Closest crocodile encounters

There’s something quite magical about being face-to-face with a croc.

Closest crocodile encounters

There are some great croc-spotting opportunities all over the Top End, but the one that made the most lasting impression on us during our time in the tropics was on the Mary River, roughly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. One particular spot – Shady Camp in Mary River National Park where a barrage on river has fresh water one side, salt water the other – is famous for its barramundi fishing, but it's also home to the densest population per square inch of saltwater crocodiles anywhere in the country.

We were camped nearby, and after dark we set up watch with our spotlights during high tide. It was insane! Our torches picked out 30 pairs of glowing crocodile eyes in the water (we counted, but may have missed a few!). They were all waiting to haul out and cross the barrage, which is about as wide as a single-lane road, into the fresh water, right where Bill and I had spent the afternoon fishing. We spent around an hour watching them all slowly and very deliberately cross over. Some were at least four metres long, maybe more.

It was one of the most amazing wildlife moments in my life – I've never seen anything like it, even in Africa! Terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.

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You can follow Lee's road-tripping adventures at www.facebook.com/OzyRoadTripper, or order a copy of her new book, The Big Lap, at www.leeatkinson.com.au

RRP: $35





    COMMENTS

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    Adrianus
    9th May 2015
    7:00am
    I know the spot you describe. Soon after we left that area a person was taken.
    The biggest freshwater crocodiles I have seen were on Lake Argyle. They are at the top of an abundant food chain and it shows.
    pate
    9th May 2015
    10:53am
    Fancy anybody wimming there my dugher was living in Broome for 3 years and although quite a keen swimmer she was not game to get in the water there.
    Adrianus
    9th May 2015
    11:31am
    pate, it's not just swimming now that is dangerous. Tour operators have been training crocodiles to be attracted to boats for food and to leap out of the water to get it. Last year a fisherman was taken out of his boat and eaten. I have seen the boats of fisherman with teeth marks as a territorial response but this is quite different. The barramundi can stay there now as far as I'm concerned.
    pate
    9th May 2015
    11:48am
    Now anything to do with tourism is dangerous as far as I am concerned but I must admit I was quite surprised when I heard and read the reports of the crocodiles being in the sea water at Broome. I thought my daughter was joking at firsy when she told me she wouldn't be swinning while living in Broome as there is even a song about Broome - living as a hermit on the beach watching the moon go down across the ocean etc., now whenever I gear that song I mumble to myself yeah I would appreciate the moon going down over the water etc., but I'd be sitting there with my shotgun by my side. lol
    Adrianus
    9th May 2015
    12:23pm
    There is a reason they're called Saltwater Crocodiles. I was camping at Middle Lagoon (your daughter would know the area, it's just north of Broome) when I saw an interesting sign on the notice board.
    "Attention all campers. A very large Crocodile has been spotted by several campers at the mouth of the creek. If you see it while you're swimming please report it to the office." signed The Management. I've seen people swimming in full view and meters from a croc trap. The local aborigines are very good at clearing any crocs just before the tourist season opens but :) The way I look at it is why go in the water if you don't need to?
    Adrianus
    10th May 2015
    6:07am
    We had to read the sign twice before fully appreciating the logic due to the consumption of a couple of wines . As one of us said "what happens if we don't see it?" I responded "He can report his bloody self!"
    RosePerth
    9th May 2015
    5:48pm
    It sounds similar to a trip that we went on when in Darwin about 10 years ago. It was a trip down the Mary River with two guides to a sand island for a campfire and damper and billy tea. There were only 2 young guys from Sydney on the trip with us apart from the guides (and I think I knew why when we got back lol). The "island" was surrounded by a small fence that wouldn't keep a 3 year old toddler in and as we sat there in the dark, the glowing eyes were everywhere. When it came to getting back on the boat I've never moved so fast (and I made sure I wasn't first or last one on the plank!). We still laugh about it but I certainly wouldn't do it again!
    Adrianus
    10th May 2015
    6:10am
    You rarely hear about the close calls. :)
    Penqueen1949
    9th May 2015
    7:15pm
    I have crossed the Mary River causeway on my way to Kakadu with my son and his family. We did not stop nor would I camp anywhere where there are crocs. Fighting males make the scariest sound at night.....


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