Platypus Walk
Experience | bushwalking | hiking | nature | Huon Valley | Tasmania

Platypus Walk

A Big Bucket List Tick

by Susie Baber  |  27 February 2022

One of the things near the top of my list for our latest trip to Tassie way to see a platypus in the wild. I knew it wasn’t a certainty, but I was willing to devote some time to the enterprise and had been told that one possibility was the Platypus walk at Geeveston.

An hour south of Hobart, Geeveston is a small town snugged into the lower reaches of the scenic Huon Valley and surrounded by the nearby peaks of Hartz Mountains National Park.

The Geeves family arrived in the area in 1840s and founded the timber town at the foot of the mountain range. For nearly 100 years the southern forests fed the sawmills which employed, directly and indirectly, nearly 400 people from the town. When the Pulp Mill closed in 1982, and the southern forests were protected, the town had no future.

Today Geeveston has moved on from timber to tourism. Geeveston’s main street has a range of shops with cafés, find food, craft and gift shops, many street corners feature carved statues of prominent locals and historic characters. In the centre of town, you will find the visitor Centre with lots of friendly local advice and a large range of locally made arts, crafts, and produce for sale. This is a great base from which to explore the Huon Valley and other local attractions such as Tahune Airwalk and Hartz Mountain National Park

The only time I have seen a platypus was as a child, at Taronga Zoo. More recent visits to the zoo have only resulted in time spent peering into gloomy water and around submerged rocks to no avail. And that was in captivity! I can’t even begin to compare that experience with seeing my first platypus in the wild.

The Platypus is such a unique animal, when first discovered it caused much confusion and doubt amongst European scientists, many of whom believed that the animal was a fake. Platypuses (and echidnas) are monotremes, which are different from other mammals because they lay eggs. Their body and broad flat tail are covered with dense waterproof fur for insulation, and they propel themselves through the water with short, webbed limbs. Platypuses spend 10-12 hours a day foraging underwater with their duck shaped bills, finding and sifting prey from the bottom of streams.

The Geeveston Platypus Walk runs along the Kermandie River adjacent to Heritage Park. Starting from the Visitor Centre the walk crosses Heritage Park down to the waters edge. From here you can head in either direction along the riverbank but I you turn left, past the Forest Workers memorial, you will come to a timber viewing platform overlooking a calm section of the river. We paused here for a few minutes and watched some ducks feeding in the shallows, no platypus to be seen.

Some walkers heading in the other direction said that had seen some platypus activity a little closer to the bridge, so we headed further along. The cement path doesn’t go under the bridge but there was a bit of a goat track for those who are very sure footed – still no platypus to be seen.

We were starting to resign ourselves to a failed platypus hunt when a ripple near a fallen tree upstream caught our eye, such excitement! The goat track had ended in a pile of brambles, so we backtracked and went up onto the bridge and over to the other bank of the river where we found more cement walkway following the river upstream.

And there he was (or her, I can’t tell). Paddling his way up stream, navigating through the small rapids, between rocks and around fallen logs. The waters of the Kurmandie River are stained brown with tannins as it flows down from the hills. Between the brown water, brown rocks and the brown fur of the platypus, he was hard to keep track of and even harder to photograph. I must have taken about a thousand photos, most of which showed nothing at all – thank goodness for digital cameras!

Mr Platypus kept disappearing under water and making us scan the river to locate him again. We followed his adventures upstream for about 40 minutes and I could have stayed all day. Eventually, with a wary eye on us, he made his way into the shallows and disappeared, presumably into a burrow in the muddy bank.

At the beginning of the day my expectations were low and really we were just hoping for a glimpse or two of the elusive platypus. This was much more than I could have hoped for, a big tick on my bucket list.

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