Start: Leumeah Station / Campbeltown Station
End: Leumeah Station / Campbeltown Station
Time taken: 3-4 hours due to lots of stopping and watching wildlife
USP: So much wildlife!
Distance: Aprox 6km depending on route.
Looking on a map, Smiths Creek Reserve is not the most exciting location for a Sunday hike. It’s a long, narrow strip of Gum Forest that sits just East of Campbeltown Station, surrounded by housing. It’s around 250m wide and maybe 3km long.
Why were we heading to such a very specific strip of nondescript forest you might ask? The previous week, one of our friends had been researching Koala sightings in NSW and found KoalaTracker and SaveTheKoala showing there was a protected colony living in this random patch of forest. Sightings and articles were a few years old now, so we weren’t 100% sure if we would see anything. We would have to go and look for ourselves.
As usual we were travelling by train. After travelling an hour south from Sydney’s Central station and we arrived at Leumeah. From here we could walk in one end of the reserve, and out the other, before training it back from Campbeltown.
Before we even got into the reserve we spotted King Parrots, Kookaburra and a stunning Grey Goshawk silently twisting through the dense bush, sending bird life scattering for cover as it went. Only half an hour in and my day was already made!
For the next few hours we criss-crossed the reserve, staring intently into trees, scanning through binoculars and doubling back on ourselves whenever we reached the swollen creek that ran through the middle.
The excitement to spot a Koala, so close to home, was growing every hour. A few false alarms were called out as hunger set in and branches started to resemble fluffy, grey bums! Unfortunately, if they were there, we weren’t seeing them. But other wildlife was in abundance. Bird life, insects, reptiles. This tiny patch of green was an oasis.
Orange Spotted Tiger Moths floated through the understory like gaudy fairies. Eastern Rosella (a new parrot for me) chased each other through the canopy and while taking a run up to jump a brook, our Koala researcher came within inches of stepping on a Red Bellied Black Snake!
With rain showers moving in and out, decreasing trail mix supplies and hope for a Koala on the decline we made plans to head home. Walking out the south end of the reserve we found a large information sign: “Koala habitat regeneration”. So they are here! But where!?
“One more look… these trees are ideal”.
Three of us, all with necks craned upwards, scanning every tree in sight.
More Eastern Rosella, a Currawong, Australian Magpie. KOALA!!
There it was, snacking on gum leaves, sat in a fork in the tree, doing what Koalas do. Only one hour from Sydney city centre. Any thoughts about heading home were abandoned as we quietly snuck under the tree and made sure we got some good photos.
Heading back to Sydney we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. It felt like we’d cheated the system. You don’t have to go to Victoria or Queensland. We have our own Koalas right here in NSW. Before we’d even got back to Sydney, one of our team had uploaded the sighting to KoalaTracker.com.au and SaveTheKoala. Two amazing resources for tracking the distribution of our precious population to inform land management, conservation and more weekend adventures!