Last updated 9 May 2021
Where to have safe close encounters with an Australian crocodile
The handler calls out, “Good boy Will, pick up.”
On command, Will’s body thrashes in the water, the large tail out of sight below the surface helps propel that 690-kilogram of crocodile flesh in a vertical thrust. One large foot claws the only solid object within reach – my Perspex chamber. I watch in awe as his gigantic jaw slowly opens giving me an insanely close view of his huge teeth. Before I could count Will’s pearly whites, the jaw ‘snaps’ shut with a ‘swooshing’ clap sound, which reminded me (weirdly) of the noise the last of the bathwater makes as it empties down the drain hole.
Will takes his reward, a tiny morsel of raw meat down into the watery depths.
Just take a look at my face in the photo below, enclosed in my ‘cage’ at the Crocosaurus Cove watching Will (and Kate) circle around me. That was one unforgettable Darwin moment!
My friend Nannette who lives in Darwin said, “Oh you have to do the Cage of Death before you head home.”
So, I did.
And what a memorable way to complete an incredible fortnight in the Top End, sitting in water being circled by not one, but TWO crocs.
This was my second visit to Darwin. I’ve shared some of my favourite experiences from my first Darwin trip in 2015 but during this visit, there were a few new experiences in Darwin worth mentioning. Getting up close and personal with a rather large saltwater crocodile was one of them!
Where to see crocs up close
Crocosauraus Cove is in Darwin’s CBD on Mitchell Street. Initially, I wasn’t going to bother, as it all seemed too touristy and I was concerned about the crocs being caged. I asked myself if it was against my ethics to visit somewhere the animals may be distressed?
I learned many of these crocs have been ‘removed’ from various locations. They represent the troublesome crocs – eating livestock or being too close to where humans live. Many of them are relocated to Darwin Crocodile Farms but if they are too troublesome to co-exist at the farms, they would have been exterminated (euthanised) had it not been for Crocosauraus Cove agreeing to take them.
As mentioned above my Darwin friends highly recommended the experience, so before my afternoon flight home to Brisbane, I found myself at the Crocosaurus Cove front entrance, right on opening time, ready for my 9.30 am ‘Cage of Death’ experience.
Learn some facts about crocs
Crocosaurus Cove provides loads of educational information about crocodiles. I found out when in the water, a crocodile’s tail can propel them forwards at 15 kph over short distances – twice the speed of an Olympic swimmer. And crocodiles have salivary glands on their tongue that help them get rid of excess salt – so they can better tolerate salty water than their cousins the alligators who don’t have these salt glands and are confined to freshwater.
Underwater aquariums – the manta rays are mesmerising to watch.
And inside the room with a large reptile display, kids can handle a baby croc (under supervision.)
The handlers at the feeding shows provide interactive information about crocs. And I know this is not how crocs would ‘naturally’ live in the wild, but because they have been problematic, they are no longer in the wild. I don’t want to turn this into a debate about whether you should or shouldn’t go. I chose to go and I found the experience fascinating and informative.
Although the tank jam-packed with juvenile crocs was a little startling. They don’t seem to be doing much other than floating around? (Living the life I guess?!)
Where to find crocs near Darwin
There are many places not far from Darwin where you can experience crocs in the ‘wild.’ But don’t forget crocs can come into the rivers and estuaries in Darwin. During my vacation, a juvenile croc (about one metre in length) swam up to Darwin’s Mindil Beach (it was captured on social media and shared for all to see.) Makes me wonder why tourists think it’s ok to swim at Mindil Beach (admittedly the ones I saw were in the shallow water, but still!)
Adelaide River is about a 30-minute drive from Darwin CBD, where you can experience the Croc Whisper Pat on a Wallaroo Tour or if you have more time a few hours drive to either Kakadu or Nitmiluk National Park will take you to some beautiful regions where you’ll see crocs in their natural habitat.
If you can’t get out to see crocs in the wild, or are stopping over in Darwin en route to somewhere else and are time poor, Crocosaurus Cove offers the opportunity to see many, many, many crocs up very close – centimetres close if you want to climb into the ‘cage of death.’
At $170* for 15 minutes, the Cage of Death isn’t in everyone’s budget. (There is the option to buy photos, for an additional cost.) But having viewed many salties in their natural habitat, on the Outback Floatplane Adventure in Sweets Lagoon (closed down during COVID) on the Finniss River, and on the Yellow Water Billabong in Kakadu National Park, seeing them up close AND from all angles at the Cove only adds to the respect I have fo these ancient creatures.
ALWAYS be sensible, heed the warnings, don’t swim in the water, or go wandering along embankments where crocs are likely to lurk. You don’t want to appear on the front page of the Northern Territory News for all the wrong reasons!
*The writer paid for her Crocosaurus Cove experience and all opinions in this article expressed are her own.