If you love Aussie wildlife as much as us then a visit to Platypus House in Beauty Point Tasmania is a must.
We’ve gone platypus spotting more times than I can remember – but with 2 preschoolers and a dog in tow we’ve not had much luck! They are notoriously shy creatures, so even in areas where they are known to live it’s really tricky to spot them in the wild – especially on mainland Australia where they are nocturnal.
In Tasmania they are active during the day so you’ve got more of a chance of an encounter – but if you want a 100% guarantee of seeing these incredible creatures up close then head to the Platypus House for a once in a lifetime experience.
When European settlers first took a platypus specimen back to Britain in 1798 it was thought to be a fake – an elaborate trick of a duck’s bill stitched to an otter’s body! Although the platypus is now one of Australia’s most well-known natives, it’s still easy to see how it was viewed as such a marvellous creature.
Arriving at Platypus House we joined the 10am tour and met our guide Ben (the experience is 100% guided). We watched a short movie giving us some incredible insights on how the platypus lives in the wild, then headed in to get some introductory info on the animals we’d be seeing and what was so incredibly unique about them.
Ben told us that the platypus is a monotreme – which means a mammal that lays eggs. We also learned that the male platypus is one of the few mammals that are poisonous – they have a large spur that can paralyse your leg and kill a dog! I was also fascinated to hear that in a fight between a crocodile and a platypus there would be no winner. We encountered a lot of crocs exploring Tropical North Queensland and thought these guys were pretty invincible. But a croc who ate a platypus would perish from the poison – although it would take a few days to take effect.
We also learned that a playtpus can hold their breath for up to 10 minutes under the water, and that a nursing mother will eat for up to 16 hours a day to get the energy and sustenance to feed her young (I know that feeling!)
Watching the platypus under the water was an incredible sight – they close their ears and eyes when they dive and use electroreception to detect their food – if you watch our video it’s quite amazing to observe them using this sense as they search for the worms and yabbies dropped in the tank. The speed with which they move looks like we’ve fast-forwarded the action – but it’s just their incredible natural feeding speed (a little bit like me at a dessert buffet!)
After watching the platypus for a while it was time to head to see another member of the monotreme family – who couldn’t look more different. The echidna is the other Australian species belonging to the monotremes – who are in fact an ancient group of animals that date back to over 150 million years ago.
It’s very easy to believe that the echidnas come from the Jurassic period – with their spikes, snouts, long tongues and thick legs they look like tiny dinosaurs. They are also incredibly cute – and in the echidna room you get to stand in a circle and watch them have some lunch up close. When they’ve finished feeding they wander around the room saying hello, sniffing at feet and handbags in case any more tasty ants are hiding there.
The whole experience was magical – and the passion and enthusiasm of the staff added to the quality of the tour.
The Platypus House is open every day of the year except Christmas Day, it’s a fully guided, all weather experience and you need to allow about an hour and a half (add on extra time to enjoy a coffee and cake afterwards). Head to the Platypus House website for seasonal opening and tour times and ticket information.
While you’re in the area don’t miss a visit to the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre – an amazing family day out just a short drive away.