Koala is spotted hitting the surf at Apollo Bay beach in Victoria

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A koala has surprised beachgoers by scurrying across the sand, hopping on a surfboard and sitting in the water at a popular swimming spot ahead of the New Year.

While many found the surprise visitors adorable, wildlife experts warned it could mean the koala was in distress and panicked after fleeing its natural habitat. 

Kim Bedford snapped pictures of the furry friend after he appeared from nearby sand dunes at Apollo Bay main beach, west of Melbourne, on Tuesday.

‘Amazing scenes at Apollo Bay Beach this morning!’ she wrote on Instagram alongside the photos.

‘A koala just coming down to check out the waves. Unbelievable!

‘Lucky I happened to have my big camera out.’

The pictures showed the marsupial crawl along the shore and over surfboards, as he was watched by a bewildered crowd.

The ‘unreal’ and ‘awesome’ sighting was commended by fellow social media users.

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‘Can’t get much more Australian than that!’ one person commented.

‘Wowser. That’s the best pic of 2020,’ another wrote.

A third said: ‘Only in Aus! Great photos.’ 

But wildlife carer Tracey Wilson fears the koala may have accidentally ended up in a ‘bad spot’, ABC reported. 

Having cared for hundreds of koalas at her animal sanctuary, Ms Wilson said koalas don’t typically seek out the beach but the marsupials are more commonly ending up in locations they’re not expected to be.

‘It’s mainly due to a lack of natural habitat, development and town planning that could be done better,’ she said.  

‘I think it’s just ended up in a bad spot, and the fact it had a lot of people following and watching it has stressed it out really badly and it’s ended up in panic mode.’   

The beaches at Apollo Bay are part of the Great Otway National Park, where koalas can be found in their natural habitat. 

The national park stretches from Torquay, along the Great Ocean Road, and up through the Otways hinterland. 

Ms Wilson said it would be common to sight a koala in the Otway Ranges but not at the beach. 

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