goanna

This article ought to be a funny one. Ben just told me “Are you really going to write about that? How can you stretch it for that long?” Well, I write about things that make my day and I hope will make you smile; things that I find out of the ordinary and worth telling the tale.

We were anchored in Hill Inlet for a couple of days, the most beautiful inlet of pure white sand in Australia. As we came out with the tide starting to flow out, we were once more in awe with the color of the water at noon which is of the purest turquoise, a dreamy milky blue gleaming all around us as one huge giant swimming pool. We saw a few fish and as we approached the middle of the channel, to our amazement, a goanna was taking a bath. He was swimming in a bee line to the other side of the inlet which is about 400 meters wide. The beach he just left was packed with backpackers, and we both could understand his decision to try his luck somewhere else. Seeing him swim so eagerly was no common sight and I couldn’t believe how comfortable he looked with his head out of the water looking toward his destination, his tail and legs moving in a coordinated fashion for swimming.

However as we came close with Inara, he clearly changed his direction to come toward us for a rest. At first we thought nothing of it and continued on our way. But then we observed him a bit confused and not so sure anymore of which direction to go. He had stopped swimming and was just drifting a bit in circles. I said to Ben “Do you think he’s going to be ok? What will happen if he gets swept out with the ebbing tide? What a beautiful meal he would make for the sharks”.

We hesitated a few minutes and then, our do-gooder penchant for animal rescue (we rescued successfully an angry lorikeet hit by a car and a young magpie that was drowning in Moreton bay) took over. Ben turned the boat back to the distressed Goanna and I grab a towel and waited by the stern. Man overboard procedure training. As Ben closed up on him, he clearly came very eagerly towards us and he wasn’t afraid at all of me or the towel. I grab onto him by the arms just before he got swept under the hull and heaved it onto the back netting. He was a lot bigger than I anticipated, a little bit more than one meter long and a good five kilos. He hurried up visibly relieved under the dinghy. That was it. We had an extra passenger onboard, a wild goanna, what a strange feeling.

We decided that we clearly were not going to keep it as a pet. Well, Ben did, because me you know, I was alright to start feeding him and giving him a name. It would keep the birds of the boat and scare the jet-skiers I said. So before this happened, we motored to the other side of the inlet (Whitehaven beach) to release our rescued reptile. As we were discussing the goanna’s fate, he peeked his head out from under the dinghy and observed us with an interrogative look “Well, excuse my intrusion, are you sure you are not going to eat me? I’d like a simple ticket to the next beach, please.”

So we anchored Inara ten meters from the shore. We launched the dinghy, uncovering the poor Goanna and wondering how the hell we were supposed to bring him ashore. He was calm and didn’t looked too panicked. So Ben grabbed him by the tail (he didn’t like that part one bit) and put it in the dinghy. Mister the Goanna decided that the dinghy was an adventurous idea (no wonder when you know how is our dinghy) and he jumped overboard. Yes, but clearly he had enough of being in the water because once he realized what he had done, he wanted absolutely to come back with us on Inara or in the dinghy. We shooed him off, showing the shore just ten meters away. He finally got the drift and we watched him making his way to safety. He got a bit washed off by the tiny waves. Goannas are not very good surfers. And then he laid there, at the edge of the water, like a shipwrecked survivor gathering his forces and blessing the nice hard ground.

First the oyster catchers came straight at him in a very menacing way and then the sight of such a distressed animal attracted a crowd of opportunistic scavengers: seagulls, ready to poke his eyes out. We waited five minutes but the poor little guy didn’t seem keen to reach the safe cover of the bush. So we jumped in the dinghy, went ashore and gave him a free lift (It was my turn to hold him by the tail) to the underbrush at the edge of the beach. While I was holding him, I saw him regurgitate a few hundred milliliter of sea water. He looked a bit more awake after that and started to wiggle, hiss at me and try to pinch me. Goannas are not that grateful. I let him go once we reached the bush and he darted off apparently in full form and happy, as to say “so long suckers!”

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