We were visiting Kangaroo Island, a small island south of the Australian continent. On the last day of our month-long trip, we still had not found a koala.
A beach ranger had told us about a small, remote road with a gum tree flood plain. Here, he said, we had a good chance of seeing koalas. We found the road and the flood plain; it was devoid of people, buildings, or structures of any kind. So we planted ourselves in this small grove, determined to find the koala before we headed back home.
We had been there about an hour, loaded down with optics, and had methodically scanned every single gum tree in the area. No koalas.
Then a farmer drove down a nearby private lane, pulled his truck alongside us. There was no doubt we were trespassing on his land. He was hauling a large roll of hay, and atop that roll was his ever-so-happy dog. With one dark, leathery arm resting out the window, he looked at our binoculars and asked, “Did you see the pair of cockatoos?”
Pleasantly relieved that he was okay with us being on his property, we cheerfully replied that yes, we had seen the pair. We three talked about this pair of cockatoos for a few minutes, admiring them.
Then I told him we had been looking for koalas for an hour, but still had not found any. He languidly leaned his head out the truck window, looked up, and said, “There’s one. There’s another.”
Turns out we had been looking for the koalas 20 feet up, instead of a hundred feet up, high, high, into the canopy. We had also expected them to be eating or moving about, not just snoozing. They sleep up to 20 hours a day, nestled deep in the tree.
What a great break for us — we had found the grove, the farmer was not angry with us, in fact wanted to help us, he showed us what to look for, and we found several more after he left. It reminded me to never underestimate the simple kindness of giving a few minutes to a stranger.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander, except where noted