Camping with Koalas at Cape Otway

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Enjoying a piece of the world famous Great Ocean Walk at Cape Otway, I happen to find myself camping on night two in a little spot that wasn’t idyllic. As a former paddock, cows had trampled through not so long ago, as was evidenced by the dried out cow patties that consequently drenched the site drenched with flies.

But I didn’t care. I was sharing the campsite with much more than flies. From any given vantage point, you could see no less than three koalas in trees, and judging by the sounds of exorcism at night (we’ll get to that soon), I’d say there were a few dozen of them within 50 metres of where I (not so peacefully) slept.

But first, let me tell you how I got here.

This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

the beach at Cape Otway

I’ve recently made ties with an outdoor education company that leads students in an outdoor setting for anything from two to 30 days. With the outdoor experience I have plus a desire to see more of Australia, being a casual support staff member to go out on trips whenever I’m needed suits me very well.

My first trip was along Great Ocean Walk (which follows a similar route to Great Ocean Road) in the Cape Otway region just recently. I was with a group of 14 Grade 8 students, and we walked and camped together for three days.

The trip itself was terrific, including an education session with a Bass Strait historian who had us chew seaweed and search for penguins on the beach, three brilliant days of walking, and two gorgeous nights of camping.

Cape Otway beach

And on the second night, we got a treat. Dozens and dozens of mating koalas.

Although we weren’t lucky enough to see any of them shag (the school group staying at this site the night before did – can you imagine the conversations the students had about it), we did get many very close and personal views of koalas.

Nora Dunn hanging out at Cape Otway on the beach, Australia

Spotting a koala can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you can’t help but see them just about everywhere. They live in eucalyptus trees, and the best koala-spotting technique I’ve developed so far is simply to look for blobs in trees. It may take a while at first, but if you are in a koala-heavy area, once you spot one, you’ll soon see more.

And a few more yet.

But what is truly charming (if you can call it that) about the cute fuzzy koala bear, is their love call. Their mating mantra. Their expressions of romance and tenderness. Their booty call.

If you don’t know what you’re listening to when koalas are feeling amorous, you might think calling a priest is in order; their low guttural growls and high pitched screams sound other-worldly and so far from anything a cute little koala could muster.


Nah. When koalas are looking to get it on, you know about it. I tried to capture some audio of their growls, but unfortunately I never got the timing right. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though: every time I awoke in the night (which was frequently), I was greeted with these sounds of koala-joy/human-torture.

Ah well. I if I recorded it for you, you wouldn’t believe it was a koala anyway. So instead, please enjoy this video of my koala-findings at Cape Otway (it’s worth it: I really did get close, and they were very uncharacteristically active)!

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22 thoughts on “Camping with Koalas at Cape Otway”

  1. Heh Heh – my posts have been a little animal-centric lately, haven’t they? 🙂
    Ah well – it is truly one of the qualities about Australia that has captured my heart. Right down to the two dozen snakes a mate of mine owns (hmm…maybe I’ll write about him next…)

    • As grumpy as koalas generally are, I thought they were amazing to watch. I was mesmerized….many of them were within arm’s reach no less!

  2. Ok,
    Now you have got me going! This is my backyard and MY secret spot….STOP telling people about it….

    One secret is this: – Stay away!

    Another one might be this: – not recommended, too nice

    OR finally THIS: – with OUR koala photo AND a Blue Tongued Lizard.

    Please stop sharing this information with your international readers, we like it kept secret and to ourselves! 😉

  3. Nice vid – especially the slight-ominous “OMG will a koala fall out of a tree?” music you had going on. They’re so cute it hurts, but I never want to hear their mating call again.

  4. Ha Ha – I’m glad you liked the video. The music is written by my boyfriend Kelly, who just released his first album. I almost exclusively use his music, so if you like my videos, you probably like his music too!

    Hear his music here:
    And buy his CD here!:

    And I believe the soundbite of the day goes to you: “They’re so cute it hurts, but I never want to hear their mating cal again”. Awesome! 🙂

  5. On our first trek into the Australian bush we were treated to a Koala Love Call. We had not idea what it was, and at first thought it was a wild pig and about climbed the nearest tree. Finally, we realized that the noise was coming from above and when we looked up we saw the cute little guy that was making all the noise–they sure are loud!

  6. @Maya – I think until somebody hears it, they don’t believe it! I really wish I could have captured some of the audio…it was constant through the night, but I was too lazy to leave my tent to capture useable soundbites! (Dumb, Nora!)

  7. Australian wildlife certainly is interesting, and Koalas are definitely one of my favorites, along with Wombats. Its a bit of a shock coming from New Zealand where there isn’t a lot of wildlife, although I was woken up by Paradise Ducks calling to each other when camping once, had no idea what the noise was 🙂

  8. Cutie! Koalas are cutie!! Had memorable experience with koala before. They’re heavy and bigger than I thought. And when I saw their claws and was more like: I hope they don’t scratch me! But anyways, the experience was worth remembering. Hope to visit Australia again.. soon 🙂

    • Yes, those koala-claws can be deadly! And they’re not afraid to use them either…even though some of the koalas I spotted were within reach, I didn’t attempt it.

  9. Hi. I have a blog where I feature people’s posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

    Thanks for considering this,

    Jean B. in SC

  10. @Akila – I didn’t mind Great Ocean Road (or Great Ocean Walk) so much, but I didn’t do much of the walk, and I drove the entire length of Great Ocean Road a while back.
    What didn’t you like so much?

  11. We saw a whole bunch of koalas at Tower Hill Reserve right near the Otway area too and posted about it. They are so cute. We weren’t completely impressed with the Great Ocean Road itself but thought the Otways were amazing.

  12. Just got back from our “secret place” – I like your koala photo better than ours (taken on an iPhone) We DID see a few and Sue tells me she walked a tiger snake exploring today! –

  13. @Frank – I like the fact that your koala has history though! Neat to see a baby grow up.
    I managed to “walk” a tiger snake yesterday myself, by the Goulburn river. That was a real treat…..I’m sure Sue & I could share stories….

  14. Hope you realise the devastation of the area & posting all of this contributes to the dangerous roads & the very rapid decline of the species.
    Perhaps so a little bit of research…. the forest is dying & all those wonderful mating calls are pack rape. 9 males in a tree, 1 female. Comprehend?
    The koalas are so friendly, wandering everywhere & being patted as they are sick & starving to death.
    Notice the dead forest?
    Bet you didn’t. Too busy making sure you got your photos & put them on social media.

    • Hi Friend of the Forest,
      I suggest you read up a little more before you leave hasty comments drawing harsh conclusions about the writer (me)…I don’t need to explain myself here, but let’s just say my conscience is more than clear, thankyouverymuch.


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