Lifetime ambition – a walk in the park

I am back in Perth, drying out after all that Jakarta rain.  Australia is of course very famous for its indigenous wildlife and I remember back in 2009 being very excited at seeing my first kangaroo and emu near Exmouth in Western Australia, both within minutes of each other on the drive to join a dive boat.  High on my list of “must see” has been koalas, sometimes (incorrectly) known as koala bears.   In fact, they have been high on this list since falling in love with koalas during a school project a few years back…..

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are one of Australia’s indigenous species of marsupials, animals that keep their young in a pouch. My first chance to see them was in 2011 when I was in Noosa, Queensland on holiday. Noosa National Park was recommended for running and with the bonus of “loads of koalas”.  I must have scared them off as I didn’t see a single one. I really wanted to see them this trip, so when I was told I could see koalas at Yanchep National Park, 50 kilometers North of Perth and a short 20 minute drive from where I am staying, I knew I would fulfil my “lifetime” ambition. 

The koala enclosure is well marked and as soon as I paid my entrance fee and parked the car, I headed straight for it.  Koalas are nocturnal creatures and I had arrived at around 9.30am, a little later than planned.  I knew I probably wouldn’t see them being very active and as you can see, I was right. These guys were just gorgeous….

Not one, but two…

 A closer shot..

There were three relatively active bears still close to the eucalyptus leaves they were feeding, although this chap was clearly preparing to crash for the day as he moved a bit to get comfortable..

 I love my tree…

Yes – I really love my tree

As a bonus, when I was photographing this chap, a kangaroo and joey bounced by. To fast to capture on camera of course.

This koala was a bit more difficult to spot – he definitely won the “I climbed highest this morning” award…

Clearly the climb was all a bit much…

and another just hanging out….

Although native to Australia, koalas are not native to Western Australia and were first introduced at Yanchep in 1938, relocated from Perth Zoo.  Since then they have had their ups and downs. Unfortunately the original colony died in 1940. Koalas were then reintroduced in 1944, and were doing well until the late 1980s.  Disease made them infertile, so a number of new koalas were flow in from Victoria in 1992.  They began to breed again in 1994.  There are now nine koalas at Yanchep and today I spent about 30 minutes looking at these adorable creatures, finding seven of the nine.  I also heard an “eighth” rustling in a bush of laid out eucalyptus leaves.

So here is the educational part of the blog.  Koalas only have a 35 day pregnancy, with the young koala living in the mothers pouch for 6 – 8 months.  It takes a further 3 – 4 years before they are fully grown adults, living for between 12 and 15 years.  Sadly their population has plummeted in some areas of their native Eastern Australia and are now classified as a “vulnerable species”.  To find out more information, this is an excellent site. You can also adopt one to help with conservation efforts.  I am tempted….

After the excitement of the koalas, I decided to be the lone idiot Brit and walk the 2km wetlands trail in 40C. I am of course very used to the heat and had my water in my bag, headgear on and skincare applied.  It was a lovely peaceful walk it turned out, but of course not very wet and not too much wildlife…

 A rather redundant sign in the summer months…

Reading that this was Loch McNess stirred my curiosity,  as I was brought up 22 miles from Loch Ness in Scotland. After a bit of research, I discovered Sir Charles McNess was an Englishman that emigrated to Western Australia in 1875  and made his fortune as an Ironmonger and one Perth’s early property magnets.  In his later years he became a philanthropist,  giving away much of his fortune to build the infrastructure and recreational facilities at Yanchep.  This was primarily to “alleviate distress” and generate jobs during the 1930.  Yanchep Lake was renamed Loch McNess in his honour. So nothing to do with Scotland then.

The last part of my morning at Yanchep National Park was a visit to the Crystal Caves.  These are the coolest part of the park – literally   The temperature down there was so lovely after my rather hot wetlands trek…

 The Loch McNess monster

All in all, Yanchep is a good day out and I will go back when the temperatures cool down a bit. In addition to what I saw and did, there is a lot more to see and great picnic spaces.  Of course I would have preferred to see koalas in a more natural setting in their native homelands, but I was still thrilled to have seen them, fulfilling a lifetime ambition.  And whilst Yanchep National Park isn’t one of the most expansive and impressive of national parks, it is a great space to have a stones though from Perth, is affordable ($11 entrance fee) and is very accessible.  Highly recommended. Especially the koalas.

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