Marita Kennedy and Bruce Jackson moved to Forrest from Torquay six years ago to start a new life in the country with their young family and take over an established platypus tour company.
Bruce and Marita say they hope their small tourism venture at Lake Elizabeth, near the headwaters of the Barwon River in Otway National Park, will help raising awareness of the plight of our rivers. “River health is about how everything ties in together – the platypus, the forest and the entire ecology of the area.”
The extraordinary story of the creation of Lake Elizabeth- while no doubt providing great story-telling fodder for the local community – was also a bonus for the platypus and fish which now thrive in the area.
The dead gums trees which standing like tombstones in the middle of the water are a tribute to the lake’s beginnings, the result of a landslide in the 1950’s which flooded part of the valley, drowned the gum trees and temporarily stopped the East Barwon River from flowing.
It wasn’t until an expedition team was sent to investigate that the authorities realised the river was plugged by the massive landslip.
For the aptly-named nearby town of Forrest, the formation of Lake Elizabeth has allowed the town to develop its reputation as a tourist destination. Visitors are attracted to the lake for fishing, camping and day walks.
The silent valley has an eerie, somewhat spiritual feel and is one of the lesser-known jewels of the Otways. With the recent expansion of the Otways National Park halting logging in the pristine area, tourism is now the number one industry in Forrest and the locals are well aware of the need to preserve its natural beauty.
Marita and Bruce now escort small groups in two Canadian canoes to show them the beauty of Lake Elizabeth and hopefully catch a glimpse of a platypus or two.
Bruce says although they can’t guarantee their guests will spot a platypus, with six calling the lake home, chances are pretty good. “You’ll see them on the surface and they’ll duck down… They come up for air every minute, leaving a telltale ring of ripples. They look like a little silvery log.”
Bruce believes it is vital we look after the Barwon River and the surrounding catchment to protect species living in the river – such as the platypus – and ensure we have clean, safe drinking water.
“The platypus is considered an indication of river health, as they only live in rivers with good water quality and protected banks where they can make a burrow.”
Visit http://platypustours.net.au/ for more information.
Story by Anna Boustead