on the road because the Adelaide Hills area (especially during mornings and weekends) is very popular with potentially hundreds of people (mostly older men) in skin tight lycra, slowly cycling up the hills… I’ll be honest they’re pretty annoying to get stuck behind!
5 – Kangaroo Island
Now I have not been here myself so won’t comment too much, however it was part of a re-population effort for South Australia and I have heard that it is great for seeing wild koalas, so I think it’s a safe tip to make if you’re heading that way anyway.