Australia

Close Encounters of the Cassowary Kind

Courtney Moscardi is a student at Boston University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Wellington, New Zealand.

As I speed walk back to the car, I think about the situation that just unfolded. One minute, my friend and I are strolling down a clearly laid out path through the Daintree Rainforest, the next we are being chased down that same path by an angry bird probably weighing more than I do.

The Cassowary is a bird found in the Daintree Rainforest, slightly resembling a combination of an ostrich and the bird from the Pixar movie Up. As I was later informed, tourists visiting the rainforest seldom see Cassowaries. However, my friend and I were lucky enough (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) to encounter not one but two in the wild. Found exclusively in the northern part of Australia and in Papua, New Guinea, Cassowaries are considered to be one of the world’s most deadly birds.

A picture of the Cassowaries we encountered

A picture of the Cassowaries we encountered

On a trip to Carins, Australia my friend and I decide to visit the amazing Daintree Rainforest. After a day at the Cape Tribulation beach, we decide to take a quick walk down one of the rainforest paths. Towards the end of our walk we see two birds standing in the distance. Being the adventurous, thrill seeking and painfully naïve young adults that we are, my friend and I decide to stealthily snap a few pictures and some video footage of these birds. However, this turned out to be the wrong choice, and quite literally would end up biting us in the butt.

After we finished our impromptu photo shoot, we walked away from the birds. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the birds following us. In that moment my fight or flight instinct kicked in. As a born and bred city girl, I naturally chose flight.

Once again, wrong choice.

The Cassowary starts running after us. At this point, my friend commands me to stop running. As the bird is gaining on us, we turn around and face it. While I am in panic mode, my friend knows what to do and kicks out her leg at the last second and screams, “stop!”

The Cassowary stopped in its tracks and slowly backed away. This is because my friend’s action made us seem like a threat and intimidated the bird enough to make it retreat. Evidently, her time in wilderness preparedness class as a child proved much more helpful than my childhood ballroom dancing classes, but I digress.

I am not sharing this story to deter anyone from studying abroad or venturing out into the wilderness. Quite the opposite. As cliché as it sounds, the amazing and unreal experiences, stories, and memories you make abroad are something money cannot buy. Studying abroad allows you to create completely unique experiences. It provides an unfamiliar environment and allows you to explore it in the most unrestricted way possible. Not every experience is going to be extreme or life changing, but each experience is important nonetheless.

If my friend and I never decided to study abroad, fly to Cairns, Australia, drive to the Daintree Rainforest, and wander down the path to the Cassowaries, the experience would have never existed. I would not have had this insanely amazing encounter with an animal that most people do not get to see or even know exists. Despite the acute danger, my encounter with the Cassowaries was an extraordinary experience to say the least. It is a truly memorable part of my greater study abroad adventure.

The world awaits…discover it.

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