I never thought I would be lucky enough to see a duck billed platypus in the wild, but I did. I watched it for nearly two hours; such is my obsession with this curious and puzzling little creature. He loved his home in Russell Falls at Mount Field National Park. I was a privileged guest. I observed from the waterfall lookout with a host of families and travellers, who let little squeals of delight when they spotted this fidgeting form in the pools of the waterfall snaffling for his breakfast. A good two hours after his first appearance, he cruised under the platform where we stood. I’m sure he winked at us as he was taken by the current down the river.
A platypus will inhabit a river, only if the water and conditions are pristine. For this reason, many of them find homes in the national parks of Tasmania: there are seventeen of them, all managed brilliantly. They handled 1.35 million visitors last year. Their mission is to conserve and manage Tasmania's natural, historical and Aboriginal heritage for its own value, and for the benefit of people now and in the future.
Mount Field was Tasmania’s first national park, established in 1916. Russell Falls were felt to have some tourism value and indeed they have, particularly when you can spot a duck billed platypus at their base. Gentle walks along well-maintained boardwalks offer rewards of waterfalls, pristine bush and abundant diversity in flora and fauna.
A boat trip not to be missed
My favourite park, besides my duck billed platypus spot at Mount Field, was on Bruny Island. The south Bruny National Park encompasses the entire coastline and some of the hinterland. To experience what this national park had to offer, my husband and I booked a three-hour boat trip, departing from Adventure Bay. The weather was awful; the sea choppy. I was disappointed thinking the trip would be cancelled. No worry.
The highly interesting and informative captain and guide said there might be a chance that we would not get to reach the seal colony because of the high seas, but the trip would definitely still be worthwhile. The dozen or so fellow passengers and I donned rain jackets, beanies and gloves, over the top of our own jackets, all provided by the crew. Then the trip began. We darted out of the bay into a flock of shearwaters, in the open sea, feeding on the wing. There were literally thousands of birds surrounding the boat. It was awesome: the sound of their wing beats and the waves were almost mechanical, such was the precision of their movement. I was thrilled, as were we all, to see such an amazing sight. Hairs were raised on my neck to be surrounded by such a natural spectacular.
The sea was rough; that added to the adventure. At the front, Paul and I felt as if we were on a roller coaster; the waves bouncing the boat around as the captain maneuvered with great precision. The high swell meant that some of the coastal features were even more pronounced. The blowholes spurted white foam over 30 meters, towering above the boat. We raced along the coast, stopping for interesting commentary about the geography, flora and fauna of the island. I was fortunate to spot another of my favourites – a bird, a black-browed albatross – cruising on his massive wing span whilst nearby sea birds flapped furiously to beat the wind and to feed. The albatross stood out in the crowd; a majestic creature, honed to its conditions – a ruler of the wind and waves.
The wind and waves had sculpted an astounding coastal area. A tower of rock called the Monument stood tall; offering a small gap, choppy with white foam, between itself and a headland of precarious rocks and ledges. Robert sped through the gap, his knuckles white, only to spin 180 degrees to take in the colourful cliff faces banded by geological time frames.
I would strongly recommend this trip. Insight is gleaned into the natural life and conditions through an exciting and action packed boat ride. This was wild nature, going about its daily business. I was grateful to be able to explore with such an informative and charming guide and business owner – Robert Pennicott. His enthusiasm and respect for the area was infectious.