Sun, surf, crocs, roos: A Gold Coast adventure

By Kelly Gregor

If the waves rolling into Surfers Paradise Beach are too tame there's always crocodile feeding and adventure rides to get the adrenaline going. Photo / Tourism Queensland
If the waves rolling into Surfers Paradise Beach are too tame there's always crocodile feeding and adventure rides to get the adrenaline going. Photo / Tourism Queensland

They told me to wear sunglasses because when you're speeding across the water at 80km an hour, bugs hit your face like bullets.

That's on the surface. Who knows what lurks beneath the waves off Australia's Gold Coast: sharks, saltwater crocodiles, snakes, rocks, sandbanks? I didn't want to find out.

I was determined to stay on that jetski no matter how fast I went or how high the waves were. I went so fast that my cheeks wobbled, and when I rode a big enough wave the jetski flew in the air, only to smash down into another wave... and another. Exhilarating.

The scenery on the outskirts of Surfers Paradise was beautiful. Gone were the skyscrapers, cars and masses of people on the beaches. It was tranquil and quiet.

And just a bit scary. I'd come to the Gold Coast looking for adventure and that was what I got.

For our jetski outing we rode around in groups of four to five, each with a guide, first around the harbour, then into the estuaries and finally into open water.

Luckily I didn't see any sharks or crocodiles. But I was thinking about them.

Two days before I had held a baby salt water crocodile at the DreamWorld theme park. He didn't weigh much, felt all squishy and had his mouth taped shut - just in case - though I probably could have eaten him.

Okay, so he wasn't very frightening, but his dad Goliath is 5m long and weighs 1000kg, and his mum Matilda is 300kg.

Besides I once read that human meat tastes like chicken - or maybe it was pork. Anyway, it seems crocs love chicken. Ulp. So I wasn't taking any chances.

I hooned around on my jetski like a boy racer. I knew if I saw a shark or crocodile I'd have to outrun them. And I would have.

Maybe feeding Goliath and Matilda raw kangaroo meat two days earlier wasn't such a good idea. I should have jetskied first and then fed the swimming monsters.

I saw the power of those jaws, the rows of jagged razor-sharp teeth, how they leapt out of the water using their tails as propellers. They could have snapped me in half.

Of course the JetSki Safari guides assured me I wouldn't see any crocodiles. And I didn't.

It was the best activity I've done since I went bungy jumping attached to my younger brother because I was too scared to jump myself.

In fact there was a lot of adrenaline-fuelled adventure and excitement during my few days in the Gold Coast... and not all of it was in the theme parks.

For instance, I've discovered that I prefer kangaroos chopped up in buckets for crocodiles or sleeping under trees to when they're acting as skittish traffic-dodgers. I certainly don't like roos that bounce across the road in front of a car I'm driving at 70km/h.

When I was learning to drive my dad told me that if it ever came to me or an animal, I should never swerve, it just wasn't worth it. For 30 long seconds I thought, Skippy this isn't going to end well for you... or the car, or potentially me. I wasn't sure the rental had airbags. Luckily we both lived to tell the tale.

With my heart in my throat and hands shaking I heard an announcement on the radio warning drivers to watch out for eskies on the motorway, especially if they were full.

Ummm, what was an eskie? Some new kind of roo?

It took a text to my half-Australian boyfriend in Auckland to determine it was in fact a chilly bin and I could safely use the motorway without the risk of another kamikaze marsupial.

In fact, apart from the jaywalking Skippy, the only animals I saw were in conservation parks. And apart from Pi, an adorable Sumatran hybrid tiger cub, they were native to Australia.

Tasmanian devils are surprisingly cute and a lot smaller than I imagined. There is a massive programme under way in parks around Australia to bring breeding pairs into captivity to prevent extinction.

The devils have become endangered due to an oral cancer that is spreading from animal to animal through biting - apparently part of their mating ritual - and has already killed off about 50 per cent of the wild population.

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has a few devils. It also has thousands of lorikeets which flock daily to eat free seeds placed on display trays. They're the nice multi-coloured parrots with red beaks.

The ones to watch out for are called butcher birds. They're small with black feathers on their backs and white on their tummies, but they are bad news if you're swinging from trees near their nests, which is what I did.

The sanctuary has an obstacle course built of logs, nets, cables, tunnels and slides and connected to trees.

Walking across horizontal logs that aren't connected, and move when you step on them, is a challenge. I had successfully managed to walk across most of them and had one step left before I landed on the wooden plank at the next station and was home free.

But the butcher birds distracted me, my back leg slipped and my right arm broke my fall by smacking into the plank. The two safety cords attached to the harness pulled me slightly back so I was hanging in the air.

Two days later I had a blue/greenish bruise the size of a mango on my arm; by the time I arrived home three days later it was purple, yellow and brown. It was the most impressive bruise I've ever had. But it was worth it.

Due to my battered arm, I spent some time on the beach watching surf school students trying to get up on their boards.

In the Gold Coast the sand is fine, soft and white, none of that horrible shelly pebble stuff you get elsewhere. It's the perfect beach sand to mould into.

It seemed that every 300 metres there was another lifeguard station with a patrol car, jetski and more lifesaving equipment.

The majority of the surf clubs in Queensland have licensed restaurants. Good meals, cheap drinks and usually sport on TV. When I was there New Zealand was beating Australia in the league. Ka pai. I kept that to myself but smiled all night long. I don't even like league.

I visited one of the oldest clubs in Australia - the Northcliffe Surf Club, established in 1947 - and one that has produced its fair share of award-winning athletes.

They also have pretty good fish and chips. I have decided few things beat salty chips and mayonnaise when you're hungry.

While sitting in the surf club I contemplated all the crazy things I had done over the past four days.

I had held a snake, a baby crocodile, fed two giant crocodiles, touched a koala, a tiger cub, red kangaroos, seen dingos, turtles, wombats and Tasmanian devils.

I'd been shot into the air and dropped hundreds of meters to the floor, put in capsules that opened into waterslides, been flung and swung, pulled and tugged through the air secured only by a harness.

I had bruises, sunburn, limited amounts of sleep, I had shopped and dropped and shopped again. All in four days.

It had indeed been an adventure. And a quiet beer on the beach had never tasted so good.

CHECKLIST

Where to stay: Mantra Circle on Cavill offer self-service apartments with ocean views and easy access to Surfers Paradise.

What to do: DreamWorld, White Water World, Wet 'n Wild, Movie World, Currimbun Wildlife Santuary, Jetski Safari and WRX Experience, where you can hoon around a motorcross course.

Where to eat: Dracula's Themed Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe on Surfers Paradise and Northcliff Surf Club.

Further information: See destinationqueensland.com.

Kelly Gregor was guest of Tourism Queensland.

- NZ Herald

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