Watch this video to get started

This video gives an overview of the steps that get covered in more written detail below.

Choose a strategic location

Use the platy-project map to help you choose a strategic location to look for platypuses.

The map is colour-coded by platypus sightings:

  • Red and orange: Areas in red and orange show where a platypus hasn’t been recorded since 2000 or earlier. These are the most important places to look, because we want to know if platypus are still there or if those populations have sadly declined.
  • Yellow: Areas in yellow show areas with more recent sightings made between 2001 and 2010. These are important to visit too.
  • Green: Green represents the areas with the newest sightings, made since 2011 to now.
  • Grey: Grey represents areas within the platypus’ distribution where no recordings have been made. Recording a platypus in one of these areas would be really exciting!

Make sure the area is accessible. Look for places that you can get to by a car or just a short walk.

Don’t visit places on private property unless you know the owner and have their permission.

Choose the right time and place

Platypuses are active mainly at night, so for most of the year the best times to see them are the hour after dawn or the hour just before dusk, though you can still get lucky during the day.

In winter and early spring they’re more active during the day too, as the colder weather means they need more food so have to spend more time finding it. This is handy for humans who are hoping to see one.

Platypuses need healthy waterways to live in. Look out for sections of creeks and rivers with a good bit of bush along the banks — think trees, shrubs, ferns — with good, flowing water and places for platypuses to duck and dive as they search for tucker among rocks and logs. Find a spot where the water is calm, so you can see any ripples the animals might make.

Go searching!

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!

Stay safe

Remember to search safely:

  • The best spot is one you can safely get to without risking harm to yourself or any wildlife
  • Take care when choosing where to park and search, avoiding spots that are too steep or slippery
  • Be aware of your surroundings to avoid tripping, slipping, and in hot weather, snakes
  • Go with a buddy
  • Be safe, use common sense, and take care not to disturb plants or animals
  • If at any point you feel concerned for your safety, stop what you are doing and safely make your way back home. We don’t want you getting hurt or lost, so this is very important.