I got the best Christmas present EVER this year.  A platypus!

Yep, a real, live platypus. 

Ok, so he wasn’t given to me in a box with a bow – and he really isn’t mine. However, seeing a platypus in the wild on Christmas Day really was one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten. It was certainly one of the most memorable experiences!

Where to find Platypus

Actually this was the second time I’ve seen a platypus in Blue Lake, right next to the entrance to the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains.  This is one of the places where to find Platypus regularly. Back in August, in winter in Australia, I went with a friend on a tour of the Jenolan Caves.  On our way there, I mentioned that I had heard rumours of a platypus that calls the Blue Lake home.  We decided to take our lunch to the lake, hoping that we might just be lucky enough to see one if we sat quietly for long enough. 

Sure enough, halfway through our lunch, we saw a disturbance in the flat, glass-like surface of the lake.  Tiptoeing over to take a closer look, we got a quick glance at what looked like a small log with fins.  Having never seen a platypus before, they can be hard to spot. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, other than a strange cross between a duck, beaver and otter. 

Standing over the edge of the lake, halfway through my Turkey Panini sandwich, he swam right by me.  I could see him clearly through the pristine water of the Blue Lake.  I was so surprised that I dropped my sandwich in the lake and had to quickly fish it out before it sank.! (Please note that contaminating the lake or any of the Jenolan Caves comes with hefty fines.  Believe me as I was later scolded, rightly so, by one of the tour guides.)

Watching the platypus

For about an hour, the Australian platypus happily foraged for food while we took as many photos as we could store.  As far as being a shy animal, I can tell you from my experience that there was nothing shy about this platypus.  He didn’t seem to care that he was being watched.  He simply went about his business. 

On Christmas Day, I was once again up at Jenolan Caves. This time, I went specifically to see if the platypus would make an appearance.  Things were not so easy as I hoped.  Christmas Day was surprisingly busy at the Jenolan Caves.  There was a full schedule of tours happening right up to 6 pm. There were even a few night tours slotted for those who were staying at the lodge. 

With all the noise from the road and large groups of tourists on a hot day, I thought I wasn’t going to be as lucky this time.  Knowing that most platypus sightings happen at dusk, I decided to wait out the Christmas crowd and instead drive back up the winding road later than is advisable. 

Looking a bit odd to others nearby, I sat again next to the lake’s edge with my camera and telephoto lens in one hand. In my pocket, I kept my HD video ready and waiting.  About one hour before sunset, there was a rustling on the opposite side of the lake.  Then the platypus appeared, gliding out to the centre of the lake. He took a quick turn to the side and down he dove, leaving behind just a few rings on the water’s surface.  I stayed for as long as I could then, regrettably, I had to leave.

This is probably one of the best insider tips you’ll get for those visiting Australia or even those living in Sydney.  Most Australians haven’t seen a platypus in the wild.  Now I can’t guarantee you’ll be lucky as timing is everything but if you’re patient enough and quiet your chances are probably.

As I mentioned above, in the winter the platypus was much more courageous and confident. I suspect it was because we were the only two people present and being very, very quiet. You’ll have a good chance of seeing a platypus during dusk when it’s summertime.

If you do see a platypus at Blue Lake please tell us about it and share your photos and video.  And say hi from me!

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  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.