Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am not a spider lover. In fact, I have a bit of arachnophobia. Well, I’ve had to get over that fear since there is an abundance of spiders in Papua New Guinea. Each is quite unique and extraordinary. I experienced these spiders very early on. One of my first nights in Madang, I was walking to my room after most had already gone to sleep until I noticed on a wall next to me a spider literally the size of a dinner plate. Big, brown, furry, and following me. I hoped to just run past it quickly, but every time I moved, it moved. So we did this silly little dance down the sidewalk for a couple minutes until it finally climbed down the wall, crossed my path, and ran off into the night. You can guess I didn’t sleep much that night! I’ve noticed the spiders in the highlands seem to be much smaller, but no less interesting.
There are also plenty of bats in Papua New Guinea and one incredible species, the flying fox, can be found in Madang. They are very large and received their name from their fox-shaped heads. As they fly past in the night, their wings almost sound like knocking at the door.
In the village, we spent plenty of time in the ocean. I got to swim with many different kinds of fish, urchins, and starfish. My favorite was this giant blue starfish that I could find almost anywhere I swam. I loved diving down, picking up the starfish, and watching it very slowly move in my hands.
One animal I only saw once, though, was this long black and white sea snake. One day while we were swimming in the ocean I saw this beautiful and graceful snake swimming in the water. It floated out from a rock, turned, and seemed to stare at me. I wanted to stay and watch it, but I had scraped my leg on some coral. So instead of staying, I swam back to shore and sat by the fire with my village brothers and sisters. When I told them about the snake, they became very worried for me. They told me, “If it had bitten you, you would’ve died. We’re very scared of that snake.” Now whether that is true or not, I can’t say, but it sure makes for a good story!
I’m looking forward to more discoveries in the future! Animals still on my sighting check list are: sugar gliders and Birds of paradise.