Before I die, I want to see a platypus. If you don’t know what a platypus is, just imagine that a beaver and a duck decide to rent a cheap hotel for a night, and … oh forget it. Here’s a goddamn picture:

“Nobody will ever know I’m really a beaver wearing a costume. Tee-hee-hee!” (Clearly, they’re complete weirdos. As I always say: you can never trust a scheming beaver.)

The platypus.

Despite its cuddly appearance, this furry friend has a venomous ankle spur that’s powerful enough to kill a small dog. The venom won’t kill a human, but it’ll set off a bout of excruciating pain that will probably make you wish you were a small dog.

Who-da-cuttie pie? Ohhhhhh! Who-da-cutie-wootie-woo … Shit! It just stabbed me! What the hell? Boy, that hurt! Gee wiz, that pain just gets right into your bone marrow, doesn’t it? Oh, okay, woah, I feel like a thousand blunt knives are slashing at my central nervous system. SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY, SOMEBODY PLEASE KILL ME NOW!

It’s all pretty standard stuff in the magical land of Australia. We have a range of exceptionally talented animals that excel at killing, stinging, burning, clawing, or punching, so why not this little guy too?

Platypuses hang out in estuaries, and they can be spotted at dusk. My partner and I often go to an accommodation on the Great Ocean Road beside a river, which is rumored to be populated by platypuses. Every time we stay there, we head out at dusk to search for these beaked beavers. We pour glasses of wine and we take chairs to the rivers edge. As the sun goes down, and a chilly wind blows in, we sit in silence and patiently wait …

And wait …

And wait …

And wait …

… for absolutely nothing to happen.

We’ve canoed down the river, we’ve canoed up the river, and once, out of desperation, we walked upstream to a paddock that had signs warning “Keep out! Deadly tiger snake colony here!”, which really should’ve read, “Keep out! Territorial bull will make you lose your dignity!” Because I really could’ve used a heads-up on that one.

The only thing we see is a whole lot of beautiful nothingness.

And ducks. Lots of ducks. (I bet they’re looking for a date with a beaver.)

Have you ever gone out of your way to spot an exotic animal? Did you see it? And am I the only Australian who has never seen a platypus in the wild?

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25 Response Comments

  • Allison  December 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    This is hilarious! We (my husband, brother, his partner, my mom and my dad) went way, way out of our way to visit the town of Broken River in Queensland to see … you guessed it … platypuses! Trust me Torre, you aren’t missing much.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 12:56 am

      Ha. Okay. I won’t go too far out of my way. I’ll settle for Google images instead (most often, it’s better than the real thing anyway ). 🙂

  • Turtle  December 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Despite being an Aussie, I’ve never seen one in the wild either. But they’re one of my favourite Australian animals. Perhaps we should start a campaign to get the platypus on our coat of arms instead of those boring kangaroos and emus! Pfft!

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 12:58 am

      I vote for a tiger snake and a redback on the coat of arms.

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures  December 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I bought a platypus ornament for our Xmas tree when I was in Oz! They are so cute for being such pains in the asses!!!

  • KC  December 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    We recently spent some time in the Grampians. After overdosing on kangaroo sightings in Hall’s Gap (where they literally hop down the street) we were lamenting the lack of emus. On our way to Dunkeld we took a detour through the Victoria Valley – and there were the emus! I got so excited I squealed – very embarrassing!

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 1:03 am

      That’s cool! I love the Grampians. It’s a great spot for seeing all sorts of wildlife. Once, I saw about 1000 cockatoos fly overhead at dusk. They were screaming and carrying on for about an hour.

  • Sam  December 8, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    hehe. If you keep the effort up I’m sure you’ll spot one one day. I’ve never seen one, but have gone to considerable effort to spot animals before

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 1:05 am

      I’m heading to Tasmania soon, so maybe I’ll see one there. After all of this anticipation, I’m expecting to be underwhelmed.

  • Lisa McKay  December 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I’ve never seen one either. My American husband, who has seen far more of Australia than I have, laughed when I read your first two lines out to him. He said he loved MacKay so much he stayed several days instead of one on his first trip there, and he loved seeing the platypuses. Then he made some comment about now he has his very own Mackay/McKay and she’s a special combination of all sorts of contradictions, just like a platypus, and perhaps we could get a cheap hotel room one of these nights? I told him to come over here (to where I am feeding the baby at the unhappy hour of 4:45am) and I’d use my ankle spur on him.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 1:07 am

      Ha ha! I think the cheap hotel sounds like fun, as long as you don’t make another special platypus just yet.

      • Lisa McKay  December 9, 2011 at 3:43 am

        No way, no how. (About the next little platypus, that is. The hotel room, I’ll consider).

  • Heather Stearns  December 9, 2011 at 12:45 am

    This story made me giggle out loud! My husband and I lived in Sarasota, FL for two months near the Myakka River State park that’s home to 500-1000 gators depending on the time of year. When we had some friends visit us, we decided to explore the park. As soon as you drive in, you can see the gators basking on the shore that’s close to a nature path. We decided to get bikes and ride around in search of gators near the path. (Well I wasn’t hoping to have a close encounter while on two wheels.) Pretty much during our entire ride, I was saying to myself, “Please don’t let us see a gator, please don’t let us see a gator.” Luckily, my chant worked and we ended our day there with all of our limbs intact!

    • Torre DeRoche  December 9, 2011 at 1:11 am

      Yikes. You’re brave! I’m glad to hear you’ve still got your ankles. If I was on that bike, a gator would’ve got me for sure because I have cankles and their unique meatiness would’ve been too hard for them to refuse.

      • Heather Stearns  December 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm

        Too funny! Surprisingly when we were on an air boat tour among the gators, the guide said no one had ever been attacked in the park (even fishermen who wade into the lake). Supposedly, they don’t have a taste for humans but I’m not brave enough to test that theory.

  • MikAdventures  December 9, 2011 at 4:32 am

    I love that you are on this quest. And more specifically that you go to a spot to drink wine and wait for a platypus to show up. It is very “it’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” of you. Love it! Best of luck to ya!

  • Jade Craven  December 9, 2011 at 5:19 am

    I’ve heard that you can see Platypus at Lake Elizabeth, near Forrest. It’s a really nice little campground; I went camping there with a mate. He saw them there on a previous trip:

    As soon as I have money, I’ll be going out of my way to see a lot of exotic animals. I’m a fan of parrots, so fortunately I don’t have to leave the country to see a lot of rare ones. When I get my shit together and afford to go overseas, I have a plan of adventures centered around many weird and cool animals. Northern White Rhino, hyacinth macaw. Great – now you’ve gotten me started 😛

  • Dalene  December 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I share your fascination – since being a wee one I’ve always wondered about these hilarious animals. Being Canadian, we gots none, but we do gots lots of beavers. Seen a couple of those. 🙂

  • Chris  December 10, 2011 at 4:13 am

    I’ve not seen a platypus in the wild either. I’ve seen virtually everything else and even owned a kangaroo as a kid, but no luck with the enigmatic platy.

    I hear there’s a tour in Cairns that boasts a pretty astounding success rate with platypus sightings. Might be worth a look 😉

  • Lisa Wood  December 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Not at all – we have never seen one either! We have seen an Echidna on the side of the road! Actually hubby and our younger son stopped and got out of the car to walk as close as possible to him. He curled up into a small ball when he heard footsteps, and then only came back out of hiding when thought it was safe – it was such a good experience!
    Love how you sit and wait for your platypus!


  • Rease  December 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I am sorry you have yet to see one! I would love to see one too. What a huge joke mother nature played when she created this wonder. My weird animal love is a Mara. I sent my friend a postcard about Maras and she wrote a whole blogpost about it:

    But they are much easier to find than your elusive platypus.

  • Kelsey  December 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Hilarious post! I want to see one too!

  • Charley @Secret_Water  December 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I’ve never seen one in the wild and would give my right arm to come across one 🙂

  • Louise  October 23, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Torre, I just read your book (and loved it – congratulations!) so now I’m reading your blog archives…. I lived in Melbourne in 2009 (I’m originally from San Francisco but now living in Buenos Aires with MY Argentine sweetie! Oh the coincidences!) and while I lived in Aus I was on a seemingly unending quest to view the elusive platypus as well…. First in Lake Elizabeth near Forrest Victoria. We paid a guide to hike us out on a trail at sunset, canoe carried overhead, for a glimpse of a platypus 150 meters away… so disappointing! We only ever saw the little blub-blub-blub of the water while the sneaky little bugger snuck off. Then I traveled to Cairns in July ’09 and took a day-trip with my sister to the Atherton Tablelands. The overly-confident guide assured me that we would see them (if we had a good attitude of course!) when really there was only about a 50/50 chance. He knew a place – a secret place near a farm where the platypi weren’t scared of the ground vibrations because they were accustomed to frequent cow passers-by. There we saw as the coolest/cutest/weirdest little creature I have ever laid on eyes popped up to say hello! And then again… and again… and again!! (If your website had an area to send attachments I’d surely provide you with photographic proofs – several!!!!) We followed him along a rectangular shaped pond as he hunted his food, he came closer and closer to the edge of the pond as we watched in amazement!! Until finally the guide recommended that we leave him alone to find his dinner. This was one of the best days of my traveling existence. Don’t give up! Go to Cairns in July! Go to the Atherton Tablelands! Spot that elusive mo-fo and make your dream come true. 😀


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