This is the third year I have entered images into the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. The award, run jointly by the Natural History Museum, London and the BBC Wildlife Magazine is one of the most prestigious and sought after awards for any nature photographer worldwide.

While walking along Marengo beach early one morning at Mounts Bay (Apollo Bay, Victoria), I came across a very unexpected creature sitting on the beach ahead of me. At first glance, I thought it was just a dog, who had strayed from its owner, but as I neared the animal, I was shocked and delighted to find that it was in fact a koala. I quite literally could not believe my eyes – koalas are found in and around the nearby Great Otway National Park , but you would not expect to find one that had strayed so far from the eucalyptus trees, all the way down to a beach just beside the local township of Apollo Bay. Even more remarkable is that that these animals are not known for their swimming abilities or fondness of water!

I tried to work out why he had come to the beach, but in the end I accepted that perhaps he was simply enjoying a nice early morning walk along the beach and admiring the sunrise, just as I was. So, not quite believing my luck, I took a few pictures, then we sat in amiable silence together, watching the waves crash against the shore, and enjoyed the early morning sun, before I resumed my walking.

I have since researched koala behaviour, thinking maybe he was coming to the salt water to clean himself of parasites, but koalas are protected from parasites by the smell from the eucalypt leaf. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for this unusual behaviour, it puzzles me still, but I am nonetheless delighted that I had the opportunity to capture an up close image of such a beautiful animal, in a scenic, though unusual setting.

The image was taken handheld, with canon 40D body and 24-70mm f/2.8 USM.

Winning entries will be announced in mid June.


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