I could see the headline now: “Blogging Backpacker Loses Head in Freak Croc Tour Accident”. I would hate this headline for two reasons: 1) I don’t consider myself a “backpacker”, although I do have a backpack and 2) I’m quite fine with my head where it is. These are the thoughts that were afflicting my mind as me, J, and a few friends pulled in to the Spectacular Jumping Crocs tour. Before coming to Darwin, I’d heard and read so much about the various crocodile excursions and, although I knew I’d have a mild to severe panic attack once I saw the beasts, I was sure that it was something I couldn’t miss out on; I couldn’t have been more correct.
60 kilometers east of Darwin, near the hilariously named town of Humpty Doo, “backpackers” and travelers of any age can experience a once in a lifetime cruise down the Adelaide River with the much more appropriately named Spectacular Jumping Crocs tour company. It’s a small, independent agency run by the only all-women crew in the area- and trust me, they are each badasses in their own individual ways. Upon arrival, our pre-trip activities included complimentary tea and coffee drinking and python holding with the fearless Martina. Anyone who knows me knows that there was absolutely no chance of me holding that snake, but J seemed to have enjoyed it.
The company offers two different tours, one on a small and terrifyingly low-to-the-croc-infested-water boats and one one a double-decker. Along with 20 or so other tourists, we hopped on board the larger boat and began our hour-long sunshine cruise. Shalee, the “captain” of the vessel, if you will, jumped on the mic and almost immediately informed us that we were in for a real treat: one of the more gargantuan dinosaurs was already trailing us. Most groups never get the chance to see him – we will call him “Legolas” – but he would be the opening act to our show. Jackie, a tiny girl who would prove to be a force the crocs wouldn’t even reckon with, would switch between the left and the right side of the boat, dangling a chunk of raw meat on a stick in attempt to bade Legolas to give us a performance. This was in no way coerced or a form of teasing, Shalee educated us. Crocodiles are apparently one of the laziest creatures on Earth and it’s in the best interest of their health and BMI to have to burn some energy in the quest for their prize.
Until this time, my knowledge of crocs consisted of vague Steve Irwin bits and the tic-tock croc from Peter Pan. I knew they’d be big, especially since these were of the saltwater (estuarine) variety, a.k.a. many times the size of freshies. I did not however, anticipate an animal that could give a Velociraptor a run for its money in the “holy crap you are terrifying” category. Side note: obviously a T-Rex is more scary than a Velociraptor, but I just saw Jurassic World. Legolas was more than 4.5 meters long, with a razor-spiked tail and truly yellow eyes. After performing two multi-foot jumps on either side of the boat- to ensure that everyone got a good look, of course- Jackie reward him with the meat. Then, he buggered off to go do more important things, like sunbathe.
We were able to see and feed a few more crocs, including a much smaller but still massive female. Shalee then casually informed us that it isn’t uncommon for female crocs to lose a leg or three in the mating process. Clearly, male crocs take S&M to a new level. Throughout the trip, I learned many interesting and shocking facts thanks to Shalee and her wealth of knowledge. For example, one croc, Stumpy (named after the fact that he’d lost a leg to another croc), had not eaten in a year, as his last meal was an entire cow. Turns out, crocs are not only lazy, but also incredibly gluttonous. Their cold-blooded killing machine attitude is not limited to mammals, birds, and the occasional child (joke) either: they are perfectly comfortable feasting on each other. In fact, the cheeky youngins’ in the river have a habit of casually checking in on the resident croc of the area, Hannibal, who is over 100 years old and six meters long. I equated this behavior to stepchildren of a rich geriatric wanting to make sure they stay in the will. Maybe this joke was more funny in my head.
I won’t spoil the surprises and interesting fact-learning for you in the hopes that, if you’re ever in the Darwin area, you go and check it out for yourself. I wasn’t paid to write this article. The girls gave me a free tour in exchange for sharing my honest opinion of their company, so here it is: we couldn’t have been more pleased with our experience with this awesome team. Their wealth of knowledge, cheery disposition, respect for the animals, and apparent fearlessness makes them stand out from the rest, and I highly recommend them to any one looking for a unique, exciting, and completely affordable (only $35!) crocodile experience. Just make sure that when you visit them, you don’t make the mistake of stopping at the first croc tour on the same road. It has a similar name and poaches customers from their competition just a few extra minutes down the road. This is not nice behavior, so I have no problem putting them on internet blast. Follow the signs with “SPECTACULAR” for the most….spectacular experience. Thanks again, ladies!
From left to right: Captain Shalee, J, Me, Jackie, and Martina