Murray River Dragons

As the final tale of my trip to the Murray River, this story is about another regular inhabitant of the region, the Goanna (Lace Monitor). Now Goannas are found pretty much anywhere along the east coast of Australia, so there’s nothing all that special about them, and you frequently come across them in the High Country. However, every time that I’ve seen one in the High Country and tried to take some photographs, they rush up a tree and move to the opposite side. And if you go around, the Goanna keeps moving as well, always out of sight. So it’s been pretty rare for me to find one in full view in the wild as I did on this trip, and several times to boot.

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

So it was with some surprise that I came across a Goanna that wasn’t immediately frightened and making a fast getaway, though I didn’t get many photos before the Goanna disappeared into the scrub where it was quickly lost. As you can see from the photograph, Goannas can blend in pretty well with the gum trees, sometimes making subject and background separation quite difficult. The Goannas that I’ve seen in the High Country have often been much darker in colour, some almost black. And as we travelled along and pulled up into camp each day, invariably we’d find another Goanna not too far away. Pure coincidence or what?

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

On one such occasion, I went for a walk to see what was about and came across an abandoned fishing hut (or that’s what I think it was). While looking about and finding the myriad wasp nests hanging from the roof somewhat interesting, I heard what sounded like branches or bark falling from a gum tree, nothing unusual about that. But when the sounds kept on going, I decided to investigate and, coming around the hut, discovered a Goanna climbing a nearby gum tree. Once again, it didn’t scarper away, but remained still while I took a few photographs and this one stood apart from the tree much clearer than the preceding one. Goannas are excellent tree climbers and little wonder when you look at their claws.

Abandoned Fishing Hut - Murray River South Australia

Abandoned Fishing Hut – Murray River South Australia

Wasp's Nest - Murray River South Australia

Wasp’s Nest – Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Mind you all of this pales into insignificance compared to another encounter. The largest Goanna on this trip (between 1.5 and 2 metres long) came wandering to where we were moored one afternoon and gave me the best experience ever at taking close up photographs of a Goanna in the wild. It wandered about the shore and came right up to the houseboat and wasn’t the least bit concerned about the newly arrived visitors. This Goanna was obviously very used to visitors, this being a oft visited spot, and clearly was hoping to find some food. Indeed, when one of our group tossed it a small carp, it lunged so quickly and swallowed the carp so fast, that I completely missed the shot. It wandered about for quite some time before finally returning to the scrub, giving me plenty of opportunities.

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Goanna -Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

As the Goanna wandered off and climbed a nearby tree, giving us one last glowering stare, we though that would be the end of it. However, not that long afterwards, I was alerted that the Goanna was back and back was an understatement. Clearly not satisfied that every avenue of food had been investigated, the Goanna quite casually decided to come aboard and do a more thorough search. It wandered about for several minutes before coming to the conclusion that there was nothing to be found on this vessel and left with a clear air of disgust.

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) - Murray River South Australia

Dragons (Goannas) – Murray River South Australia

I have to say that the experience with the ‘friendly’ Goanna was one of the highlights of our houseboat cruise, something that you most certainly don’t see every day or, for some, never. Had we been able to stay longer and travel further, I’m sure that we would have encountered more Murray River Dragons along the way, and who knows what else. In a rather dry and desolate looking landscape, it’s always surprising to see what you can find.