There’s an area between Warrnambool and Port Fairy called Tower Hill Reserve and, as the name would suggest, it’s a reserve for all of the area’s wild animals. This includes kangaroos, koalas, emus, echidnas and so many more of Australia’s best known wildlife.
Our hosts, Jennah and Freddie, took us to Tower Hill on our second day in town and we ended up stopping in twice more because we thought it was so cool. It’s just a little 5km or so road that cuts through a beautiful, dense bushland (forest for you Americans) that gives prime opportunity to catch up close views of wild animals.
On the first visit the only animal we encountered was a very outgoing emu who came right up to us to say hello. Visit number two, a barbecue hosted by Jennah’s parents, provided more emus (who were extremely interested in finding out how our little pug, Mila, tasted), some kangaroos in the distance, a koala high up in a tree and a rare echidna spotted by Freddie from the road (they’re essentially hedgehogs with an anteater nose – adorable).
As much as we enjoyed these first two stops – the third was the one we’ll remember the most. It was just Jenna, Ollie, Chloe and I as our hosts had to go to work the next day (yes, they left us at their parents holiday house – these people are amazing) and as we’d rented a car for a road trip down to the Great Ocean Road the next day, we thought we pop into Tower Hill to try our luck again.
As soon as we pulled in, it started pouring which quite literally doused our chances of seeing any wildlife. We putzed along slowly as the flash shower began to subside a little but still saw no sign of life anywhere.
We passed the spot where the emu was and didn’t even see him. It was starting to look like a dud.
But as we were pulling down the homestretch, I heard Jenna yell, “STOP!!” from the back. Brakes slammed, we all run out of the car and found a fuzzy little koala bear sitting no more than 10ft up in a gum tree. And to our delight he was wide awake and feeding on the gum leaves – a rare sight considering they sleep about 20 hours/day. Check out the photos:
We stood there for an embarrassingly long time until we finally got out fill and continued down the road only to find a Range Rover stopped, unable to get around a family of kangaroos moseying down the middle of the road.
I threw the car in park, grabbed my camera and followed the ‘roos into the woods. I promise the following shot is not staged although it gives that impression:
Absolutely incredible. I snapped a few more before they hopped away.
From Tower Hill we carried on, elated, to the house in Port Fairy where we regaled Kath & Bernie (Jennah’s parents) with the tale. After (humbly) showing off the photos, they suggested we hop in the car and check out nearby Griffin Island as it had a beautiful lighthouse that would provide some additional photo material.
No more than 10 minutes walk onto the island and it became obvious our luck with wildlife for the day was not done yet. A gorgeous female wallabie with her joey in tow (in her pouch actually) was just 10ft off the path drinking water from on top of a metal grate.
It was truly unbelievably. Most of the time, according to our hosts who had lived there for 60 years, you don’t see any of these animals up close – and we got to see all 3 within 10ft.
Here’s to hoping that kind of luck continues!