I am an Australian. There are lots of us. We live our lives in a country that is full of some of the most dangerous snakes and spiders in the world, our oceans are full of sharks, and the north of our country is choc a bloc full of crocs. How do we deal with these scary critters? Below are my top tips to keep you safe while travelling in this (otherwise) beautiful country.
The thing about spiders is that they are small so if you are not looking for them you may not see them. A spider is not one of our predators. They are certainly more scared of us than we are of them. The best way to protect yourself from spiders is to look closely at something before you pick it up, especially if there are spider webs around. Most of the time if a spider sees you coming it will scurry away. The only time you are likely to be bitten by a spider is if they feel threatened (ie if you are unaware that they are there and are about to squash them with your hand, foot or some other body part). If your shoes have been outside for a long time turn them upside down and give them a bit of a bang. If you need to pick up a pot in the garden or move a green wheelie bin you will almost always see spider webs. Before you grab it have a quick look at the area you are going to put your hands. There is really no need to worry about spiders especially if you exercise a bit of awareness.
Snakes do not like the cold, so in the southern states, in the winter months they go into hibernation and have a long sleep. In the north of the country it is warm all year so you will have to be aware all year round. Snakes will generally start to wake up at the start of spring when we have had a few sunny days and it starts to warm up. In general this is the most dangerous time of year for snakes. Because they have been hibernating they are at their most poisonous and are more easily startled.
Most snakes will slither away as soon as they realise you are coming. If you are in an area that you think may have snakes it is a good idea to stamp your feet as you walk so the snake can feel the vibrations and slide away. Always make sure you have a clear path to walk on and watch carefully where you are going. The wider the path you are walking on, the better because you will have more visibility. On narrow bush tracks you should be more aware because they can be camouflaged on the side of the trail which can take you by surprise. Never walk through long grass if you can avoid it (I would never walk in long grass in snake season – ever. I will always find a way to avoid it.)
Most snake bites are on the ankles so it is a good idea to wear the appropriate gear, like hiking boots or a gator. This lowers your risk as their fangs are generally only a couple of millimeters in length so may only pierce into the boot or the gator rather than through your skin.
If you do see a snake and it has not noticed you the best thing to do is stop completely still and either wait until it slides away or turn around quickly and run away. Do not stand around it and try and take a photo. Do not antagonise it. Snakes strike fast. If a snake begins to lift its head it is generally a sign it is about to strike, so turn around and run.
So, to summarise:
-Be aware. Look at where you are stepping and try and walk in the centre of a path.
-Stamp your feet as you walk so that a snake is forewarned of your approach and can get out of the way.
-Dress appropriately with hiking boots or gators
-Always be ready to run. If a snake looks like it is starting to lift his head run away as fast as you can.
-Last but not least try and take note of what the snake looked like because if you do get bitten you will need to be able to identify it to be able to get the correct anti-venom.
You do not need to worry about snakes too much. I have lived here my whole life and I have only ever seen 2 in the wild (well, one was on a bush walk and the other was in my backyard – eek).
If you are a surfer or a diver you will be at greater risk, especially if you are surfing at more remote beaches that are not monitored for sharks. Generally you can feel pretty safe if you notice a helicopter flying up and down the coast. It is probably on Shark watch. If you hear a siren when you are at the beach – get out of the water as soon as you can.
If you are a surfer or diver there are some wetsuits that you can purchase that are meant to repel sharks. One of these may be a good investment especially if surfing or diving is a part of your lifestyle.
-Stay in the shallow water. Do not go to deep especially if the beach is not being monitored.
-Swim at beaches that are monitored by life savers (always a good idea) and you can always feel a little safer when you see the helicopter on shark watch.
-If you are serious into surfing or diving consider purchasing a shark repelling suit
-If you are attacked by a shark remember Mick Fannings classic move and punch it in the eye (amazingly this move may also be used for crocodiles)
I find it difficult to relax when I am in Croc country. It is such a shame that it is so beautiful and warm up there. The number one tip to keep safe from Crocs is: where there may be crocs DO NOT SWIM.
Let me repeat that DO NOT GET IN THE WATER ANYWHERE THERE MAY BE CROCS. In fact, you should even STAY AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THE WATER.
Crocs are scary and they are PREDATORS. They will drown you and eat you if you are in their territory.
The only places that are safe to swim in Croc country are signed and monitored watering holes. You will see a sign telling you it is safe to swim there. If you do not see that sign, or if you are not sure DO NOT SWIM THERE.
I hope I am making myself clear. DO NOT SWIM IF YOU SUSPECT THERE MAY BE CROCS.
You should also be careful walking in swamp or riverbanks and do not camp in these areas especially in a tent. If you are camping a lot in croc country you should consider an off ground tent – like a roof tent or a forward fold camper trailer.
If you are being pursued by a Croc run fast in a zigzag pattern. I actually don’t know if this will really work but we were taught this as kids because they will pursue you but they find it difficult to turn fast as they are so long.
If you are grabbed by a Croc you will need to react fast. They normally flip you over and drown you – this is known as the death roll. Once you are rolled you are a goner. People have survived a Croc attack by poking a croc aggressively in the eyes before the death roll.
For all of these creatures, awareness is the key. By being aware and careful about what you grab, where you walk and what you are doing you will be able to stay safe and enjoy our beautiful country like millions of Australians do every day. No worries mate.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions.