July 17, 2005
The Adelaide River near Darwin, Australia
By Lois Joy
This story is for Manuel, Leone, Katlynn, Megan, Naomi, Cody, Brett and Trey—and for all the other little kids who like to read about critters.
Gunter and Lois had seen lots of crocs in Australia. Most were in zoos and
croc farms, but we did see them in the wild near the farm in Rockhampton,
Queensland and in along the banks of the Trinity Inlet near Cairns. Never
did we see so many as we did in a short boat ride down the Adelaide River!
As we walked into the boat launch area, we could see the sign at the ramp. It said CROCS KILL. We would be walking underneath that sign to get onto the boat. Were we ready? I walked along the riverbank. Already, I could see a croc lazily sunning himself on the opposite bank. I took a photo of him. He looked big, even from my side of the river. “He is a five-meter croc,” said the woman at the snack counter. “His name is Gottfried.” I wonder how she knew his name. “He will swim toward the boat when you are out there. He sees when the flat bottom boat is coming. He knows that the captain will give him some food.”
Soon the Captain came and asked everyone to walk down that ramp, right underneath that sign, and find a seat on the boat. It was a long boat, with about 10 seats for two on each side. It was almost filled.
“Keep your hands and feet inside the boat,” the Captain warned. “I will be giving the crocs some meat on the end of a stick. They like to jump for it. But they don’t see too well. If you put some of your body parts outside the boat, the crocs may think it is meat, and go for it.”
Actually, your body parts are meat for crocs. If you would go swimming in this river, they would go for you! You would become part of the “food chain” in the Northern Territory. There are over 6000 crocs in the Adelaide River. That is one croc for every 50 meters. No wonder they take tourists here to see crocs. It would be very rare not to see one.
Gunter got onto the boat. He didn’t seem too worried. So I followed him. Look at the photos to see us on the boat. Then we slowly left the dock and headed across that river. As we motored to the center, the big croc Gottfried slithered off the mud bank and started swimming toward us! I made sure to keep my hands inside the boat as I took photos of him coming toward us. The Captain pulled the boat alongside the croc. Then he put a big hunk of meat on a long stick and held it up. Gottfried swam toward the food. As he got closer, he made a big jump, and his huge jaws opened wide. Then he quickly snapped at the food, taking the entire piece whole! I was amazed to see a croc jump that far! But I did not get a photo that time. I did not dare to lean over the side of the boat and the boatload of people stood up to watch. There would be more, many more.
We proceeded down the river slowly. Some crocs swam to the boat as soon as we went past them. Other ones did not bother. They kept sunning themselves on the banks. Perhaps they were not hungry. Or perhaps they were not as smart as the others. Or maybe they were lazy. But altogether, about a dozen crocs came up to the boat to be fed. They all jumped for their food.
After about 20 minutes, the Captain turned the boat around in the middle of the river and we headed back. On the way, he saw some birds of prey. He put smaller pieces of meat on a floating piece of wood and let it go. The birds would swoop down to get the food and go back up again, without even landing on the wood!
We all arrived back at the launch area safely. The meat was all gone, but no one was missing any arms or legs.
Later, we stopped at a museum. It had a stuffed croc guarding its eggs. The lesson we learned: if you are walking along a riverbank, never get between a mother croc and her eggs. She will crawl up onto the bank onto dry land and attack you. She is very protective of those eggs!