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Jonathan and I saw a platypus in a darkened display (they are nocturnal) at the Healesville sanctuary outside Melbourne. We thought we had checked off one of those Australia bucket list activities: See a Platypus!!! The platypus was dark on top with a silvery-white belly, leaving a trail of bubbles as it swam across the surface of its pool. We loved it.

Shift gears to Cairns and our chance meeting with wildlife artist Pete Marshall at the Cattana Wetlands.

Pete Marshall wildlife artist

After chatting for a bit, Pete recommended looking for platypus in the creek by Yungaburra, describing the place where you park, go under the bridge and along the creek. It sounded like a good adventure, though we were dubious that we’d see these secretive little animals.

We suggested a platypus hunt to Amanda and Jim, and I found we could combine our search with a visit to the Yungaburra weekend market. We set out at 8 am Saturday–no dawn patrol for this group, and arrived at the Yungaburra Platypus Viewing Platform around 9:30 am. Sure enough, there is a trail along a creek where a sign lets you know there is a resident platypus family. From the bridge across the creek we saw nothing, and the water was cloudy with runoff from recent rains. We moved along the creek, avoiding the muddy patches. After about twenty minutes of watching without success, we decided to visit the market and give it another try later.

An hour or more later, we stowed our loot (veggies, dukkah, macadamia nuts, salami, oyster mushrooms, radishes, potatoes, and pastry) in the trunk and returned to the platypus zone, just a block or two from the park that hosts the market. We set out again, under the bridge and along the creek. Amanda and I tiptoed around a longish stretch of muddy path, squeezing along the edges to avoid sinking. I was staring at the water when Amanda whispered that she saw one! I turned and watched a dark little animal, definitely a platypus, much smaller than I thought from watching nature shows. We watched it dive, expecting it to return to the surface, but it disappeared. After a few more minutes, there was no sign on the surface and we headed back to the others. We told Jonathan and Jim that we’d seen a platypus and they tried to be enthusiastic, but we knew they wished they’d seen the platypus, too.

Right about then, the platypus emerged. For the next ten minutes, platypus dove and swam around the creek. There were three or four platypus swimming around as we watched. They paddled strangely but moved quickly through the water. I’m not sure why the group of platypus in this creek is awake during the day, but we enjoyed their performance.

I never thought I’d see a wild platypus, but there it is. A successful end to the Great Platypus Hunt.

 

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