Watch Out – there’s a crocodile about

We had just finished a fantastic evening barbecue at our Kakadu hostel. Most of us were settling in for an evening of drinking, talking and fighting off insects around the camp fire.

“Come on everyone, let’s go croc spotting” the hostel host said enthusiastically.

“Croc spotting?” someone exclaimed “but it’s night time?”

“Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to” he said somewhat disheartened before adding. “I just thought you’d like to! Kakadu is another world at night!”

He paused to think of what else he could say to sway those hesitant.

“You don’t know when you will be back? But I’ll leave it up to you. I will be leaving in 10 minutes which will give you enough time to grab a jumper, a torch and put on a pair of walking shoes. Therefore, if you decide to come, you can meet me at the hostel gate”.

I already knew that I wanted to go afterall, I didn’t come all this way to miss out on anything.

Off we headed into the darkness, a mini bus-load of city dwellers led by a bearded, bare-footed reptile lover along a moon lit dirt track in search of saltwater crocodiles.

After a 15 minute walk which involved brief stops to look at the local flora and fauna including a spider which could have easily slapped someone with one of its huge legs, we arrived at a causeway.

“This is close enough I think” said our host.

The causeway can be crossed by foot during the dry season, but as we weren’t quite in this season yet the causeway still had water rushing over it. Apparently it was a great fishing area. Unfortunately, we were told that only the week before a young boy was taken by a crocodile while fishing with his father here.

Our host spotlighted the causeway with his torch. We were about 50 feet away from it. A long, rough, grey croc tail disappeared over some rocks. This brought gasps of ‘wow’. It truly was an incredible sight to see a crocodile in its natural habitat. He then scanned the river with his torch.

“Look” he said excitedly “see those two orange spots?”

I squinted into the darkness until I saw those two orange spots.

“Well that’s a croc” he said “and a bloody big one too”.

“How can you tell?” someone asked.

“The larger the eyes the bigger the croc. I’d say that one is at least 6 foot long, even more”.

“Wow” someone said. Wow seemed to be the word of the evening as most of us stumbled for words to describe what we were seeing.

The area turned out to be mission control for our crocodile spotting. We all took turns standing next to our host looking at those illuminated, transparent, marble-like eyes. They were hypnotising. I felt like a kangaroo staring into some headlights.

More pairs of orange marbles appeared hovering in the darkness ahead of us. There must have been at least a dozen. No doubt, the buggers were thinking, food, succulent live food of all shapes and sizes, all waiting for an underwater roll. I was glad they were all over there and we were here.

“Have you ever smelt croc before?” our host suddenly asked.

“No” someone said, and I thought, I don’t think I want to.

“Can you smell that briny, salty water smell?”

I stuck my nose out into the darkness and let the smell fill my nostrils. It was an odour I was familiar with. It was similar to the smell of drying seaweed on a beach.

“RUN” our host yelled.

It took a few seconds for what our host said to register, but when it did, I and everyone else joined our host hightailing it back up the track.

Whether this was a joke or not I am not sure. However, if you take a trip into Kakadu and your host of the hostel asks you to come for a walk to do some night croc spotting make sure you stay behind him at all times.

I organized my trip to Kakadu from the Hostel I stayed in in Darwin. There are many tours available for a variety of days/nights run by small tour operators. If you want to go in to Kakadu it is easy to organise a tour from Darwin. The hostel I stayed in I found on the Hostel World website. Check them out to compare and book your hostel.

About the author: Sharyn McCullum travelled around Australia to write her travel guide LiveWork&Play in Australia. She loved Kakadu – the colours, the indigenous history, the wildlife. She currently calls Melbourne home.