Local's Guide : How to spot a platypus
By Amanda Wright
Cuddled a koala? Fed a kangaroo? Held a baby crocodile?
These are all common wildlife experiences that many visitors to Australia are keen to tick off their bucket-lists, but have you tried finding a platypus in the wild? Platypus are only found in Australia and only inhabit a small proportion of the country. Broken River, a tranquil rainforest environment in Eungella National Park, is considered to be the best place in the world for seeing wild platypus in their natural environment.
Photo: Get up close & personal to the curious platypus in Eungella National Park.
It’s easy to visit Broken River from Mackay as a day-trip, however if you seek a more in-depth rainforest experience, there are many places in Eungella National Park to stay.
It takes little over an hour to drive to Broken River from Mackay. The best times to see platypus is during dusk, so just after sunrise or just before sunset. Unless you are waking up in Eungella National Park, you will more than likely plan your day trip to see platypus in the late afternoon. This gives you ample time to experience all that the Pioneer Valley and Eungella National Park has to offer, including museums, arts and craft galleries, cafes and rainforest activities.
Photo: Camping at Broken River, a tranquil setting & the best chance of spotting platypus.
TIP – Wear insect repellant. As you are entering a rainforest environment it always pays to take precautions to avoid being bitten.
Once you arrive at Broken River, you have a few different options when it comes to finding a cute platypus.
The first location is at the popular viewing deck. Just past the Broken River Bridge there is a carpark on the right hand side. This leads to a camping area and a café. Follow the walk past the café to reach the viewing platform. It is an easy five minute walk alongside the river, on a well-formed path, suitable for wheelchair access.
After the viewing platform there are some more rugged tracks which lead through the rainforest by the river. If you enjoy walking ‘off the beaten track’ then follow this path for a few minutes and take a seat on the river bank.
Photo: Broken River
Be patient and quiet. Look for air bubbles rising to the surface of the water. The air bubbles most often show when there is a platypus on the bottom of the river burrowing through the mud in search of food.
Remember that platypus are only small, many are only approximately the size of your forearm. They live in muddy burrows in the bank of the river, and search for their food on the bottom. They surface briefly to breathe and to chew their food, so when a platypus surfaces, it will likely only be on the top of the water for a few seconds before diving to the bottom again.
TIP – take binoculars if you have them. If the cheeky platypus is across the other side of the river, binoculars will give you a much better view.
Another great vantage point is from the pedestrian walkway on the Broken River Bridge itself. The patient are rewarded. Many visitors report seeing multiple platypus from the bridge during sunset. If you haven’t seen one within 20 minutes, then try from the camping area across the road. The high bank gives a great vantage point of the river below. Set up a camping chair on the bank and watch the river for ripples and air bubbles to see if platypus are surfacing.
Photo: Broken River Bridge in Eungella National Park
TIP – Be patient!
Sometimes it can take more than 20 minutes to see a platypus. But once you have seen your first, you then understand what to look for and you will more than likely begin to see more.
Enjoy your time at Broken River! If you are successful at seeing a platypus we would love to hear about it. Share your comments, tips and photos on our Facebook page – “Visit Mackay, Queensland, Australia”or share your photos with us on Instagram @visitmackay - and tag #meetmackayregion and #thisisqueensland.