DROP bears do exist and you can find them in the Mary Valley.
A Brisbane schoolgirl on an outdoor education camp near Borumba Dam got the surprise of her life when a koala landed on the roof of the toilet block this month.
The students rushed up to cuddle the Australian native but were cautioned by teacher James McIntosh who reminded them that they were not in a koala sanctuary but were seeing nature at its best.
The girls are the latest group of thousands of students who, alongside tourists, are getting to know the Mary Valley through outdoor education centres such as the Brisbane Girls Grammar School near Borumba Dam.
Other schools coming to the valley include Hillbrook Anglican College from Brisbane, Cooloola Christian College (Gympie) and Pialba State School.
And as the BGGS facility celebrates 25 years in the Mary Valley this year, Nambour Christian College has also announced plans to bring its students to the area for outdoor learning, lodging a development application with Gympie Regional Council.
The full development, in Bella Creek Rd near Borumba Dam, will see up to 150 students using the centre at any one time, and the Higher Ground Group - adventure specialists - have also expressed interest in using the Christian college centre.
Mr McIntosh, director of Marrapatta, the BGGS facility, said the influx was validation of the valley's growing worth as a nature-based tourism precinct.
He said alongside the student visitation, the new marketing campaign "Mary Valley Country - come out to play" was targeting an increasing market of people wanting to actively enjoy their recreation and appreciate the environment.
He is also president of the Outdoor Education Association of Queensland and in the past decade has noted a marked increase in the number of Mary Valley visitors.
He said this had prompted industry-based businesses to start up, such as kayak, boat and bike hire, and supported the various camping and accommodation houses.
"People are getting into the creek a bit more, there are a lot of people in 'sit on top' craft and kayaks, and we see paddling and cycling clubs using it as a destination," he added.
"Adventure specialist, the Higher Ground Group, has set up a base at Kenilworth Homestead to run programs here as well."
Mr McIntosh said that outdoor education was important for enriching students' learning beyond pure academic realms by developing important life skills and interests.
It opens up three key areas - learning about the environment, personal discovery and working with others.