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Home Tourist Attraction Calls for change at Aussie tourist spot after another dies at waterfall

Calls for change at Aussie tourist spot after another dies at waterfall

by Staff

Signs warning visitors about the danger of swimming at popular and picturesque swimming holes around Cairns have been brought into question following the death of an overseas tourist at a waterfall on Sunday.

It’s understood the 20-year-old man from Japan jumped off a ledge at the Crystal Cascades waterfall — a secluded, freshwater swimming spot west of Cairns in Far North Queensland— and failed to resurface while visiting a friend on Sunday. Tragically, police divers located the man’s body at about 6pm on Monday.

At the time, the tourist is believed to have been swimming at the top set of waterfalls which are marked as a no-swim zone — a repeated and dangerous behaviour that’s frustrating local councillors.

Left: A man sitting on rock at Crystal Cascades waterfall. Right: Woman facing Crystal Cascades waterfall in black swimmers.

Crystal Cascades, west of Cairns, is a popular swimming spot among locals and tourists. Source: Instagram

The man’s death isn’t the first at Crystal Cascades waterfall, which is popular among locals and travellers. In 2014, an 18-year-old man drowned after failing to resurface after slipping over the edge of the waterfall. And in April, 2023 a 21-year-old man and a 59-year-old man were declared dead after they were found unresponsive in water near the falls.

Cairns councillor Brett Moller told Yahoo News Australia “something must be done” about people visiting the area disobeying signage, and ignoring warnings about the deadly risks associated with swimming where swimming is not allowed.

‘Inherent dangers’ at top Aussie spots

Recent heavy rain and flooding in the area, including the aftermath of Cyclone Japser, have contributed to tougher swimming conditions at Crystal Cascades making visiting more dangerous. Something Moller says visitors don’t often understand — despite the council’s attempt to get the message across.

“Heavy rain pushed up the level of the water and of course, in the upper reaches of these creeks and rivers, we have fast-flowing currents, we have granite rocks, we have waterfalls, we have undercurrents,” he explained.

“So while they are pristine and beautiful natural environments, they have inherent dangers, particularly with the flooding waters. We’ve got to get that message out to visitors that might be coming and enjoying those particular swimming spots.”

Signs in certain areas of the waterhole warn visitors not to swim. Source: InstagramvvSigns in certain areas of the waterhole warn visitors not to swim. Source: Instagramvv

Signs in certain areas of the waterhole warn visitors not to swim. Source: Instagram

‘Extensive safety audit’ to be carried out at popular swimming holes

Council is looking to roll out the safety audit across all natural swimming holes, such as Crystal Cascades and Josephine Falls with hopes it will put an end to visitors overlooking warning signs. It follows an “extensive safety audit” which was conducted at Babinda Boulders — another picturesque swimming hole nearby — following a total of 21 tragic deaths there to date.

“We looked at people’s behaviour, the wording of signage, and how different graphic illustrations might help to get the message of danger across,” he told Yahoo News on Tuesday, ultimately deciding to install graphic signage depicting how a person can drown.

“We believe that what we’ve instigated at the Babinda Boulders is working successfully in terms of people taking more notice of the signage, and coming to understand the dangers that particular stretch of water at the boulders holds for people.”

Babinda Boulders graphic warning signsBabinda Boulders graphic warning signs

An extensive safety audit was conducted at nearby Babinda Boulders which saw new graphic signage installed in the area. Source: Supplied/Herald Sun

Social media to blame for risky photo opportunities

Samuel Cornell, a research fellow from UNSW, told Yahoo News this is a widespread issue, not isolated to swimming holes in Cairns. Tourists are often caught disobeying warning signs at popular destinations across Australia, often for social media.

“People go to national parks in particular and disobey the rules. They ignore warning signs, they traverse barriers, they just do what they want. And I think a massive part of that is social media driven,” he explained.

When searching the hashtag “Crystal Cascades” on Instagram, thousands of posts appear showing visitors posing, surrounded by the natural landscape. Moller suspects photos shared online draw tourists to the area.

Crystal Cascade waterfalls in Cairns. Crystal Cascade waterfalls in Cairns.

A 20-year old recently died after jumping off the top of Crystal Cascades waterfall in Cairns. Source: Google Images

Tourists visiting K’gari, formally Fraser Island, have long been criticised for ignoring signs warning visitors against interacting with the native animals, which can be dangerous, rangers on the island warn. Meanwhile, lifesavers at The Pillars at Mount Martha in southeast Melbourne continue to plead with swimmers to stop jumping from the rocks after several separate incidents involving serious injuries.

Moller told Yahoo it’s now about understanding why people continue to ignore signage in areas where there’s an obvious risk.

“It’s a different approach to safety, not just putting a red letter sign up, warning danger,” he said. “But as I said, with the Boulders audit, we found some more pictorial graphics that really hit home the message of dangers and deaths that have occurred.

“We always think that there must be something we can do to further get the message across.”

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