Banner image: The immense trees and tranquil, ferny undergrowth of Great Otway National Park make it one of the most special places to visit in Victoria. Image: Parks Victoria
Your lights at home aren’t the only thing that glow – did you know that some organisms in nature also have this ability? Known as the Jewel of the Otways, Melba Gully is a beautiful place to visit in both the day, for its beautiful forest surroundings, and the night, for the presence of glow-worms. Take time to stop and listen to the sounds of Melba Gully as the glow-worms light up the environment around you.
Why is this place so special?
Melba Gully is one of the wettest places in Victoria and one of very few places in our state where you can witness a truly amazing natural event: glow-worms lighting up the night. These incredible insects harness the light-emitting power of chemicals in their body to attract prey, creating a wonderful light show for us humans to enjoy in the meantime. Their name, however, can be a bit misleading – glow-worms aren’t actually worms, but are rather the larvae of the fly-like Fungus Gnat.
Spread throughout the gully, there are also many ancient, moss-covered trees and large ferns to admire on your journey. In particular, look out for Big Tree: an immense Otway Messmate which has fallen and is now recycling its nutrients back into the forest ecosystem.
What can you do here?
Walk through Melba Gully along the Madsen’s Track Nature Walk (35 minutes) and stop and sit for 15 minutes. If you’re here at night, how many glow-worms can you spot on overhanging ledges and in the soil next to the walking track? Can you see any insect prey that has been caught in their silky webs? Make sure you don’t touch or shine torches at the glow-worms, as this can disrupt them. Look out for other nocturnal animals as you admire the glow-worms, such as possums and Swamp Wallabies. If you’re visiting during the day, listen out for Anne’s Cascade and stop and take a photo next to Big Tree. Even though it’s no longer standing, can you tell how tall it would once have been? How big is it compared to you?
If visiting during the day, stop and admire the impressive stands of eucalypts and lush ferns of the surrounding forest. Image: Parks Victoria
Take time to reflect on your own place in nature – what do you love about spending time outdoors and what can you do to help look after environments such as Melba Gully for future Junior Rangers to enjoy? Photography of the glow-worms in Melba Gully is not permitted – think about how you can remember your trip to this special place without photos. Sometimes the best journeys in nature are those without cameras, where you can take time to enjoy your surroundings without the need to record anything. Contact the local Ranger following your trip to find out what they do to care for Melba Gully – are there any ways you can get involved at home?
After you’ve returned home, use what you’ve learned on your trip to Melba Gully to sketch out how you think a glow-worm might catch some unsuspecting insect prey. You might need to research some close-up photos of glow-worms to get a good idea. Then, draw your own interpretation of it. What does the glow-worm look like, and why is it so adept at catching insects?