A Tasmanian wild platypus experience is usually high on the wish list of people coming to Tasmania.
The Tasmanian platypus is larger than its mainland cousins. I have often thought that I was seeing a dog swimming in the river, but then you see it dive and realise what you are watching.
One also often mistakes it for a duck, as it dives and surfaces. The circles of ripples that spread across the water is deceptively similar for both. What distinguishes the platypus from the ducks is that its time on the surface is usually fleeting. The duck spends more time afloat, with fleeting underwater forays.
In fact our guests’ main frustration is that the platypus spends so little time on the surface. And often all one sees is a fleeting flash of brown fur, ripples and bubbles. Often it is over before one realises what is happening.
But sometimes Lady Luck smiles.
Just last week as I was taking a video of The Woodbridge from the other side of the river. I was a glorious Sunday. Blue skies, warm sun, gentle breezes. Fathers were fishing with their kids. people were picnicing. As I filmed, out of the corner of my eye I noticed circular ripples on the water. Duck I thought! Always good to have some cute ducks in the forefront of a Woodbridge video! Suddenly a platypus sped across the surface of the water right in front of where I was filming. It didn’t last long, but I got a great short video of platypus and then panned up to The Woodbridge on the other side of the river. Instagram heaven!
Sightings are often totally unexpected. There is a certain perverse humour in the fact that they never seem to appear when one is actively ‘watching’. Then when you least expect it, there they are. Recently I was trying to video cranes on the river. Totally focused on the cranes, I was oblivious to the platypus cavorting no more that 3 metres from my feet. Quick refocus, and I caught a very unimpressive 3 seconds of platypus video. And …. the cranes flew away!
There are places that we send our guests to see platypus. They are often seen at Salmon Ponds where the platypus leave the river to raid the the fish food in the trout ponds.
I am not saying that your best Tasmanian wild platypus experience will necessarily be at The Woodbridge, but if you are lucky ….
There is something very special about happen chancing upon them ‘in the wild’. We are blessed to have a pair of breeding platypus in the river right in front of The Woodbridge.
It is not unusual to see guests eating breakfast, intently watching our riverbank where they are frequently seen. Consequently there has been the occasional coffee that has misted the mouth, jam missed the toast when guests are distracted.
However, sometimes our guests are very lucky. On Christmas Day some years back, during evening dinner service, a large male came out of the water. H e was on the bank, right in front of The Pavilion and rolled around on the grass for a good 10 minutes. It was as if he was saying.”Oh. ok! Here’s your Christmas present!” Th guests were delighted, of course. One lady said, “I didn’t’t believe they were really there! I thought, “Oh yes, another marketing tale!”
My best sighting of platypus, ever, of all time, anywhere, was right in front of The Woodbridge.
I was sitting on our pontoon while John worked on something. I saw what I thought was a dog playing in the water on the opposite side of the river. I watched as it started to swim across the river. It was swimming on the surface and I could see that it was quite a large ‘small dog’, but not a big dog. “Go back, dog,” I thought! “The river is very wide here, too far for you!” I was frozen in my concern.
Then, as I watched, I realised it was a big platypus. It swam the whole way across the river on the surface. It got to within 2 metres of the pontoon. Either we moved, or it suddenly noticed us, and it was gone in an instance.
I always say it is a testament to the quality of the water in front of The Woodbridge that we see so many platypus here. Like frogs, platypus are a good indicator of environmental health.
As I was writing this piece, a news item came on the TV. A lady saw a platypus rolling on the side of the road and thought it was hurt? …. Male platypus have poisonous spurs on their hind legs. Watch TV news item here.