Australia / New Zealand / Oceana


Mangrove marshes in the estuarine river
provide rich nutrients for birds and fish.

The lizards of Oz, and other treats
Building on the knowledge of
Australia's Aborigines, TV's "Survivor tribes" scavenge for bush tucker.

By Toby Saltzman

If there is truth in the virtual challenge of Survivor: The Australian Outback, it should play out as the Ogakor and Kucha tribes forage for bush tucker -- the indigenous herbs, spices, mushrooms, fruits, flowers, vegetables, animals, birds, reptiles and insects of far north Queensland. Besides building safe shelter and kindling fire, the ability to find, process and eat foods scavenged in the state's diverse desert to rain-forest microclimates is the triumph of die-hard survivors in Oz, as the locals dub their land down under.

Of Survivor's quirky characters hell-bent on backbiting to the million-dollar finale, those ravenously determined to win are destined to swallow more than bug-infested figs. Those with staying power will inevitably meet the bush-tucker challenge with Aboriginal sensitivity, able to distinguish edible food from poisonous.

Survival was no game 50,000 years ago when Aboriginal tribes passed hunting and gathering acumen down from father to son. Knowing to recognize and harvest safe fruits after they had ripened past the budding toxic stage was as crucial as knowing how to find and purify water or when to avoid warm streams and mangrove marshes likely inhabited by crocodiles.

When the Aborigines snared a kangaroo, wallabee or emu with a swift boomerang, tribal didgeridoos droned victoriously through the wilderness. While the Survivor tribes aren't allowed to feast on these high-protein, low-fat animals, which are now protected in the wild though farmed for popular consumption, they are allowed to cull crocodiles, lizards, snakes, rabbits and myriad small creatures thriving in the abundant land and sea. The Aborigines' methods were primitive, but their habits were studied. Year to year, they marked proven hunting grounds with etchings on stone or wood; here a lizard, there a snake. In lean times, scattered tribes sustained each other, bartering nuts for wildlife. Without refrigeration, they learned to dry fruits and roast or grind seeds for long storage.

Survivors may recoil at the thought of chewing mangrove worms or goanna lizard (which taste like chicken) or snake (evocative of tuna), but grim reality will undoubtedly force them to be as fastidious as Aborigines in searching for bush tucker. The smartest Survivors will align the quest for safe food with the quest for "immunity."

So where do they start? First by creating worthy tools. Digging sticks from sturdy ironbark trees. Boomerangs fashioned from Plumbrush wood to stop rabbits or possums in their tracks. Spears from the spikes of grasstrees to spear fish and small animals. Strong throwing spears from the flexible branches of mulga and gum trees to pierce the tough hide of crocodiles. Ropes and nets woven from the fibrous threads of kurrajong plants to catch insects and fruit-eating bats known as flying foxes, reputedly delicious when barbecued. Various timbers to sustain fires: dense woods that retain heat for cooking whole animals; lighter woods that become ash for cooking grubs, moths, fruits and vegetables. Freshly shaven twigs to spear foods over fire. And coolamons, or wooden dishes, scooped from the soft trunks of bean trees.

Where do they search? Everywhere. At the river's edge, witjuti grubs crawl among the roots of trees. An indigenous staple for millennia, these giant white larvae, which taste like peanut chicken when roasted over flames or sautéed in macadamia nut oil, are a good source of calcium and iron. In shallow rivers, crocodiles snoozing in sunshine may be tricky targets, but they provide protein-rich steaks, not to mention bags and boots. The estuarine waters at the mangrove's edge are fertile breeding grounds for shrimp, bugs, varied marine life and birds that feed on them: magpies, geese and yolla or mutton bird.

Should the Survivors venture to where the rain forest meets the reef, they will find yabbies (tiny freshwater crayfish), saltwater crayfish, mud crabs and possibly coral trout, clams and oysters. Farther out at sea, the prize is barramundi. This big tropical fish, which begins life as a male and matures into a female, is a delicacy of dense white flesh.

Inland, the Outback abounds with bush tucker. The flourishing macadamia produces versatile, nutritious nuts, edible raw or ground to flour. The green bungwall fern, distinguished by metre-long fronds, has a tuberous root that can be roasted, ground to flour and baked into "Johnny cakes."

Savvy Survivors will peel the irritable fuzz of sandpaper figs before eating, and search out anti-scurvy fruits high in Vitamin C: green Kakadu plums (reputedly nature's highest fruit source of Vitamin C), purple clustered Illawarra plums and shiny quandongs. Also called Australia's native peach, quandongs are valued for their kernel oil as a salve for itchy scalps. Salad lovers who gravitate to spinach-like warrigal greens (as Captain Cook did in 1770) better blanch the leaves first to remove toxic oxalates. Bush cashews, peanuts, and chestnut-like bunya-bunya nuts, found in the female cones of prickly leafed trees, also need boiling.

However, the challenge unfolds along the treacherous terrain flanking far north Queensland's Herbert River, Survivor's culinary winner will have shown bush-tucker finesse. He or she will have turned lemon aspen into tangy marinades for fish and seafood, bush tomatoes and tart riberries into tasty chutneys, mounds of ground nuts and seeds into damper (bread baked in hot ashes), hordes of wattleseed into flavourful drinks and desserts. And thrown plenty of shrimp on the barbie.

Learn the intricacies of surviving on bush tucker.
Check out the Oz Website:
Australia Tourist Commission: 1-800-DOWN UNDER

Toby Saltzman is an award-winning travel writer and photographer.
She is publisher and editor of




Register Free at      Back to HOME PAGE

Copyright © 2000 travelterrific inc. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement


Home Links Contact About
Official kelly men hermes replica outlet prada-bags-2015-summer Wallet belt chloe replica store best Red bottoms outlet store sneakers women the best Fake-celine-bags-mini-luggage-tote-outlet-store yves-saint-laurent-pas-cher-cheap Fake-bags-phantom-celine-replica-outlet Outlet-online-2015-yves-saint-laurent-women-handbags Sneakers pumps authentic outlet online red bottoms Handbags belt shop replica sale hermes christian-louboutin-replica-6-shooter-gun cheap-yves-saint-laurent-men yves-saint-laurent-borse-replica Cheap women sneakers outlet replica christian louboutin Handbags wallet celine cheap replica online fake-yves-saint-laurent-bags Heels-women-fake-replica-store-christian-louboutin celine cheap sale Celine-best-handbags-sunglasses-replica-store celine handbags sale Christian-louboutin-replica-online-best-sneakers-boots bolsos louis vuitton outlet hermes-birkin-bag-authentic-with-layaway
red-bottoms-outlet-view-x-ray chloe outlet Christian louboutin outlet online men sandals authentic Prada bags men outlet online official Replica sale hermes kelly handbags the best Outlet-replica-wholesale-yves-saint-laurent-women-belt Bags-handbags-price-celine-replica-online-the-best Wholesale-replica-store-celine-bags-sunglasses Sneakers-men-2015-red-bottoms-replica-store celine outlet hermes-birkin-bag-35-ghost-whi buy-chloe-wallets Saint Laurent Handbags outlet Prada cheap outlet store bags belt christian louboutin replica Outlet replica prada purse women 2015 authentic-replica-2015-prada-shoes Fake hermes men wallet replica sale Women satchel yves saint laurent outlet online official Bags-mini-replica-outlet-cheap-celine yves-saint-laurent-crossbody-purses-replica Hermes outlet sale men bags the best