My lodging for tonight is at Fauna Australia Wildlife Retreat (Update: currently closed due to COVID).
The retreat rescues and rehabilitates animals. Guests can stay at the retreat and learn about their rescue efforts while also supporting the organization by paying to stay at the retreat.
There are a set of rooms accessible from outside the retreat but my lodging is in a cabin inside the retreat. There is a deer that follows me to my cabin.
The retreat technically doesn’t rescue deer but the story is that this guy just showed up and hasn’t gone away since.
The cabin is family sized and big for just me but it is all that is available at the time of booking.
I drop my bags and take a couple carrots to go meet some animals on site.
On my first day I only notice the caged koalas. I find out the next day that most of the koalas on site are able to roam free and the caged are baby koalas that don’t have the intelligence to not wander off and get hurt; they are enclosed for their protection. The adults stick around because they are fed regularly.
Creepy deer that follows me everywhere. I am getting stalked for my carrots.
After handing out some carrots I go back to my cabin to settle in before I head out to see glow worms tonight.
Melba Gully Glow Worms
There is a short drive from the retreat to the Melba Gully Day Visitor Area (Great Otway National Park). Tonight I want to see glow worms since there is only a few places in the world you can view them. Glow worms (Arachnocampa otwayensis) are the bioluminescent larvae of small flies seen at night only along the stream banks and walking tracks.
I am a terrible judge of when nightfall is. I arrive to the Melba Gully trail and I am the only car there. It is still light outside but the sun is setting. I am starting to question that this solo visit is a good idea. I gather my headlamp and head down the path anyway.
I arrive at a clearing where I get a nice view of dusk.
I take the walking track toward the glowworm viewing.
I am walking on a path through a rainforest. It is damp and I see a stream of water and listen to its meditative flow. Darkness unfolds. It is almost pitch back except for a slight bit of sunsetting light. I can’t see what is around me but I hear water flowing below and the sound of something moving around in the dark maybe; or maybe I just the hear water hitting rocks, or maybe it is an animal. Almost an hour has passed and I am still out here alone. This seems to be turning out to be another one of those “this isn’t the best idea and I could get murdered” situations; I have had a few of these traveling solo but have been lucky thus far. I walk back and forth along the boardwalk and start spotting a glow worm or two as it finally darkens. They are hard to see but I start picking them out.
I don’t have the right camera for taking pictures of glow worms but I do capture a couple.
They are really cool to see but I just can’t stick around. I have already been here over an hour all alone. I am scared and feel like I am pressing my luck as far as safety is concerned. As I take the return journey I walk by a couple arriving, and then a family, and then another. I have already made it so far back on the trail and feel committed to leaving. I return to my car even though it most likely it would have been safe to stay at this point. At least I see SOME glow worms….and luckily I’ll get another chance in New Zealand.
I drive back to the retreat. It is getting chilly so looking forward to cuddling under blankets tonight. I do spot this nocturnal guy on my walk back.
The next morning I wake up early as I always do. They have a set checkout time and I have a while to wait so I walk around the grounds greeting some more animals and handing out the rest of my carrots.
creepy flying foxes giving me the eye
On my way out I get to meet some of the retreat staff members and have a meet and greet with the three naughty baby koalas. I learn many things about koalas.
I like how they don’t encourage guests to handle the animals. They seem to do a good job with rehabilitation.
Below is a little video of all the animals I see….
This lodging is a unique experience. I am so glad I found it.