We are somewhat taken aback by how dangerous the country we are enjoying really is. We have already referred to the dangers of shark attack, which are so shocking and violent that they sometimes make it to the news reports in the US. However, as we reread our travel book in preparation for each port, we are struck by all the warnings. Here are a few sample quotes:
Dangerous saltwater crocodiles, which swim in fresh water contrary to their name, inhabit the waterways. They swim in the sea, estuaries, lakes, wetlands, pools and rivers - even well inland. Never jump in the water or stand on the bank unless you are willing to risk becoming a croc’s lunch. A 20 foot croc can be one inch beneath the surface of muddy water and remain totally invisible. It moves fast, so you won’t see it until you’re in its jaws. If you do come face to face with a crocodile, there is little you can do. Don’t swim in any waterway, swimming hole, or waterfall unless you have been specifically told it is safe. Take advice only from someone like a recognized tour operator or park ranger. You can never be sure where crocodiles lurk from year to year, because during every wet season, the crocs head upriver to breed and they spread out over a wide flooded area. As the floodwaters subside, they are trapped in what ever water they happen to be in at the time - so what was a safe swimming hole during the last dry season might not be croc-free this year.
All of the northern beaches have small, netted enclosures for safe swimming from October through May when deadly box jellyfish render all mainland beaches off limits. Lifeguards sweep and patrol the bay so it is usually safe. You can still do water sports on top of the water if your rental outlet provides a protective lycra stinger suit, but you won’t want to wear one of those in the sticky summer heat from November through March.
The cassowary, a spectacular ostrich like bird with a blue bony crown on it head, can kill with its enormous claws, so never approach one. If you disturb one, back off slowly and hide behind a tree.
The dingoes are emboldened by visitors that have fed them over the years Those dangerous wild animals have been responsible for deaths and attacks. Keep your distance.
Snakes are common throughout Australia; 18 out of the twenty most dangerous live here. The most dangerous is the taipan - one bite contains enough venom to kill up to 200 sheep. If you are bitten demobilize the limb. (We heard on the news about a man who cut off his arm to save his life after having been bitten.) Our table mates who live in Brisbane told us that some of the poisonous snakes are truly aggressive and don’t just bite if you accidentally disturb them. They talked about one that rises up on its tail and look you in the eye before it strikes. These snakes can be up to two meters long.
Spiders are common all over Australia with the red back and funnel web being the most aggressive. Funnel webs live in holes in the ground and stand on their back legs when they are about to attack Red backs have a habit of resting under toilet seats and car trunks. Caution is a good policy.
Ticks are common and can cause severe itching and fever. If you find one on you, dab it with methylated spirits or another noxious chemical. Wait awhile and pull if out gently with tweezers, taking care not to leave the head behind. Mosquitoes are at their most prevalent during the tropical months of November to April. Recently cases of dengue fever have reappeared. This disease causes malaria-like symptoms and can prove fatal to those with lowered immune systems. Liver damage can also result.
Here’s hoping that we make it back alive!!