Along with the kangaroo, the koala is the most famous animal ambassador of Australia, despite its crippling shyness and propensity to sleep through much of the koala-spotting excitement.
Find them in the forks
Easily recognisable by its stout, tailless body, round, fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose, the koala spends much of its time in the high forks of eucalyptus tree branches. It takes a bit of time to adjust your vision and hone in on the treetop hotspots, but soon enough you'll spot koalas dozing in the trees, especially in Gippsland and on the Great Ocean Road.
Some furry facts
While eucalyptus is obviously delicious and features sufficient water content to ensure koalas only need to drink occasionally, it provides few nutrients. As a result koalas sleep for around 20 hours a day and move sluggishly when they're awake.
The koala is often likened to a cuddly teddy bear, but it is in fact a marsupial and closely related to the wombat. Accordingly, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young, known as joeys, that stay snuggled in their mothers' pouches for the first seven months. The joeys are fully weaned at a year, at which stage they're sent out into the world by their asocial parents.
Koalas in Victoria
Victoria is the place to spot the cuddly koalas, as the population grows steadily compared to other Australian states. The moist, temperate climate suits the furballs, which grow up to 14 kilograms, while their northern relatives are only around eight kilograms and have shorter thinner fur.
The Great Ocean Road is prime koala spotting territory, with Kennett River ground zero, along with the route to the lighthouse at Cape Otway.
For a guaranteed sighting of a koala and a chance to see them from their treetop vantage point, visit Healesville Sanctuary and the Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island. Maru Koala & Animal Park in Gippsland lets you get up close to koalas, and you can actually cuddle a koala at certain times at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park on the Mornington Peninsula. The Melbourne Zoo's updated koala viewing area is also a highlight.
You may see "koala crossing" signs as you travel around Victoria. Koalas usually survive falls from trees and immediately climb back up, but injuries and deaths from falls do occur, particularly by speeding cars.