Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Platypus Hotspot: Eungella National Park
After being in Australia for almost four years one of the animals that I still wanted to see in the wild was a platypus. When one of my birding friends heard me saying this, she immediately recommended that I visit Eungella National Park which is a rainforest up in the mountains 90 km west of Mackay and a ten to twelve hour drive north of Brisbane. Thus when planning Erik's sister's driving trip up to Port Douglas and back again over the new year holidays, I decided to include an overnight stop at Eungella National Park. One night was not nearly adequate to fully appreciate the region so I hope to make it back up there for a longer stay, but we did see some great things including several platypus.
The last section of the drive up to Eungella National Park involves a very twisty, steep mountain climb that can be quite exciting. We were happy that it wasn't raining or dark, but we had a bit of fog that kept it interesting anyway. It is a good idea to give yourself plenty of time and take it slowly.
I booked our night's lodging at Broken River Mountain Resort which was nice, but not fancy. We stayed in the "Echidna Lodge" room type which slept three and had adequate kitchen facilities for Erik to be able to prepare a decent dinner. I believe there was a hotplate, microwave, dishes, but no oven. However, there were BBQ facilities available as well. Erik's sister and I ate at the Platypus Lodge Restaurant at the resort which was nice. The room had a shower (no tub) and a log burning stove which would be quite nice in a cooler season. There was no air conditioning, but the nights were cool even at the height of summer.
Broken River is located literally across the street from the national park and along a stream with multiple resident platypus. You can either view platypus from the resort side of the stream or over on the National Park side. We happened to see them on the national park side, but I am confident they are also regularly seen from the resort property. We also saw a nice variety of bird life while looking for platypus including sulfur crested cockatoos, black faced monarch, and scarlet honeyeaters. There is even a Eungella honeyeater, but sadly I did not make a sighting of one.
After the thrill of seeing wild platypus for the first time, the second thrill of the visit was a complimentary night spotlighting walk. I always take any night spotlighting opportunities in Australia because 75% of Australian mammals are nocturnal so it is the only way to see many of Australia's amazing critters. The Broken River Resort spotlighting was one of the best that I have been on. We saw more platypus, sugar gliders, possums, native geckos, a tawny frogmouth, at least 4 different frog species, huntsmen spiders, luminescent fungi, and Cicadas that had just emerged from their shells and were still letting their wings dry. It was really cool! However, the guide was very enthusiastic so it also lasted a bit longer than several of the visitors' interest including Erik and his sister.
The park offers good hiking opportunities, and the resort had a service where they would drop you off in the morning along a trail so that you could hike back without having to hike both ways. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore the trails other than right around the resort. As always in Australia make sure that you are well prepared for hiking with adequate water, insect/leech repellent, and first aid supplies.