Australia hosts many dangerous things, but the closest we come is snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. Jellyfish found in the southern oceans are deadly, like the well-known box jelly and a small (thumbnail-sized), venomous relative, the irukandji. Both are found in seas of northern Australia, October to May.
We visit in early May, on a quest to mark off an item on my bucket list. Places that might go away are high on my list to see, and the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is endangered. We’ve prepared in some ways––making sure our snorkel mask has the correct lenses, for example––but not others, like reading any warnings. Maybe that’s a good thing.
The sand is safe.
We sign up for a small sailboat to take us, along with a dozen other people, out to the reef from Port Douglas.
Chances are small, “they say,” for us to have contact with any nasty jellyfish. But then again, why take chances? We’re given “stinger suits” to wear and told it’s government regulation that we wear the lycra cover-alls. Fine with us.
We see no jellyfish and experience no stings, but that’s not to say we don’t have surprises out in the water. Our excursion leaves us nauseous, ocean swells wash over our snorkeling heads, and a stronger-than-expected current pulls us away from our vessel.
But we survive our adventure and find the reef beautiful. We want to go back. (Next time we’ll take our seasickness meds earlier.)
Another hazard of Queensland is the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas on a narrow and winding mountain road. Later, a local will tell me that this section of road is notorious and the government is trying to figure out how to stem so many accidents. The busy route is filled with tourists, not all of whom are used to driving on the left or dealing with round-abouts.
We purchase a sackful of good avocado and a huge red papaya (beware some after-effects from that!) that we find there, and my sister buys a beautiful and real-life boomerang made from native wood by this guy, a real-life Aborigine.
Australia is home to more deadly things than any other place on earth, some say. You can learn the dangers or watch a video to understand the science, but it is more fun to read Bill Bryson’s book, In a Sunburned Country. I love all Bryson’s writing, and this is some of his best (alongside The Road to Little Dribbling, which I love for the title alone). Australia can kill a person in many ways, but no one can tell about it as well as Bryson. Read it if you’ve been to Australia and loved the trip; read it if you’re about to go; read it if you have no hope of going. It’s all good.
Travel date: May 2018.