I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published November 25th 2018
Watch out for Giant Water Spiders
It was my third attempt to go on a bushwalking trip to Northbrook Gorge via Eagles' Nest. I had to cancel the previous two attempts for unexpected reasons, but deep down I think it was because I thought the walk/swim would be very hard and I wondered if I was up to it.
We were a big group of twenty, so the car shuffle was fairly complicated. We left enough cars at the end of the walk at hairpin bend to take us back to Samford. We started the walk from Lawton Road and walked down the forestry road to the turnoff to Eagles Nest, where we had morning tea with lovely views.
Once we hit the gorge we rock hopped down the creek to the first deep swimming hole. We had all waterproofed our packs. Luckily someone warned me to take off my sunglasses as after I jumped in the deep water, I went deep underwater and would have lost them otherwise. I have heard of people losing their glasses and also someone once lost their underwater camera after jumping in this spot.
Most of the group just jumped in boots and all, although a few people had brought sandals. The water was refreshing and there were only short swims to negotiate across to the other side of the creek.
I had taken my camera because I wanted to get some photos, but it wasn't a waterproof one, so I kept it in a waterproof bag in my daypack. This meant I missed out on some interesting photos. There was a huge female spider sitting on her egg sac on the side of the rock in the gorge we were swimming through.
We swam though about five parts of the gorge and had lunch on a nice beach area of the creek. One woman didn't realise she was sitting right beside a large male spider on the rock behind her.
We didn't see any other people on the creek, even though a lot of people do go in from the other end. After a short climb out of the creek, we got to our cars parked near the road and changed into dry clothes, before heading back to Samford for coffee. One man found a fat leech on the back of his neck.
I posted my photo of the male spider on an Australian Spider Identification website. A few people responded saying it was a Banded Garden Spider, a Net Casting Spider, a Stipidion Spp (cave spider) and a Giant Water Spider. The experts finally decided it was a Giant Water Spider (Megadolomedes). One of the experts pointed out the male spider's web platform in my photo, which I hadn't seen. You need to zoom in to see it. The spider builds it under the rock overhand so it can hide from predators.
I read these spiders are the largest hunter spiders found near water. The tips of their legs are highly flexible. They are coloured grey to fawn brown with highly variable patterns, either long medium band or generally mottled. I've seen some pretty big spiders, tarantulas in Tasmania and Wolf spiders in NSW but these were the biggest spiders I've seen.
The Giant Water spiders can run on water and they hunt small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects. They can also stay underwater for long periods by trapping air on their body and leg hair. They live along the water's edge in creeks, rivers and lakes.
The female carries her egg sac underneath her body, holding it in place with her jaws.
I think you do need to go on this walk with someone who has done it before. There are a few tricky turn-offs, which could be easily missed.