Traveling to the Great Ocean Road wouldn’t be that fun if you miss the lovely and ever cuddly koalas. But no worries! As long as you’re in the Otways having close sightings of these lazy fluffy friends is guaranteed. The Otways, by the way, hosts the largest population of this iconic Australian marsupial.
Koala bears as they are inaccurately called were hunted by indigenous Australians as depicted in their myths and cave arts. The koalas were almost extinct at the beginning of the 20th century due to excessive hunting for fur, habitat loss, and disease.
Getting its name from an ancient Aboriginal word that means “no drink,” a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) gets ninety percent of water from eucalyptus and gum leaves. These Australian natives can be found in the eucalypt woodlands of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Mostly in coastal regions. The koala’s habitat is the open eucalypt woodlands.
A koala measures 60–85 centimeters in length and weighs around 4-15 kilograms. And it can live up to 18 years in the wild. With wombats as its closest relatives, you can easily identify a koala by its stout. It has no tail but it has a large head with round, fluffy ears. Its big spoon-shaped nose and a silver gray to chocolate brown pelage makes a koala irresistibly cute.
When you’re in the Otways, you can see them above, hugging the branch of a eucalyptus tree. If you choose to stay in one of the villages near the Great Ocean Road, you will have the chance to get up close and personal with koalas. Along the Grey River road you can spot them often crossing the street, and on the trees greedily feeding on the leaves.
Spending most of its waking hours eating, a koala can consume up to half a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves a day. Koalas store food in cheek pouches before swallowing. They have a sensitive nose to smell the right leaves to eat and to avoid eating the poisonous leaves. These furry friends live a sedentary lifestyle, sleeping up to 20 hours a day.
Only a mother koala and its dependent joey have bonds, koalas are asocial. They spend just 15 minutes a day socializing with others. They mark their territory by rubbing their chests against the tree. They attract mates and intimidate rivals.
Having the smallest brain relative to their size as a mammal, koalas cannot perform complex and unfamiliar tasks. But they make loud, growling, and aggressive noises which can often be confused as that of other wild animals. Don’t frighten a koala or it will become aggressive. But if you’re friendly to them they’re gentle and docile.
So as you travel to the Great Ocean Road and walk along the trails in the forests of the Otways, you better be always on the lookout for these tree jumpers — they can also jump from one tree to the next. They are swimmers, too. They can cross rivers.
In Kennett River, you can get a closer look at the koalas and take some selfies with them. Most tourists from Japan, Europe, and the US would visit Victoria only to see the koalas. So, you’re not alone who is mesmerized by these fluffy fellows.