Few animals around Darwin fascinate visitors as much as these prehistoric creatures. Both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles can be found in the waters and river systems around the city, but it is the larger species, the saltwater crocodile, that captures the imagination. With their sheer size – they grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long – “salties” resemble dinosaurs more than any other modern-day animal. A trip to Darwin isn’t complete without seeing the world’s largest reptiles for yourself. Here are the best places to see crocodiles around Darwin.
A wildlife park where even the kids can get interactive with crocodiles? It can be done at Crocosaurus Cove, right in the centre of Darwin. Take a tour of the park to watch some of the largest crocodiles be fed, and grab a fishing rod to feed the baby crocs yourself. There are plenty of underwater viewing opportunities, but you can also “swim with the crocs” in the Cage of Death, a crocodile swimming experience in which you are lowered into the crocodiles’ water in a perspex enclosure.
If you have a little more time, try a day out at Crocodylus Park, 15 minutes drive out of Darwin. With more than a thousand crocodiles, and an emphasis on research, this is an exciting place to fill up on facts and watch crocodiles in the extensive grounds. Take the Croc and Eco Cruise, join crocodile feeding tours and try holding a baby croc, baby turtle, snake or lizard. There are enough other animals here for a full zoo safari experience: you can see kangaroos, water buffalo, iguanas and snakes too.
ADELAIDE RIVER’S JUMPING CROCODILES
“Jumping” crocodiles aren’t a special croc species – these wild creatures get their name from jumping out of the water when food is dangled overhead, lifting themselves in a mind-blowing display of strength (and hunger). With an estimated four crocodiles per square kilometre on the Adelaide River, the only river around these parts where feeding is permitted, your chances of seeing several on a jumping crocodile cruise are excellent. Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruises and Adelaide River Cruises run one hour tours, an hour out of Darwin. It’s a great stop on the way to Kakadu National Park.
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
The massive, world-renowned wilderness of Kakadu National Park is home to well over 10,000 crocodiles. Stay croc safe by going crocodile spotting with a guided cruise at either the Mary River wetlands and floodplain (just west of Kakadu’s border), home to the world’s highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles, or the beautiful Yellow Water billabong. The sunrise and sunset cruises through Yellow Water are particularly breathtaking.
TERRITORY WILDLIFE PARK, BERRY SPRINGS
Despite the crocodiles being in an enclosure, viewing them at the Territory Wildlife Park feels like spotting them in the wild. You walk through a tunnel beneath an aquarium to view freshwater crocodiles swimming in their natural habitat, then head to the nearby lagoon to spot the park’s resident 3.4 metre (11 foot) saltwater crocodile. Next door, you’ll find picturesque Berry Springs Nature Park – a popular local swimming spot (crocodile free) with beautifully clear water and a waterfall (open seasonally).
MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
For a glimpse into the complex relationship and history that Darwin’s locals share with their crocodile neighbours, visit the always interesting and beautifully curated Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Alongside exhibitions featuring some of Australia’s best fine artists, street artists and Aboriginal artists, you’ll find the mummified body of Sweetheart, the city’s most famous crocodile. Measuring an impressive 5.1 metres (16 feet 7 inches) and weighing 780 kilograms (1720 pounds), Sweetheart is a fondly regarded local legend, carefully taxidermied and holding pride of place in the museum.