Before heading north
to the very popular Cairns city I decided to make a stop at Mission Beach. Due to bad weather I thought I’d skip it but on
a last minute call I decided to go there anyway. What convinced me is because Lonely planet says it has an estimated 40 Cassowaries in the area. It makes this place have the highest population and therefore biggest change of seeing them in Australia.
A Cassowary is a awesome big dinosaur looking flightless bird. It’s a little smaller then a Ostrich and has beautiful bright colours on there neck and head as you can see from the shots I managed to take. It is one of the most iconic animals of Australia.
They have huge feet with a sharp 15cm claw on each foot. If threatened they can deliver a powerful kick in the stomach, neck or groin that can possibly kill a person. keeping distance is therefore advised.
At the hostel the staff told me about a road nearby where they are often spotted. At 6am I got up and went out looking for these cool birds. after a 10 minute walk I arrived at the road they where talking about. It didn’t take long and there he was, crossing the road about a 100 meter or so away from me. It stood still on a grassy field so I was able to get closer. When I got closer another one appeared a bit further behind him and I was able to get a shot with both of them in it. my guess is that it was a male and female.
soon they walked off in the jungle but they stayed just a couple meters away from the forest edge so I got to take some shots of them in the dark and dense forest. This makes for a far better and natural setting for taking pictures but also makes it harder because of low light and branches and trees in between me and the birds. I was able to take several pictures before the disappeared in the jungle.
After walking further along the forest egde I stopped at a certain point because I heard something. When I looked closely there was another one in the bush! and after looking even better I noticed yet another one. They showed the same behaviour and stayed in the same spot in the jungle for a while. The distance between me and them was probably 5/7 meters. Suddenly one of them decided to come even closer to the forest egde so I backed off a little bit. The photographer in me always want to get closer to get the shot but within limits. Just on the egde it went and laid down so my thought was that it was comfortable with me being there taking pictures om him. But then… It got up and walked out of the jungle towards me.
The special moment I had with these animals suddenly turned in to a sticky situation. I slowly backed up but it kept walking to me. Let me tell you, having a bird that is the same size as you staring at you and walking towards you knowing that they can give a lethal blow gives off a pretty scary vibe. It’s hard to tell with these birds if they are just curious or if they feel threatened. Maybe I’m just over exaggerating but I didn’t want to take any risk to find out so I acted like it was up to no good.
It is advised that if one approaches you, you should slowly back off and try to get something solid like a tree in between the two of you. There weren’t any though so I used my tripod with it’s legs out to defend myself from a possible strike. at this point it was me walking backwards with my tripod in front of me and him just 1 meter further walking to me.
It got confused by the tripod and it suddenly ran off and a feeling of relief went through my body only to find out that when I turned around there was another, even bigger one about 10 meters away from me also coming my way. The fear came back very quickly and I was playing the same cat and mouse game all over again. I was literally shaking and my heart was pounding. I’ve come across some deadly snakes before and walked in jungles where jaguars live but they never gave me the fear that these birds gave me. jeez
I did the same thing with the tripod and also this bird got confused and stopt paying interest in me and walked away.
after that I decided I had my share of Cassowaries and I soon made my way back to the hostel.
Looking back I’m glad that I got to see them but they definitely came to close for comfort. Next time I’ll keep a greater distance. I think. I did get the cool shots sooo…