Australia survival guide: Everything you need to survive a trip down under so you don’t end up 6ft under
Australia has a reputation for having a lot of dangerous wildlife. And that is probably deserved, seeing as there are over thirty different species of animals there, from jellyfish to venomous snakes, that will straight up murder you if given the chance.
Just ask this guy, who was bitten right on the dick by the deadly redback spider while using the toilet. I mean, that’s something nobody wants to happen, but you know, occasionally you get unlucky like that. So, not really that big of a story. But here’s the thing that really shows how dangerous the country can be.
About a week later, after having anti-venom shot into his member, the man went back to work, decided to use the toilet again, checked to make sure there were no spiders under the seat (as he will likely do for the rest of his life) and got bitten again, right in the same spot.
That’s some next-level hatred from mother nature right there. It’s like the continent has declared a personal blood-feud against the human race for having the gall to settle there.
That being said, Australia is a beautiful country with some incredible things to see and well worth a visit. So, how do you visit the land down under without ending up underground? Well, let’s do a quick rundown of all the animals in Oz that can kill you and how you can survive it. Finally, there’s a danger rating that rates every risk you’ll face based on how likely you are to encounter it, and how likely it is to kill you.
Let’s get this one out of the way, since you’re probably most worried about this one after that story. So, here’s the bad news: There are ten species of spiders that are venomous enough to kill you that call Australia home.
But here’s the good news: Only two people have died from spider bites in Australia since 1981. So, the odds of biting the dust because a spider bit you are astronomically higher than dying in say, a car accident. Most spiders don’t deliver a fatal dose of venom when they bite, and anti-venom is available for several of the most dangerous species. Here’s a little scenario to give you an example of when a spider would be dangerous and how you should avoid it.
So you’re visiting Australia and you’re on your typical drunken tear that always accompanies your trips abroad. You stumble around the beach in a drunken stupor, trying to find that girl you were talking to. She said she’d be back in a few minutes, but that was an hour ago. And despite you pitching woo in your exotic accent, she seemed more uncomfortable than intrigued. And her numerous references to her boyfriend and both his desire and ability to kick your ass was a bad sign.
As you wander around making threatening swipes with a beer bottle at frightened beach-goers, you see an old shirt nestled under a bush. You ask yourself, “Who would leave a perfectly good shirt lying out in the open?” You pick it up and push your arms into the tattered sleeves. After a few seconds, you feel a stinging sensation in your upper arm. It gets worse and worse until you rip the shirt off and throw it on the ground.
A small black spider with a distinctive red mark on its back crawls out. “Oh well, nothing a beer won’t fix,” you think. So you drink until you can’t feel the pain anymore and pass out on the beach instead of getting the appropriate medical attention.
Congratulations, you died drunk on a beach, just like you always promised your friends you would.
How to avoid it:
Don’t go around sticking your exposed skin into places that might conceivably hold a spider. If you’re outside and you leave some clothes or shoes sitting around, stomp on them before putting them on and shake them out, this should kill any nesting spiders inside.
Other than that, the odds of getting bitten by a spider are very remote, and the odds of that killing you are even more remote.
If you do get bitten by a spider, try to catch it in something you can secure and take it with you to the hospital. This will let the doctors decide what kind of anti-venom to give you. Most likely, they’ll just give you a tetanus shot and some antibiotics and send you on your way.
Like spiders, snakes are a threat that inspires more fear than is fitting given the risk they present.That being said, there are 21 of the 25 deadliest snake species in Australia. That includes one of the most dangerous snakes in the world, the inland taipan, which can deliver enough venom with a single bite to kill 100 people. But, again, deaths from snakebites are very rare, and the inland Taipan has actually never been responsible for a recorded death.
Slightly more dangerous is the eastern brown snake, which, while less venomous, is more likely to strike and far more common near inhabited areas. Luckily, the mortality rate is only 10-20% because they usually don’t inject venom on a first strike. They typically only use a lethal amount of venom when they are antagonized into striking more than once, which would be an epically stupid thing to do.
Let’s see what that would look like, shall we?
You’ve come to Australia on a working holiday visa, seeking to reinvent yourself after a nasty breakup with your girlfriend. You managed to get a job on a local farm, only to find that the other ranch hands tease you mercilessly about your penchant to stop working every few hours to write in your personal journal with your pink gel pen in loopy handwriting, your “i’s” invariably dotted with hearts.
The other men banish you to clearing brush by yourself since your frequent crying jags have started to really bum them out. Burning with embarrassment and love-sickness, you begin clearing a heavy pile of sticks. As you pull up a large log, you see a brown snake coiled into a threatening “s” shape. Deciding that catching this snake would really show the other guys how tough you are, you reach out to grab it by the neck. It strikes you instantly with its fangs.
Angry and hurt, but still desperate to redeem yourself, you reach out again. It strikes you two more times and slithers off. You stumble back towards the ranch before collapsing on the ground, losing control of your bowels in the process.
Your ex chooses not to attend the funeral.
How to avoid it:
Most snakes are more likely to flee than to strike you, so if you do see one, just back away slowly. And if you are bitten by a snake, place a compress on the wound. Keep it clean and dry and don’t try to suck out the poison or cut into the wound. Both of those things are myths and will do more harm than good. Once the venom is in your blood you can’t really get it out. Don’t try to catch the snake, since you are unlikely to be able to do so without getting bitten again.
Do try to remember what the snake looked like since this might help doctors choose what anti-venom to give you. Be careful when exploring near wooded areas where snakes like to hide and wear high-ankled boots.
The best way to avoid snake bites is to avoid snakes. But the odds of being bitten are generally pretty low.
Australia’s coasts and saltwater estuaries are often home to crocodiles, which can be deadly if you end up in the water with them. A saltwater crocodile can grow up to 28 feet and can easily kill you with its death roll, which is when it grabs your limbs in its jaws and spins in the water, tearing off your limbs or drowning you.
In fact, just last year a woman was killed by a crocodile while swimming at night in a remote national forest.
That being said, the odds of running into one are slim if you’re careful about where you swim. Don’t just jump into any body of water that looks appealing, like this guy is about to do in our scenario.
Worried that your poor grades and lack of intellectual aptitude are dooming the possibility of you ever learning a skilled trade, your parents have sent you to Australia to visit your uncle, who is a chicken farmer on the edge of the Outback. It is their hope that you can eek out a meager living while they cut their losses on you and blow through your inheritance with a series of exotic vacations.
Your uncle, frustrated by your inability to even feed the chickens correctly, has nearly given up hope when he discovers your skill with an ax after walking in on you working out your frustrations on a tree you are pretending is your emotionally distant father.
He assigns you to slaughter the chickens, which you begin to excel at, as you resent them for the smug superiority you see in their beady little eyes.
One evening, just after you the day’s slaughtering, you decide to jump into a local estuary to wash off the copious chicken blood and feathers. In the twilight, you see the reflective glare of reptilian eyes as the crocodiles converge on you in the water.
The next day, your uncle begins to pen a letter advising your parents on what happened to you but decides not to bother since postage to Greece is so expensive.
How to avoid it:
Again, the most important thing when it comes to avoiding crocodiles is to stay out of the places they live. Limit your swimming to well-populated beaches. If you do find yourself in the water with a crocodile, try as hard as you can to get onto land. Crocodiles are slower on dry land than in the water. And outrunning the animal is really your only option.
Crocodiles usually kill their victims by drowning them. If the crocodile bites you and starts trying to drag you underwater, your best bet is to start striking it in the eyes and on the nose. These are the most sensitive parts on the crocodile and your best chance of making it let go.
But again, as long as you avoid swimming in remote estuaries, the odds of running into a crocodile are extremely remote.
Surprisingly, the jellyfish is probably the most dangerous animal on this whole list. Not only is it the animal you are most likely to encounter, with huge blooms of dangerous jellyfish washing up near the shores of Australia’s tourist beaches every year, but it is also among the most venomous.
The box jellyfish is the most dangerous species, and its venom can kill an adult man in minutes. And it’s estimated that twenty to forty people a year die from box jellyfish stings. It’s also not an easy animal to avoid given that they spawn in large numbers every summer and tend to end up in places where people swim. Add to that the fact that jellyfish are inherently hard to see in the water and it’s easy to imagine how someone could get stung by a box jellyfish. Like so:
It was always your husband, Gary’s, dream to go to Australia. And over 30 years of work as an electrician, he’s finally ready to retire. His eyes aren’t as good anymore, and his back hurts, but the money is saved up, and the tickets booked. The two of you are finally going to visit the land down under.
But three weeks before you’re due to leave, he has a massive heart attack while shoveling snow. He never wakes up. Wracked with grief, you hold the funeral. “Mom,” your adult children say, ” you should take that trip. It’s what he would have wanted.”
You decide to honor your late husband’s memory by traveling to the place he always dreamed of and scattering his ashes into the pacific. Once you get there, you wade out into the water with a small tin filled with Gary’s remains. As you pop the top off and dump the contents into the waves, you feel a deep feeling of peace settling over you.
You weren’t sure that there would be life after Gary, but now you think about how strong you are, and how you’re going to get through this. You turn back towards the beach to begin your new independent life.
Just then, you feel an intense stinging sensation in your leg, as though someone had jabbed a white hot knife into the muscle. You stumble back through the waves onto the beach. Within minutes, cardiac arrest sets in as the fatal dose of box jellyfish poison courses through your veins. You die (in a moment of cosmic irony) clutching your chest.
How to avoid it:
Box jellyfish tend to spawn near beaches, and many beaches have signs that warn of the threat of jellyfish. Make sure to pay attention to these signs, and don’t go into the water if there are jellyfish.
If you do get stung by a jellyfish, vinegar can help deactivate the stingers that might remain. Wipe away any tentacles left on your body with a towel, not with your skin. Tentacles can still sting when unattached to the jellyfish. Pay attention to signs like swelling or nausea as these are symptoms of poisoning and if you do contract those symptoms, seek help immediately.
Finally, you can avoid many stings by swimming in a wetsuit or even pantyhose, since the stingers in the jellyfish’s tentacles are activated by the chemicals on the skin.
So, as you can see, there is a lot of stuff in Australia that has the potential to kill you. But the reality is that for most people it’s not really all that dangerous to visit. After all, people have been living and co-existing with these creatures for thousands of years.
You’re far more likely to die in a car accident at home than you are to be killed by a poisonous spider or crocodile. So just keep your wits about you and be careful about obeying all posted signs and warnings and you’ll be fine.