Helping Tourism. Maybe.

I’ve had some people tell me they’d love to go to Australia, but are freaked out by the number of things that can kill them there. Maybe they don’t want to admit the flight is too long. Or that they are scared off by Paul Hogan’s age-defying face.

I thought that I’d help with this. So here are my handy hints that I am going to call “Australia: Don’t Fuck Up and Die” (sorry Mum).

If you are in the “bottom half” of Australia in Winter, you won’t see a snake. So you can skip this part.

Snake bites are rare. Most of the snakes won’t bite unless they feel threatened. So don’t threaten them by calling them “punk,” “bitch” or telling them you’re friends with the Gruffalo. This will only antagonise the snake. I would also recommend not picking it up to fashion into a necklace or other such accessory. If you’re walking in tall grass, flip flops / thongs are out. Keep those ankles covered. Fellow cankle sufferers will be pleased with this one advantage over our pretty-ankled friends.

Frankly, this is asking for trouble.

Snakes feel vibrations in the ground. So if you see a snake, keep still and let it slither past. Remember – no antagonising the snake, so don’t go “ner ner ner-ner nerrrr” as it goes by. If is too close for comfort, just get away from it (like you need to be told). Take care not to panic and confuse “away from the snake” with “towards the snake.” Getting that wrong is what you would call an “oh crap!” moment.

If you see a snake and you leave it alone, it will not bite you. But if it isn’t your day and one does, here’s what you do…

Don’t wash the bite or suck out the venom. That is the official advice, but seriously, who would suck out the venom? “Oh here, let me have some.” Bandage the bite really firmly, if you have enough cloth you should bandage further along the limb towards the body. Keep the bite still, preferably with a split. The emergency number is 000 (not 90210 as someone once dialed) and your local hospital will have anti-venom.

Although most of them are fine and would make lovely neighbours, spiders in Australia are best avoided. Don’t you love being told the bleeding obvious? It’s up there with eating cake, and someone saying with a smirk, “a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”

Anyway, you should know that the spiders don’t just hang around in webs. They live quite happily under things too – under ground, under wood, etc.

But before you run screaming from your computer, just know that the big, scary looking ones you are most likely to see are actually OK. They’re called “huntsmen” and while you probably wouldn’t want to marry one, there’s no need to squash it. If you do squash it, it will return as a giant “monster spider” which will haunt you with its giant poisonous fangs and a penchant for nibbling your ears. Just kidding. We like to freak foreigners out like that. (Now go and Google “Drop Bears.”)

The good news is there have been no deaths from a confirmed spider bite in Australia since 1980. Even so, it’s good to tip your shoes upside down before putting them on. I’m in the UK so I no longer do it… although I hear these hedgehogs are vicious.

If you do get bitten, and that makes you very unlucky, it’s treated in the same way as a snakebite. Bandage it, keep it still and get thee to a hospital. If the spider has a red back, inventively named the “red back spider,” don’t bandage it. Just get your arse to hospital.

One other thing – when you get to hospital, it helps if you can tell them what kind of spider it was. It’s a good idea to catch the spider and take it with you. Just put a jar over it, slide some kind of card underneath it and screw the lid on. Because, yes, when you have been bitten by a spider, you want to faff about looking for a piece of cardboard.

I’m not sure what to tell you here. Try not to look too much like a seal? I don’t know.

They tend to feed more at dawn and dusk, so you’re better off not swimming then. Should you be the most unlucky person in the country and a shark does attack you, you are meant to fight back. Gouge its eyes, punch its nose…. you know, the usual stuff you do when a shark bites you. You also shouldn’t swim alone, the idea being that if a shark attacks, you need help getting onto land quick smart.  So you can buy yourself an ice-cream.

But the number one thing – and I mean the absolutely number one thing – is to swim between the flags at patrolled beaches. Which leads me to my next point…

Forget snakes, spiders, jellyfish, sharks and crocodiles. Everyone going to the beach in Australia needs to understand rips. There have been efforts to get this shown to tourists on flights to Australia, and so far they have had no joy as it’s thought it will frighten people away. I would have thought that since they are already on the plane, they’re a safe bet. What do you think?

Has this helped? Or has this scared you even more?

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