So you’ve chosen the time of day and place you’re going to search in, now it’s time to head out to see if you can spot a platypus.

Before you head out, gather your gear:

  • A phone or camera to take photos of any platypus (or other wildlife) you see
  • A notebook or device to take notes about the sighting and the surrounding habitat
  • A device to determine your location, such as a phone or handheld GPS 
  • Binoculars can help confirm sightings
  • Appropriate attire: sturdy shoes for walking, sunscreen and a hat, long pants
  • Anything else that you’ll need to stay comfortable: food, water, wet weather gear, etc.

You’re at the location, now it’s time to keep an eye out.

There’s no mistaking a platypus up close — the duck-bill, webbed feet and fur coat give them away — but those features are harder to make out from a distance.

Keep an eye out for ripples in the water — a sign that a platypus might be out and about. Look for well-formed ‘bulls-eye’ ripples or a narrow v-shaped wake in the water, both signature platypus ripples.

Photo: H.Debeyser, iNaturalist. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Look for features that distinguish a platypus from rakali, or native water-rat. Both will float low in the water with sometimes only their head and body visible. If you can see their tail, you’ll notice rakali have a long tail with a white tip, while a platypus has a short, flat, rounded tail.

Look for the tell-tale movements. A platypus on the move will tend to travel along the surface of the water, diving for about a minute and then resurfacing in the same spot. A rakali will dive and swim below the water, resurfacing further away.

Video: city_of_hobart_bushcare, iNaturalist. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Being still and quiet will greatly improve your chances of seeing a platypus. See what other wildlife you can observe while you wait for a platypus to come along.

Platypus are elusive animals. Be patient when trying to spot one and don’t make too much noise, or you could spook them!