The Otways are home to many of Australia's favourite locals including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, platypus, koalas, glow worms, birds, seals, penguins and even the occasional migrating whale.
You don’t have to look hard to spot a Koala in the Otways! Despite appearing rather slow moving, koalas are actually quite agile, particularly when it comes to climbing trees. If you’re on the lookouts, try casting your eyes upwards – you’ll generally find a Koala wedged in the nook of a tree branch and most often fast asleep.
Did you know that koalas spend as much as nineteen hours of every day sleeping?
The Elusive Platypus
To spot a platypus, you are going to need some sharp eyes and a little bit of luck. The elusive creature lives in the banks of rivers and lakes, spending much of its time protected by fallen trees and burrows in the muddy shores. Coming out to feed, keep a close eye for ripples on the water’s surface, formed as a platypus comes up for air.
Your best chance of spotting a platypus is at Lake Elizabeth a few kilometres from Forrest. Holding an interesting story of its own, Lake Elizabeth was formed when a flood created a landslide some 50 year ago. The 'perched lake' engulfed several trees that now stand as dead trucks protruding from the water’s surface.
Did you know the platypus is one of only two egg laying mammals?
The Paddle with the Platypus canoe tour operates daily from Lake Elizabeth, this guided tour will allow you to discover Australia’s most elusive animal
Each year whales migrate from polar waters to calve in cool temperate waters near the coast. From May to October Southern Right Whales can be seen along the Great Ocean Road, sometimes approaching within 100 metres to shore providing hours of entertainment.
Did you know that the Southern Right Whale is named because it was considered to be the 'right' whales to hunt as it swims slowly and is often close to the shoreline.
Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
The Short-beaked Echidna is the only species of Echidna found in Australia. It has a long sticky tongue, which it uses to catch ants, termites and insects. They are covered in sharp spines that measure about 5cm in length and are made from the same thing our fingernails are – keratin.
While Echidnas are sometimes likened to Porcupines and Hedgehogs, all three animals are completely different species.
Where will you see Echidnas in the Otways?
Of all the native Australian mammals, Echidnas have the widest distribution and are found right throughout the Otways. You are most likely to see them from our walking tracks on warm sunny days from Spring to Autumn.
Kangaroos and Wallabies
Grey Kangaroos and Southern Rock Wallabies can be found throughout the Otways. You can pick the difference by the size of the animals; A grey kangaroo is much taller and has a lighter grey fur whilst wallabies tend to be much smaller and are a darkish brown colour. Dusk and dawn are the best times to spot them. Take care on the roads at these times.
Some of the most recognised Australian native birds are found in the Otway region and even if you aren’t an avid bird watcher you will be entertained by their antics. You may hear the kookaburra before you see it with its recognizable laughing call. As you walk through the bush the bright colours of the rosella and stark white and yellow of the noisy cockatoo will definitely catch your eye. In the early morning sunrise you may hear (or be woken by) the musical warbling call of the Currawong.
Visit Melba Gully at night to see hundreds of tiny pinpricks of light gleaming and twinkling in the dark forest creating a magical effect. During the 9-month larval stage, the glow worms live in damp, dark places throughout the Otways, such as the soil banks and overhanging ledges along the walking tracks in Melba Gully. Bring a torch but avoid shining it directly at the glow worms, as they 'turn out the lights' when disturbed. Glow worms can also be spotted at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, Kennett River and Lake Elizabeth.
Did you know that Glow Worms are not worms but rather the larvae of fly like insects called fungus gnats.
Otway Black Snail
Otway Black Snail (Victaphanta compacta)
Endemic to the Otways, the snail is a carnivorous air-breathing, partially nocturnal land snail. It is one of four species of the carnivorous land snails in the genus Victaphanta. The Otway Black Snail has a long black and grey body and the shell, up to 25mm in diameter which is glossy jet black. It hunts worms and similar invertebrates on the forest floor. It has no jaw as found in herbivorous snails but has long, sharp, backward pointing teeth arranged in v-shaped rows.
You’re most likely to see the Otway Black snail after rainfall moving throughout the undergrowth in the Otways. Watch out, this snail is a meat eater!
Close Encounters of a furry kind
The Cape Otway Conservation Ecology Centre is a nationally registered non-profit ecological research, conservation and wildlife rehabilitation centre, dedicated to protecting and understanding Australian ecosystems. The Great Ocean Eco-Lodge accommodation is available for guests to stay for an all inclusive wildlife experience. The dusk guided walk is a highlight (Available to guests only).