Australia has a worldwide reputation for our terrifying creatures and unforgiving landscape. While we like to think we’re braver and more resilient than anyone, there are plenty of dangers lurking in our big backyard we really should look out for.
That includes some hidden pitfalls in some of our favourite holiday spots.
As closed international borders mean Australians are heading off on domestic holidays with an enthusiasm we’ve never seen before, experts are warning holiday-makers to be aware of the risks.
According to communication technology company GME, there are 2000 people each year who have to be rescued by local emergency services, with many of those incidents occurring in holiday hot spots.
GME has compiled some of the more surprising spots that are considered danger zones, where tragedies have occurred or been recently averted – and what you need to look out for.
Now that Western Australia has softened its notoriously hard border, many of us are planning trips to experience that spectacular west coast.
WA is famous for its beautiful surf beaches but that beauty comes at a risk. While drowning rates fell by 8 per cent in the rest of Australia last year, drownings in WA rose by 14 per cent in the same period, according to the National Drowning Report 2020.
The report found with 57 per cent of drownings in the state happened outside the Perth metropolitan area, and that people were 3.8 times more likely to drown in the state’s regional beaches.
Two fishermen were dramatically rescued when their boat was battered by a massive wave and sank near Carnac Island, southwest of Fremantle, in April 2020.
As they clung to pieces of the sinking vessel, the men used their radio beacon to call for help, with Fremantle Water Police staging a dramatic helicopter rescue to bring them to safety.
NSW’S BLUE MOUNTAINS
It’s one of the top tourist destinations for visitors to Sydney, but the Blue Mountains is frequently a spot for hikers running into trouble.
Around 130 bushwalkers get lost and require rescuing in the Blue Mountains each year, according to NSW National Parks. And while most are found within 24 hours, the rugged national park – which covers more than a quarter of a million hectares – has often been a place of tragedy.
Authorities recommend those wishing to explore the Blue Mountains to take adequate supplies of food, water, navigation and first aid equipment; register their planned route and let friends and family know; use emergency beacons and stick to their planned route and walking tracks.
Earlier in March, authorities launched a large-scale operation to rescue two hikers who became stuck inside a canyon overnight at Mount Tomah, about 50km from Katoomba.
Police and ambulance rescue crews abseiled into the canyon to rescue the man, 41, and woman, 33, who were suffering minor injuries in “very cold conditions”.
THE TOP END
It’s one of the most special places in Australia – a vast and wondrous region, about 245,000sq km, and a must-see spot for Australian travellers and international foreign visitors alike.
But the Top End can be a treacherous place for those who aren’t prepared.
Top End’s official travel and information centre urges visitors to pack appropriate supplies if they’re on a walking track and to be aware of crocodiles if swimming in waterways.
According to the Top End Travel and Information Centre, all fatal crocodile attacks in the Northern Territory have occurred in waters outside designated swimming areas.
It urges tourists to swim only in areas with a sign designating it safe for swimming, as crocodiles are common throughout the region.
Sketchy network coverage in parts of the Top End can also be an added hazard should visitors run into trouble.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
From the glorious beaches to the world-famous reef, the Great Barrier Reef is another of our top tourism destinations but the area records about 300 maritime incidents each year, requiring the assistance of about 1460 volunteers from the Maritime Safety Queensland.
Many of those incidents occur in the tourist hot spots of Cairns, Mackay and Townsville.
In 2018, a boatie was left to float for hours in the water after his boat struck a whale and sank off Fraser Island.
The 42-year-old man made a distress call to authorities about 3am as his 8m boat began to sink, and he was brought to safety following a massive rescue involving Queensland Water Police and Volunteer Marine Rescue.
In a similar incident near Great Palm Island last year, a man was lucky to survive when a 6m boat carrying four people struck a whale, causing it to “spin around off course” and one of the passengers to be thrown overboard.
The man was reported to have suffered a broken arm and some internal bleeding but all passengers survived.
Sydney’s coastline is a mecca for locals and tourists from right around the world, and the city’s beaches draw about 10 million people a year. But they can also be treacherous, especially for those who are less familiar with the surf.
The risks apply to swimmers, surfers, fishers and others enjoying the spectacular coast.
In Surf Lifesaving NSW most recent coastal safety report, which captured the 2019/20 season, there were 49 coastal and ocean drowning deaths, with 45 per cent of drownings happening at the beach. Around a third of those drownings occurred during boating, 22 per cent swimming, and 16 per cent while rock fishing.
In the 12 months to June 30, 2020, surf lifesavers and lifeguards rescued 3178 people, treated 11,954 people for injuries or medical complaints, and performed 749,255 preventive actions, according to the report.
In May last year, two fishermen had to be winched to safety when their fishing boat sank 12km off Curl Curl beach in Sydney’s northern beaches.
Their boat’s bilge pump gave out but the pair managed to fire off an emergency beacon, and a rescue helicopter came to their aid as they clung to their sinking vessel.