4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Australia Nature

April 7, 2015
4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Australia Nature

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place so determined to maim its inhabitants.

Before coming to Queensland, Australia for my studies, my friends anxiously asked me if I understood just how many things there would hurt me with one touch. They reminded me that there are some animals so powerful that you can die in a matter of minutes. The jellyfish, the snakes, the spiders, the crocodiles – they are all here for my demise, they told me. I chuckled brushed off their words, assuring them that I had done enough research about what not to do around a blue box jelly.

I believed them and the tales of killer animals, I just didn’t think it was anything that I’d have to worry about while studying here. And besides, I’ve worked in some of the most dangerous areas of New York City before, and now I was moving to a country without guns for a change. Could these disturbing wildlife really be any worse than a crazed New Yorker wielding a pistol on the street?

Surprisingly, it’s not the spiders that have come to be my concern during my stay in Brisbane, but nature in general. Queensland hosts a whole slew of surprisingly deadly wildlife I didn’t even know I had to think about until I got here. Local people casually recommend ways for me to protect myself from nature in passing, which always makes me pause for a second. Nature here has showed me its dark side in so many different ways. Hopefully, if you visit Australia, you’ll take my tips to heart.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Australia Nature

1. The Sun

The sun was the first attacker that surprised me. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world because the sun is so brutal. If you are out walking around town without any sunblock on you, you will most definitely cook yourself and come out of the day a vibrant red, regardless of your natural skin tone. Even with sunblock, if you’re here long enough, you might have to get malignant moles and melanoma spots removed.

A lot of the older people here have bandaids on their noses and hands from getting yet another piece of cancer scraped off. Some of my local friends are too young for wrinkles, but the sun has beaten their skin enough to make them need to manage these things early.

Tip: While you may want to tan while in Australia, you can easily tan even with SPF50 on, so wear it. Do yourself the favor and spare yourself the pain of the sun slowly slaying your skin.

2. The Plants

The plants look nice enough, but some have wild ways to put you in agonizing pain in seconds. Just yesterday I heard about a plant called the Gympie Gympie, native to this state. This plant can hurt you even without touching it! People who have approached this plant can get nose bleeds or eye problems.

This can happen even if it’s just an unknowing graze while walking through the bush. Why? Because it has little microscopic needles that embed itself into your skin and administer toxic chemicals into you as you scream in agonizing pain.

I asked a friend about this, too, and she grimaced at the very name of the plant, telling me about a friend of hers who accidentally brushed up against the plant and was in agony for a good long while.

Tip: There’s a reason officials recommend you not to stray from the path in the bush, especially in Queensland. Stay on the beaten path.

3. The Birds

When I first got here, I noticed bikers wearing strange dagger-like sticks in their helmets. I found out that it was to deter the magpies and plovers – all birds with hard beaks that are common here and eager to attack, especially during nesting season in the spring. There are public signs that warn pedestrians of “swooping birds.” If you’re anywhere remotely close to a nest, you’re eligible for a violent bird swooping at your head and clawing the hell out of your face/scalp.

Apparently, a year or so ago, a little kid lost an eye to an angry bird swooping at them outside. I’ve actually had some of them swoop into my hair a bit while sitting outside on benches before class. I’ve been lucky that they’ve just swooped.

Tip: Wear a hat in the springtime. Also, when you see a sign warning of swooping birds, don’t think it’s a joke. Be sure to avoid walking under trees.

4. Everything else that breathes

Some of nature is not as bad as the locals joke about, at least. Though koala bears can be vicious little animals when approached, the legendary “drop bears” don’t actually exist. And birds don’t have poisonous feathers that will sting you in passing, a pleasant supermarket cashier assured me. Those other animals my friends were nervous about – the snakes and spiders and the like – are still things I have watched out for. They aren’t as common in urban settings, but in the outback or bush, it’s good to know what you’re wanting to avoid.

Tip: Read up on the big wildlife concerns in travel books. You also may be able to get a briefing by a tour guide while admiring the beautiful landscape.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Australia's Nature




4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Australia Nature photos by Unsplash and Kimberly W.

About Kimberly Worsham

A nomadic heart from New York City, Kimberly Worsham has been passionate about travel once she found a closet in her house she could use as a traveling device when she was four. She has lived all over, including India and Rwanda on short-term projects, as well as a year in Europe for studying abroad. Currently residing in Australia, Kimberly is working on a second masters so she can work in WASH throughout the developing world. She loves getting completely immersed in new cultures, and cannot wait for her next adventure! Read more about Kimberly’s travels on her blog.

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