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I'm afraid of salties, sharks, snakes, spiders, etc.,

I'm afraid of salties, sharks, snakes, spiders, etc.,

Jan 16th, 2004, 01:35 PM
  #1  
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I'm afraid of salties, sharks, snakes, spiders, etc.,

I am very excited about my trip to Queensland and the Northern Territory this July. I have been reading my travel books, and doing research, and I am about half-way through with "A Sunburned Country".

This book seems very focused on jelly fish, salties, sharks, etc., all the things that will kill you in Australia.

I live in the city of Chicago and we have more murders in this city than any other in the US. So why I am getting scared of Australia? Please tell me that going snorkeling in the GBR and bush walking in the Northern Territory are very common activities that rarely result in tourists being eaten by natures gifts.

I'm just being silly I am sure and just wanted some reassurance. As long as I follow the "rules" I'll be safe.....??

Thank you,
-Amanda

Amanda_Chicago is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 01:50 PM
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I'm afraid of all those things too - but - commonsense keeps you out of danger.

Although I have to wonder about people, sometimes. When they know that crocodiles are in the area, why on earth do they think that their need to cool off by jumping in the water makes them immune to attack??? There are deaths every year by people doing just such stupid things. Not just tourists, but locals and guides, too.

The risk of being attacked by anything, except possibly mosquitoes and other little beasties, is pretty low. I've lived here all my life (so far). I've been in the water when there was a shark alarm (get out!), been chased by a snake (get out of the road), and have faced numerous spiders. Take note of people in the area you're in!

This may not always be a good idea though. Some people are wicked! A couple of years ago, a friend arrived from England, on the day a woman was taken by a shark in South Australia, about 2000 miles away. He was instantly terrified. About a week later, we were on a beach north of Sydney, and he asked an old fisherman about sharks. This fellow obviously had a bit of the devil in him, and told my friend that the sharks were so fierce on that part of the coast, that they came up the beach after you - if they saw you. My friend believed this chap implicitly, and there was nothing I could do to dissuade him - after all - what would I know? - I lived in the city - and this fellow was a local - he knew these things!

What was interesting was this intelligent, educated man's total suspension of reality! A shark is a fish, after all - and isn't going to come ashore of his own free will. He refused to go in or near the waer after that - a bit of a bummer on a beach holiday!

Summary - find out what the risks are - use your commonsense, and you'll have a great time!
margo_oz is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 01:57 PM
  #3  
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We all have irrational fears. I finally got up the courage to snorkel off the coast of Kauai and one week later a young surfer got her arm bit off by a shark in that same area. So now I've been weary again....but if I travel all the way to Australia I don't want to miss out on anything wonderful because of my fear.

Thanks for the info.
-Amanda
Amanda_Chicago is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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Hi Amanda,

My view of dangerous animals is that they fall into two broad categories: (1) They're predators that may go after you because they may view you as dinner, or (2) They will harm you in self defence.

Now, let's address each of the animals you've named, one by one.

* Salties. Would I be correct in thinking this nickname refers to salt water crocodiles? Well, whether they're the fresh water or salt water variety, crocodiles are indeed lethal predators -- no ands, ifs or buts about it. Do not under any circumstances swim in a river or dam in Queensland or the Northern Territory. I think Margo's post pretty much conveyed that message. But I don't imagine you were planning to do that anyway.

* Sharks. They too are predators. However, I believe there are adequate safety precautions against them. We went in a boat from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Reef, which is part of the so called Outer Reef. We disembarked at a large pontoon that the dive company kept permanently moored at the Agincourt Reef. The pontoon was large enough to have dining facilities, bathrooms, a helicopter landing pad, etc. Adjacent to the pontoon was a large area of reef that was protected by shark nets, and it was only in this area that we snorkelled. After we had finished snorkelling, we went for quite an extensive ride in a glass-bottomed boat that took us well beyond the net-enclosed area, and that allowed us to see still more of the reef. At no time during this exercise did I feel vulnerable to sharks.

* While Australia has some extremely lethal snakes, they belong to the category of animal that strikes in self-defence. A venomous snake that is taken by surprise and that feels cornered is indeed a dangerous animal. However, in the normal course of events a snake would be aware, from the vibrations in the ground, that you are approaching, and it would slither away to safety before you reached it. If you walk on established paths in the bush, wear enclosed shoes instead of sandals in the bush, and keep your eyes open, it would be very unusual (a) for a snake to be unaware of your approach and to remain in your path and (b) for you to stumble on it unawares. Provided you employ a reasonable amount of bush smarts, I don't rate the chances of your stepping on a snake as very high.

* Spiders. They don't ordinarily chase you like a predator would (say like an African lion). Usually they bite you if you intrude into their space. If you were undertaking an activity such as gardening in Australia, I would advise you to wear gloves in case you inadvertently shoved your hand into a spider's territory. However, I don't anticipate you'll be doing gardening or any activity remotely like it, and you're likely to be staying in accommodation that is cleaned regularly, so I don't anticipate spiders being much of a threat.

* Jellyfish. They don't chase you either, but they sting you if you bump up against them. During the jellyfish season there are portions of the beach that are protected by jellyfish nets. However, this is an entirely academic discussion because you in any case will be in Australia outside of the jellyfish season.

* A cornered cane toad will spit venom at you in self defence. But I don't imagine you're planning to walk through sugar cane fields.

* Except for snakes, spiders and cane toads, I can't think of any land animals that are particularly dangerous to humans. Dingos, foxes and feral cats are predators, but they wouldn't ordinarily attack an adult human. They might kill a human baby who was left alone on the floor of a tent in the Outback. But you haven't mentioned that you have a baby and, even if you did have one, I'm sure you wouldn't leave him/her alone on a tent floor in the Outback.

So...... I think we've addressed each one of Australia's dangerous animals. If there's one that we've missed and that you want to know more about, please feel free to post again. And I'm not trying to be trite. I really mean it. I have fears of my own, and I have to walk myself through them just as I've tried to walk you through them here.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 05:12 PM
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Hi Amanda

All good advice from previous posters. US has those evil rattlesnakes but did not stop us heading off into the desert! and Canada those pesky bears everywhere. You'll love Oz if you just ask someone what are the local predators or insects you should avoid, in each place you visit. Most people will let you know of any danger, if you ask and there are signs all over the place about jellyfish!!I love Chicago even if you have lots of murders there!!
Lyndie is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 06:41 PM
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Hi, Amanda. I'm a fan of Bill Bryson, but he's an entertainer first and foremost, and the fact that very few people come to grief at the hands of the wildlife (the highway road toll wins hands down) doesn't make very entertaining reading.

Conversely, there are Australians whose in-depth experience of "NYPD Blue" re-runs tells them that a walk through the Lower East Side will probably have fatal consequences. But who wants to make a TV series about the much more mundane reality?

Admittedly the only saltie I've ever seen was safely behind bars (it terrified me all the same), and the closest one I've encountered was diced and deep-fried in a light tempura batter. However, like almost everyone else I managed to escape unscathed from my visits to North Queensland and "the Territory" by following sensible local advice and avoiding especially dumb activities like splashing through mangrove swamps. You go ahead and have a great time.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:04 PM
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Neil's absolutely right...Bill Bryson is an entertainer (and I love that book)!

If Oz was really this dangerous, no one would go there!

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:52 PM
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Hi Amanda - I live in North Queensland picked up hundreds of cane toads by a back leg, prior to dispatch and never has one spat venom at me. They are an introduced pest which were supposed to eat the sugar cane beetle - unfortunately they have eaten or poisoned nearly everything else. When cornered they exude a toxic discharge from the shoulder area which can be fatal to native animals, birds and even small dogs which are silly enough to try to eat them. Cane toads lay their eggs in waterways and these are toxic to fish. They are quite sociable creatures and think nothing of hopping into the house and fixing you with a beady stare. If this happens to you and you don't want to kill it - just push it outside with a broom or anything you can lay your hands on. It will leave, if somewhat reluctantly. Please don't confuse them with the giant green tree frogs which also come into houses in the tropics - these frogs are harmless, eat household insects and are protected.

I enjoyed Bill Bryson's book too, as other posting mention, he is chiefly an entertainer - to get a flavour of the country why not read some novels by Australian authors such as Thea Astley, Kate Grenville, Tim Winton, just to name a few.
pat_woolford is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 08:31 PM
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Hi Pat,

I heard a sweet cane toad story in Australia which may be true or it just may be an urban legend. Apparently an English family, including two little girls, moved to Queensland. Apparently these two little sisters, not knowing any better, used to dress cane toads up in their dolls' clothes and push them around in their dolls' strollers (prams). When local people noticed what was going on, they promptly told the English family that the kids shouldn't be doing that! And yet in all the time that those kids had played with the cane toads, the toads hadn't done a thing to harm them.

I have another story along those lines, and this one isn't an urban legend. It concerns my niece in Swaziland, Africa. When she was around three or four years old she used to speak about her little friend in her bedroom. My brother and sister-in-law thought she was going through that stage in which kids sometimes have imaginary friends, and they humoured her. She even used to save little snacks from meal times (bits of cheese and this and that), and she used to say she was going to have a picnic with her friend. Well my brother and sister-in-law were horrified to discover one day that there was a puff adder (snake) in a narrow gap under the wardrobe in her bedroom. Based on the length of time she'd been talking about her little friend, my brother and sister-in-law surmised my niece and the puff adder must have been living together in harmony for many months! It was one of those phenomena that made even the most sceptical people wonder if there weren't guardian angels after all. My brother somehow found a tactful way to find a new home in the bush for my niece's little friend.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 08:46 PM
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P.S. I was a genius for telling the snake story, wasn't I? I bet that had the potential to set Amanda_Chicago and every other cautious soul back a few light years! Okay, Amanda and anyone else who's concerned about these things, the moral of these stories, I think, is that the little English girls in Queensland and my niece in Swaziland didn't know enough to feel afraid of those animals. I believe the animals somehow picked up on that, didn't feel threatened, and hence felt no need to defend themselves.

Unlike my niece, you're not going to feel unafraid, and you're not going to be able to PRETEND that you're unafraid, so cohabitting with a snake probably isn't going to work for you. With more and more accommodations having built-in closets these days, there probably won't be a little gap under a wardrobe in your hotel room. But when you get to your room, you may feel more comfortable doing a quick check under your bed and any other piece of furniture that could accommodate an animal under it. That will probably set your mind at rest. And in the very unlikely event that you do see a critter that seems inappropriate, you might want to ask the hotel staff for help in removing it, because you may not know the best way to do it.

And for crying out loud, DO NOT adopt this friendly approach with crocodiles. That's where my faith in guardian angels reaches its limits, I'm afraid.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 03:06 AM
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I live in Sydney and have travelled a lot in Queensland.

Firstly, if there are likely to be crocodiles anywhere, there will be HUGE signs warning you. It's IMPOSSIBLE to miss.

As I said, I live in Sydney and we have two very venemous spiders here... redbacks and funnel webs. The whole time I have lived here, I have seen one of each. Redbacks will not attack you, so you would have to be VERY unlucky to put your hand somewhere where there was one and have it bite you.

The funnel web that I saw was in the dirt (where they live) while I was gardening. They WILL attack, and they make themselves look very scary when they put their front legs up and come at you! However, again, if you're not busy digging in the dirt..which if you're on vacation you won't be, you're unlikely to be presented with one of these little guys...and as I said, in 10 years of living here, I've seen one of each.

I have not encountered a snake int he wild the entire time I have been here. Not one. This is a good record, considering that we used to regularly get rattlesnakes every summer...and they are equally dangerous to most of the dangerous snakes in this country.

Remember, just because you hear about all the nasty creepy crawlies here in Australia, it doesn't mean that these things are all over the place!

They are animals, and they have no more wish to encounter you than you do to encounter them.

Be cautious, treat them with respect, and if you encounter one, back away quietly. They won't attack you unless you taunt them or are unlucky enough to accidentally step on one or something.

And remember...you are MUCH more likely to die on the plane or even more yet in a car, any day of the week, than you are to have a problem with them.

A few comments on things in the water here. It is true that there CAN be a lot of nasty jellyfish you COULD encounter, but if jellyfish have been present at a specific location, then there will be warnings issued. If there are warnings at a beach where you are wanting to swim, you can choose not to....

I did that myself last year up in Far North Queensland. There had been reports of blue bottles (a type of jellyfish which gives a very painful sting) on a beach where we wanted to swim, earlier in the day. They believed the swarm was gone by the time we got there, but I wasn't really interested in risking it and ruining my vacation and my mood by getting stung. So I didn't go in at that particular beach.

I must also say that I swim a lot in Sydney, at the beaches here, and again I have never been stung. If you are stung, vinegar helps to dull the pain which I am told is like a very bad sunburn sort of a feel, and the lifeguards usually have this handy.

There IS one sort of jellyfish that makes very infrequent visits to the Far North QLD coast...I think it is called Irikanji...and if stung, your nervous system will shut down and you will die. There have been very few survivors of this jellyfish sting.

Yes, this sounds scary, but again they watch for swarms of this variety and avoid areas where they know it is present.

As for sharks, attacks are quite rare.

Again, with all these things, the odds of it happening to you are incredibly unlikely...so be cautious, but don't be paranoid. For all the venemous stuff, Australia is so good with keeping stock of antivenoms that you are unlikely to die, even in the rare event that something does happen. Hospitals are generally quite good, and in areas where stings or bites occur, they will be familiar with administering such antivenoms.

But really, even saying all this is practically pointless, as it is SO unlikely that it would happen.

Other precautions that you can take while swimming are to wear a wetsuit...or at the Cancer Council shops here, they make "sun shirts" which are meant to keep you from getting sunburnt, and are quite comfortable to wear in the water, and will also provide some protection from stings.

And that brings us to an even more pressing issue. The sun here is VERY hot. I find that, unlike California, where I'm originally from, the sunburn creeps up on you, and you don't realize until some hours later when you are in pain that you got sunburnt.

In California, I could lie out in the sun with non sun protection tanning oil for a couple hours and not burn. Here I wear SPF15 and still end up burnt sometimes.

Last year, I had a melanoma. Melanomas are common here, because the sun is so strong, and people do not protect their skin properly...

All I can say is, wear more sun protection than you think you need, or you will live to regret it!

I now wear one of the cancer council shirts when I snorkel, because you burn very quickly without realizing it, when you do this sort of activity!

Finally, don't be put off by any of this. These are the facts so you are informed. Walk away with those, be cautious, and have a good time in Oz!

Definitely make sure you go out on an outer barrier reef cruise to snorkel. These trips are safe as they can monitor for stingers quite easily at the pontoon locations where they go, and sharks cannot get in over the reef, so there is no threat from them there. Your worst threat there is sunburn!

Have a good time, and don't worry!
benderbabe is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 03:09 AM
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Sorry, the rattlesnakes I refer to are NOT obviously in Australia, but in California, where I grew up!
benderbabe is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 08:09 AM
  #13  
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Thank you all for the reassurance, advice, and stories. I assume I will have nothing eventful to report when I return other than I had an amazing trip!
(assuming I survive the ride to the airport, the plane, tranfers through LA, etc.,)
-Amanda : )
Amanda_Chicago is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 02:53 PM
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The little girl who dressed up her pet cane toad was real - she appeared in a hilarious documentary called "Cane Toads: An Unnatural History", along with a hippie who smoked dried cane toad skins and other unusual residents of North Qld.

Can't resist this one either: a few years ago it was reported that a National parks & Wildlife Service ranger in the Blue Mountains, outside Sydney, had to deal with a terrified Israeli hiker who reported having seen "a crocodile in a tree". Upon investigation it turned out to be a goanna, a large and harmless iguana-like lizard.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 18th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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Benderbabe makes a good point!
The MOST dangerous thing here, for those doing outdoor things, is the SUN!

Don't ever think you're immune. Take every precaution - or you will get burnt! The term here is sun-BAKING - rather than sun-bathing - with good reason.
margo_oz is offline  
Jan 18th, 2004, 04:11 PM
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Just spotted an unfortunate punctuation lapse in my last message:
"....along with a hippie who smoked dried cane toad skins and other unusual residents of North Qld."
It makes more sense if you insert a comma after the word "skins". As written, the message implies that the hippie in question smoked "other unusual residents of North Qld" as well as dried toad skins. He was pretty weird, but I doubt that his deviant behaviour stretched quite that far. (Queensland readers would probably agree that if he was really into smoking unusual residents he'd be spoiled for choice in that neck of the woods.)
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 18th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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>>>>>>Just spotted an unfortunate punctuation lapse in my last message:
"....along with a hippie who smoked dried cane toad skins and other unusual residents of North Qld."
It makes more sense if you insert a comma after the word "skins".<<<<<<

Dinkum, Neil? I'm so relieved you cleared THAT up.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 02:09 AM
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All this talk aqnd no mention of dropbears, the real terrors of the bush.

Amanda, I work in outback WA and regularly see poisonous snakes and spiders and have never been bitten yet. Just as I walked into the office there was a dugite wondering into the bush opposite my office. Unless you corner these animals and stir them up they are pretty reluctant to bite. I've almost stepped on brown snakes (probably about the most aggressive of the poisonous snakes)while bushwalking in New South Wales and the snake ignored me (I jumped about 5 metres with a full pack on my back, but the snake just kept on cruising.)

The real risk from these animals is pretty minimal as long as you don't think you are Steve Irwin (and if you do you probably deserve getting bitten anyway)

Most busy areas of beach etc. have shark spotting flights a couple of times a day, so they are pretty safe, and I think crocs have been covered pretty well by previous posters.

If you do want to get close to sharks many of the aquariums run introductory dives with the sharks in the tanks. A good way to get your blood pumping.

For all this it is probably more likely that you will get hurt by being hit by a car crossing the street in Chicago than in Australia by these animals.

If you are really worried about stingers/snakes/spiders pick up a first aid manual when you get here (or find an Australian one online.) Decent first aid will give you enough time to get to medical help in most places in Australia.

Cheers
Rob
roobar is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 02:30 PM
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Yeah Rob...good to see someone mentioning the real threat in the aussie bush...drop bears.

Its corny..but I love that Bundy Rum drop bear advert they run during the cricket.
johhj_au is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 09:10 PM
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All right, you buggers, stop stirring the Yanks - Amanda's got enough to worry about without bringing the feared carnivorous, tree-dwelling drop bear into it. Not to mention the little-known hoop snake, which travels the sand dunes of the Great Sandy Desert at great speed by taking its tail in its jaws and emulating a hula hoop.

Judy, as you can see from this post, northern Australia is strange enough without my adding to the confusion.

I hate to say it, but "fair dinkum" was originally an English dialect term. Be that as it may, I'm sure you must have noticed how North Queenslanders try to make visiting Canadians feel at home by tacking an emphatic "eh?" on to the end of their sentences? They're a really hospitable lot, God love 'em.

Neil_Oz is offline  

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