It’s all a big myth about how “Dangerous” Australia can be… Sure, you’ve all heard about our infamous “drop-bears”, but there’s really nothing to worry about…
All that’s needed to stay alive in Australia and enjoy the magic of the 17,000 miles of beaches, the mountains and the great plains and deserts of the west, is a bit of common sense and caution.
Never walk through the bush in summer without good boots; never step over a fallen log, always walk around it – snakes, especially the common eastern brown snake, like to lie in wait next to fallen trees and, if one bites you, you have about 30 minutes to live! There’s little chance you’ll encounter a desert fear snake that will kill you in seconds, but taipans, death adders, tiger snakes and red-bellies are common.
Always check your footwear; underwear and so forth in the morning in case a funnel-web, red-back, white-tail, scorpion or centipede has crawled inside. Only the funnel web will kill you instantly but a red-back will make you very sick while a white tail will give you flesh necrosis that can’t be cured.
Never swim in a waterhole or estuary in the tropical zone – there are big crocodiles and they will eat you. And don’t forget… snakes can swim too!
Never swim on an unpatrolled beach – there are rips and strong currents, along with great white shark, bull sharks, and tiger sharks.
Never wade in the tropical zone without strong water boots and a body suit – there are stone fish and box jellyfish that will kill you, in abject agony, in about 5 minutes.
Never put your hands into a rock pool in the temperate zones – there are cute little blue-ringed octopuses – they are beautiful creatures but will kill you in seconds! And watch out for blue bottles in the surf that will give you a truly agonising sting.
In inland rivers and streams never, ever, try to grab a platypus as the males are the only venomous mammals. They won’t kill you but you’ll wish they had; apparently the pain is indescribable and nothing will ease it!
Learn to recognise your eucalyptus trees and never, ever, sit under or pitch a tent under a red gum or a yellow or white box tree – they drop large and heavy branches for no apparent reason at all – hence their common name of “widow maker”.
Don’t travel in the outback without a week’s supply of water, a compass and a satellite phone – it very easy to get lost and there’s not a drop of water for hundreds of miles and the chances of being found are almost nought. If lost in the outback you can catch small lizards to eat and not starve quickly, but thirst is a sure killer after 3 days.
In the high country in winter, never go wandering as blizzards occur suddenly and every year a few people die plus there are the dingos and wild dogs and really nasty feral pigs.
Never light a fire between September and April in the bush especially if there is a wind from the north-west, low humidity and it’s over 30 degrees as eucalypt trees emit a volatile gas, a very pleasant smell, but also explosively inflammable and it’s easy for a small fire to become a very big one very quickly and move much faster than you can run.
When walking through eucalypt forests, do so quietly! The drop bears really aren’t a problem as long as they remain asleep. They are essentially nocturnal, so do avoid walking through woods at night time.
Along the east coast it’s a good idea if you are walking through the bush, eucalypt forests or the temperate and tropical rain forests to bear in mind that they are infested with paralysis ticks, while paper-wasps build their nests on the under side of large leafs and will sting you mercilessly if you bump them – as will the bees that often build nests in hollow trees.
Always wear plenty of tropical strength insect repellent, especially from the knees down, hands and forearms and head and neck to protect against grass fleas, sand flies, midgies, and mosquitoes – especially in the sub-tropical and tropical zones as they transmit encephalitis (brain swelling), Ross River fever, Dengue fever, Black water fever and break-bone fever. You’ll probably survive those ailments but Hell won’t hold any surprises for you when you get there.
Never travel west of the Great Dividing Range if you have any allergies or asthma in spring or summer – that’s when the wattles, native grasses, banksias, eucalypts and acacias fill the air with pollens as does the wheat and other crops.
Never get too close to a kangaroo or a wombat – they will attack you and never, ever, upset an emu. Especially avoid any contact with a Cassowary as their claws can shred your stomach in seconds!
Really, there’s nothing to worry about if you exercise a little caution and a bit of common sense.
My family has been here since 1788 and we’ve only lost one or two people each generation… I’ve only ever suffered one attack by a wombat, one bite from a kangaroo, a couple of ticks, a minor bout of Ross River fever and one truly agonising attack by a swarm of paper-wasps.
You’ll love it here 🙂
Acknowledgements: Thanks to my old mate John for the content. Images used under license come from:
Drop Bear image by Yamavu
Brown Snake image by fir0002 at flagstaffotos.com.au
Blue Ringed Octopus image by Sylke Rohrlach at German Wikipedia