Spotting Koalas in the Wild for the First Time & Ethical Travel

Hello Friends!

I created a mini Victoria, Australia ‘bucket list’ type thing to complete while I am here, it includes destinations to visit and experiences. One of those experiences I wanted to have while I’m back home was to see koalas in their natural habitats. At this point, I had seen many kangaroos, wallabies, many varieties of native birds and on separate one-off occasions spotted a living wombat (sadly you see a lot of wombats dead on the side of the road in Victoria) and a bandicoot (I didn’t even know we had bandicoots until I spotted one with a more knowledgeable friend).

An epic sunrise while taking the first ferry to Raymond Island.

Why did I want to see a koala in wild?

Firstly it is an experience I had never had before and I crave novel experiences. Secondly, I love animals and the koala is an Australian icon!

A picture of me living my best life 😉

Lastly, because I love animals I personally HATE to see animals in captivity. For me personally, there are a handful of reasons I can understand why an animal should be in captivity for example: for its own rehabilitation or to protect an endangered species. For the entertainment of humans? No, I can’t understand that. Every now and then I see uninformed travellers, including bloggers, participating in unethical animal tourism like posing with drugged up tigers or riding on the back of elephants and a tiny part of my soul dies. I want to see animals thriving in their natural habitats and at the very least in situations truly beneficial to their wellbeing, hence why I wanted to see koalas in the wild.

A kangaroo spotted in its natural habitat on Raymond Island, Victoria.

I encourage you to see our native animals in the wild instead of in captivity AND not to ‘cuddle’ them

Lots of people come to Australia because they wish to see our unique native animals in zoos or to even to cuddle a koala. According to studies by The University of Melbourne, exposure to people and noise is distressing to koalas and while the effect of ‘cuddles to koalas’ has not been scientifically assessed, based on the first part of this sentence I doubt it is beneficial to their wellbeing.

A very adorable kangaroo spotted in close proximity to the first one. My parents and stumbled across a massive kangaroo family.

If you are visiting Australia and want to see our native animals I challenge you to make an effort to spot them in the wild for an authentic experience where you will know that you aren’t contributing to unethical tourism/animal practices. And trust me, it is a lot more exciting to spot an animal in its natural habitat!

Another furry friend.

Where can I see koalas in the wild?

A simple Google Search of the specific location eg. Victoria + see koalas in the wild will provide you will multiple options of where you can see koalas in the wild. You can do this kind of search with most of our native animals you will, however, find that some of our native animals are either rare or non-existent in some parts of Australia.

So fluffy!

I opted to visit Raymond Island with my parents because up until my research I didn’t even know that such an island existed and I was intrigued! I also read that Raymond Island was a place where you could easily spot a Koala.

Scratching its head. We mostly observed sleeping, scratching and eating.

What is the best time to spot koalas?

Koalas and a lot of our native animals including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats are marsupials (note: it is really incorrect to call them ‘koala bears’ because they are marsupials). Almost all of the Australian marsupials are nocturnal so you will have a better chance of spotting them while they are active at dawn, dusk or at night time.

On our first koala spotting mission in the daytime, we came across many sleeping koalas.

We went koala spotting once in the daytime and once around sunrise, they were more active around sunrise and therefore easier to spot. They were still there in the daytime, they were just asleep.

Can you spot the tawny frogmouth owl? Impressive camouflage skills. My parents spent a while pointing this one out to me haha.

Tip: You need to be particularly careful driving at dawn/dusk/night times because our native animals do wander across our roads and they are not super visible due to the time of day.

Another cute faced kangaroo.

About Raymond Island

Raymond Island is situated in the Gippsland Lakes Region of Victoria, it can only be reached by a car ferry from Paynesville and it is home to a large population of koalas. Raymond Island is only 6km long and 2km wide so it is a fairly small island which is easy to get around by foot or bike. I recommend parking your car at the jetty in Paynesville and taking the ferry across as a pedestrian for free as you have to pay if you take your car and it really isn’t necessary to bring it with you. The ferries are regular and you can find the timetable and more information online.

A wattle tree on Raymond Island

Raymond Island history

In the 1920’s Australia’s koala population was getting close to being extinct, to prevent this they were introduced to Phillip Island (another place where you can spot koalas in the wild) and later on in the 1950’s some koalas from Phillip Island were relocated to Raymond Island.

An awake koala spotted around sunrise. 

Where can I spot koalas on Raymond Island?

There is an easy, well-marked 1.2km Koala trail which can be followed from the park near the jetty, by following this trail and keeping your eyes peeled you are sure to see many koalas and other native Australian animals. I spotted about 15 kangaroos and wallabies and around 20 koalas while on Raymond Island.

One of the most interesting things about seeing the koalas in the wild is they sleep in such funny positions. 

Final thoughts

I highly recommend not only making an effort to see koalas in the wild but to also visit Raymond Island. Paynesville and Raymond Island are quiet, relaxed parts of Victoria so it is a great place to get away from the neverending noise of suburbia. The locals were also extremely friendly, it was quite obvious that people who lived there actually want to live there (this isn’t always the case in country Victoria). I had an absolutely wonderful experiencing seeing koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and even jellyfish in their natural habitats and sharing these experiences with my parents. There is seriously nothing like seeing a native Australian animal in the wild! 

A koala climbing a tree, kind of looks like he is passionately playing the guitar though (I had some focusing issues with my camera on this morning :'().

Can you help the koalas of Raymond Island?

Sadly when I was doing some research for this blog post I came across a recent news article which stated that some koalas of Raymond Island are starving to death due to food shortages and overpopulation of koalas. Koalas are suffering in Australia due to excessive vegetation clearing for bushfire management and property development. You can help the koalas of Raymond Island by donating to the Raymond Island Koala and Wildlife Shelter.

This koala was a very curious fella who watched my dad eagerly

Sorry to be a bit serious in this post but I think it is about time that I share this part of myself – that ethics are an important consideration in my life and my travels. So no, you will never see me in a zoo and I will do my best to champion ethical travel practices where possible. I am also happy to be educated on anything I could potentially do better, I am aware I am an imperfect human being.

It was really a wonderful experience to see koalas in the wild for the first time with my parents. 

Until the next blog post,

Mikki :).




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