Leaving the confines of Darwin and turning off the Stuart Highway and on to the Arnhem Highway towards the quaintly named town of Humpty Doo, the journey took us some 171 kilometres to the Crocodile Inn, at Jabiru, in the middle of the great National Park of Kakadu. This Park is half the size of Switzerland and contains three large rivers.
Abel Tasman explored the area in 1644, and between 1818 and 1822 an English navigator named Phillip Parker King explored this region, naming the three rivers South, East and West Alligator; incorrectly as we now know, since the large number of reptiles he found in all three rivers were of course crocodiles.
In 1953 uranium was discovered along the head waters of the South Alligator River valley and in 1970 large uranium deposits were found at Ranger and a service town was built at Jabiru. Eventually the Crocodile Inn was built, mainly for tourists.
The Kakadu National Park is in the tropics between 12° and 14° south of the equator. Consequently there are two seasons, the dry and the wet! The average temperature for this region is 34°C and when we were there in November, which is the start of the wet season, the thermometer read 38°C.
‘The reception is the crocodile’s mouth and on top of the head you can see two raised semi-circular structures; these are its eyes; at night they glow red, just like the real thing. The rooms are in the main body of the crocodile and the dining room is the animal’s stomach. Let’s hope,’ said the driver as we got off the bus, ‘that it’s the only time you see the inside of the belly of a crocodile.’
After freshening up a little and having a quick snack, we were once again picked up by a high bodied 4WD coach and taken to the East Alligator River for a cruise on a large open sided boat to see crocodiles and other wild life in and alongside the river.
‘Keep your arms inside the boat,’ the guide told us, ‘the crocs can jump two metres out of the water.’
The river was like a mirror with the blue sky and white, fluffy clouds reflected in the calm waters against a backdrop of trees at the sides of the river. Birds perched on the trees and the boat driver took us in close to the banks in order to see crocodiles resting, or waiting for their next mouthful to come along.
On our return to the landing a large crocodile floated, log like and sinister, with only back and eyes above the water, about twenty yards from the landing. Waiting, I guessed, in case anyone fell overboard for lunch to be served!
Returning to the hotel, cane toads sported on the grassy areas under the trees and one large one sat outside our room door, thankfully hopping away as we approached. The next day was to start with a flight in a small aircraft over the National Park.
Continued next month …
by Terry Took © 2014
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.