Is Australia as dangerous as we think?
A year ago by Marquis A Matson ∙ 7 min read
One of the most common questions I get asked since living in Australia is “what about the poisonous things?”
And since I last wrote to you about the beautiful, flowy side of Australia, I thought that I’d also write about this lurking question that you might still have.
Yes, there are tons of poisonous things all around me and I have never seen so many snakes and spiders in my entire life compared to my time here in Australia.
At the same time, I’ve never felt that I was in danger while here in Australia. Not once. Sure, one time in Melbourne a man in a dark alleyway started following my partner one night when he went out to get us ice cream.
“Hey, I like your jacket,” the man said. He started after my partner.
“Thanks, bro,” my partner responded as he picked up his pace. That jacket was (and still is) his most prized possession, an op-shop find from a crowded market tucked behind the main street in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
And if there’s anything to say about Australian style, it’s that the more impossible it is for someone to replicate your outfit, the cooler you are.
So that jacket has been his most valuable item in his wardrobe since it entered his life that fateful day in Thailand a couple years ago.
“I think I’ll take that jacket!” The man picked up his pace and then began muttering to himself “that jacket, that jacket” until my partner turned the corner and walked back onto the main street, never to see the man again.
Australia is so safe that people leave their wallets on their dashboards in their UNLOCKED CARS. Maybe it’s just the Sunshine Coast, but this place is like safe safe.
This place is so void of corruption that even the snakes and spiders are like, “oh, my bad, let me scoot out of the way here.”
And there are virtually no predators in Australia. So there are no bears, mountain lions, or other large animals to look out for when out in the “wild”.
That being said.
THAT BEING SAID.
There certainly are more snakes and spiders here in Australia than you will ever see in the places where I’ve spent time in the US.
The other day, I told my partner that I felt more like I cohabitate with spiders than I see lots of spiders.
I’ve had spiders as big as my hand jump from the wall to the shelf with a cloth hanging over it, bringing the cloth down to the ground because the spider was so heavy. Its abdomen was larger than a large grape.
I’ve had spiders breeding in every cupboard, corner, and any other space that goes undisturbed for a total of 24 hours. I’ve seen the life cycle of spiders so frequently and in close quarters that I know what the spider’s habits are after it lays its eggs.
I’ve even seen a mother spider accidentally abandon its sack of eggs because it was eaten by a much larger spider that was lurking behind the window covering just beside it.
I’ve seen three large spiders almost every night since living in this house because unbeknownst to me, they were also (and already) living in my bedroom.
I’ve seen spiders on most of my plants and spiders suspended between my plants.
I’ve seen a spider colony grow so large that we abandoned an entire cupboard for one whole year because we couldn’t bring ourselves to clean out the smelly carcasses of all of the dead bugs they killed along the way.
Like, I live with spiders. I am a spider. I am accepted into the spider community.
And that’s just in and around my house.
When we go camping, a fun game I like to play at night is “find the spiders”. Apparently, if you shine your light on the ground, spider eyes will reflect the light. You can imagine the shock when I saw the forest floor glittering back up at me when I first gave it a try.
At first, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe that the entire ground was covered in spiders. That I was surrounded by spiders.
I got down on the ground and followed the light straight to one of the larger shiny reflective spots until I saw a little spider staring straight back at me.
And don’t even get me started on scorpions.
If you hold a black light over the forest floor, then you’ll see scorpions scurrying away, just out of reach of your peace of mind.
I remember my Australian friend Beau, one of my first Australian friends who I met while backpacking through Costa Rica, commented on how I left my shoes outside while we were staying in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
She said that she would never leave her shoes outside like that at home. A spider might get into them, or worse, a scorpion.
She also commented on how I naively splashed into the ocean rather than cautiously drag my feet in the sand to gently alert any critters that might be there.
And since living in Australia, I can now understand why she said that. Sting rays, sea snakes, and jellyfish are the true rulers of the beaches and only graciously let us in for an occasional dip when the weather on land is nice.
And not to mention that there have been MULTIPLE shark attacks on the East Coast of Australia (where I live) every YEAR since I’ve lived here.
Just the other day, we were driving in Noosa, that luxury vacation spot I mentioned in my last post, when, I kid you not, a 12 foot redbellied black snake slithered across a two lane road and had no problem reaching either side AT THE SAME TIME. We stopped to let it pass and that’s when my partner told me that it was extremely venomous.
Last week, we walked through a forested neighborhood trail in the same area, where we ran into TWO more redbellied snakes that were about a third of the size of the first one we saw only weeks earlier.
As poisonous as they are, I had already passed by so many snakes at that point that my heart only raced a little when I saw them. At least I didn’t scream out like I did the first time I ran into a snake (python) unexpectedly while doing laundry.
We regularly see sea snakes (also very poisonous) along the beach, tree snakes climbing through our garden, and just recently, in Canarvon Gorge, an eastern brown snake popped its head up from a waist-high crevasse it was sleeping in as I waltzed right past it in a narrow gorge, unwittingly.
It’s not all scary bad stuff, though. And as my partner would remind me, none of them are “bad”. Just misunderstood.
We also have the absolute pleasure of finding green tree frogs tucked away in little hiding places, especially in the small space between the car door and frame.
One time, as we were cleaning out the van for a camp trip, I noticed a frog on the side of the back door. I laughed and called my partner over to show him, only to find 5 frogs in total hiding in there.
And literally, as I’m typing this, a blue tongue lizard just crawled out from underneath the couch I’m sitting on to the cabinets just in front of me.
In fact, I’ve gotten so friendly with blue tongue lizards that I was absolutely heartbroken when one hissed at me with a surprisingly large outstretched blue tongue. I had startled him, apparently, and he momentarily forgot about all of the quiet strolls he and his family have taken through my home in recent years. He forgot that I was like family to him.
I’m telling you, I live with the outside things.
And I honestly think that’s why Australia, in general, has a much greater consideration for the environment. They are still living with it and feel the effects of its damages.
But is it dangerous? Sure, in a wrong-place-wrong-time kinda way. But I have to admit that I’ve been much more worried about bears and mountain lions and deranged people in the US than I have ever been worried about anything here. And I don’t actually worry about those things all that much in the US, either.
So, yeah the spider/snake/outside things situation is certainly a fun and surprising factor in Australia. But like most things you hear about without experiencing it for yourself, it’s not as bad as they say.