Australia’s Kakadu National Park floods trap tourists after they ignore closed road signs

What is it with German tourists and Australia’s Northern Territory? If they’re not getting eaten by crocodiles or succumbing to dehydration, they’re blatantly ignoring road signs and driving their way into croc-infested floodwaters. NT News online reports that four wayward Germans visiting remote Kakadu National Park drove their rented four-wheel-drive–allegedly at 80mph, no less–through the flooded crossing at Magela Creek and Oenpelli Road. The group were en route to see the famed Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, in the East Alligator region of the park.

The car stalled out, leaving the foursome stranded in three feet of water, smack-dab in the middle of a 300-foot crossing. Despite their apparent inability to heed large, glaring warning signs and screams from more intelligent roadside onlookers, the Germans possessed enough survival instinct to clamber to the top of their vehicle, where they were rescued by police 30 minutes later.

Look, I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia, including Kakadu. I’ll be the first to point out that the international media and popular film and literature make the country out to be some kind of fauna-invoked death wish. If the great whites and saltwater crocs don’t get you, the box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopi, brown snakes, taipans, or redback and funnel web spiders will.

I’m not disputing the deadliness of these creatures. And I can’t deny that certain situations like the current floods in Queensland make an encounter more likely. The advice to avoid “crocky” areas of tropical Northern Australia is no joke, and should be taken very seriously. In general, however, it’s easy to avoid crocs and the rest of these much-maligned critters; your odds of ever seeing one (even if you’re Australian) are unlikely. It’s a huge continent, guys, and like most venomous or aggressive species, most of these animals won’t attack unless provoked.

When I visited stunning Kakadu (with a seasoned outfitter from the region, because there’s no shortage of untrained, self-proclaimed, even downright dangerous guides in the world), it was this same time of year; the “Wet,” or monsoon season. It’s low season for tourists because many roads are flooded, and as such, that does make for greater statistical odds for a croc encounter. But more to the point, why would you intentionally disobey safety precautions, especially when you’re in a foreign environment/they’re prominently displayed/designed for easy comprehension by international visitors?

The bottom line is, whether you choose to explore isolated places alone or with an environmentally-responsible, accredited professional, use your brain. Obey the rules, because they exist for a reason. Behave with respect for the land, flora, fauna, and people. Your stupidity or carelessness often cause more than just inconvenience to others. It can result in great expense and lost lives, including those of your rescuers. If nothing else, you’ll become fodder for global news outlets, who use you as an example of what not to do.

Ten very dangerous animal encounters

Writer Richard Conniff has made a career out of doing dumb things with animals. He’s even gone so far as to write a book about it that is not only humorous but also quite informative. He has taken this extensive knowledge and created a list of his top 10 most dangerous animal encounters for the Times Online, in which he gives the harrowing details of own adventures with wildlife.

The intrepid author has circled the globe to visit some very remote locations, which has allowed him to get up close and personal with plenty of exotic wildlife. For instance, he not only has gone swimming with piranhas, but has also had encounters with the infamous candiru, a tiny catfish that is known for swimming up inside its victims, including humans taking a dip in the Amazon.

Fish aren’t the only creatures that make the list however, as he also gives the lowdown on several insects, including the bullet ant (so named because its bite feels like you’ve been shot) and the tarantula wasps, which actually prey on the large spiders most of us fear. Conniff also shares his experiences tracking wild dogs in Botswana and driving through a raging storm in Peru with a deadly coral snake in the glove compartment.

Reading the article will make you laugh and cringe, sometimes at the same time. It is a nice guide for what not to do while traveling through remote regions filled with dangerous wildlife. If you like the article, I definitely recommend picking up Conniff’s book, which is filled cover to cover with similar stories.