My last snake encounter on the Great Ocean Walk was last year when I was walking ahead of Liz and was informed by her that I had just walked past a coiled up tiger snake on the grass beside the track. We waited a short time and it moved off. This was in mid-winter. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me. Numerous local friends have reported similarly unthreatening tiger snake encounters on this track. But it does seem that the longer the walk, the more snakes you see. A friend on a 14km run along the GOW recently saw three large snakes.
Snake sightings are so common on the GOW that news of a walk on that track without sighting a snake is an occurrence perhaps more noteworthy than a snake sighting. But I have never heard or read of anybody being bitten by a snake on this track. Seems they are not very interested in humans. So a good lookout and not rushing seems to allow time for walker and snake to see each other and get out of each other’s way without threat or incident.
These two photos were not taken by me. The photo on the left shows a tiger snake on the Great Ocean Walk. The photo on the right, taken recently by a friend during a run along the GOW, shows part of a substantial snake (one of three he encountered on a 14km run) which is either a brown or a tiger. Tiger snakes in this part of the world come in a variety of colour schemes and patterns – not all have the distinctive dark stripes. It was the report of my friend from his 14km run and snake sightings that prompted me to take a walk on the track in the heat of the day to see if I could capture a decent photo of a tiger snake in broad daylight.
These warnings are near the start of the GOW at Marengo. The sign on the right is down the track a bit warning of the dangers of big surf. There are numerous points on this walk where there is a choice between a beach and rock shelf walk, or following the cleared track on higher ground. Big swell and a high tide usually remove the first option.
There is variety in the width and surrounds of the main track on the GOW. Some parts are narrower than others, with more dense vegetation on both sides of the track. I was keeping a very good lookout on the track and its verges, and I walked quite slowly hoping to spot a snake without disturbing it so I could get a good photo using the 150-600m telephoto lens. My anticipation of a sighting was keen. All the omens were right. But I had overlooked one factor which I discovered during whale seasons past – arriving at the scene of a reported wildlife sighting or a location of common sightings, equipped with my Nikon DSLR camera, a substantial telephoto lens, a spare SD card and battery, seems to ensure that no wildlife will be seen that day. I neither saw nor heard a single snake on this entire walk. Disappointing.
False alarm. This is an evolutionary adaptation of sticks, to look like a snake so they will be left alone. It worked. I didn’t touch it. (Disclaimer: I am not a formally trained herpetologist or stick expert).
L to R: EPIRB, Spot Satellite Messenger, snake-fang-proof leather boots and wildlife-deterring Nikon SLR with telephoto lens and monopod.
As an ocean swimmer and ski paddler, I learned long ago that when you get offshore a bit the ocean is always rougher than it looks from the shore. These seas looked pretty calm from the shore with only a hint of whitecaps. But there was definitely some swell out there. This boat was having an exhilarating run to Apollo Bay.
No snake photos for my trouble on this day. But any walk on the GOW is a privilege and a pleasure.
There is a creek beside my house lined with tall eucalypts. Koalas are frequent visitors. Territorial disputes, competition for mates, courtship and mating are all equally noisy affairs. First-time witnesses to the grunting and growling sound a koala can make are always surprised at how substantial and deep and fierce it sounds.
This smallish female was chased higher and higher up a tree by a male who was snorting and growling constantly as he pursued her. Unsurprisingly, it turned out not to be a winning tactic.
Swimming in and around Apollo Bay Harbour
While swimming in the open ocean is my first choice, conditions sometimes warrant an alternative, and the harbour is a fine plan B.
As these GPS swim tracks show, doing laps up and down beside the eastern wall of the harbour (third photo) is just one option. The other two photos show swims which go out the harbour mouth then west towards the shore, then back over the harbour wall on foot where there is a pier to jump off to complete the swim via moored boats back to the boat ramp or the little beach.
Some time back I invited any of my swimming friends who felt like an afternoon swim to join me in the almost tropical conditions in the harbour. One response was scepticism and a request for photos. These are the photos I supplied.
2 thoughts on “Snake habitat; koala courtship; swimming in and around Apollo Bay harbour”
Hi John. Your comments about the frequency of snake sightings vs the infrequency of bites comes on the same day that The Age reported on fatalities from venomous creatures in Australia. Over the year recently there were 19 fatalities, 12 bee and wasp stings and 7 snake. Who overseas would believe that in this land of so many scary creatures that bees kill more people than snakes and probably sharks and crocodiles combined! I’m sure you’re right when you suggest there is nothing in it for the snake to sting you and with a little warning he will keep out of your way just as you would rather keep out of his.
And talking about overseas visitor experience I bet few have ever heard anything quite as scary as the sound of a horny male koala.
Anyway, safe walking and swimming John.
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Hi Richard, I haven’t seen the Age article. But as you said, who knew bees and wasps killed more people than snakes? I have often thought that we worry about the wrong creatures! Sharks are an obvious case in point.
The reality of koalas is very different to the way they are presented in the popular press. They are anything but smart, cuddly and cute.
I swam in the bay this afternoon on the high tide and enjoyed clean green swell groomed to perfection by a steady offshore wind.