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When most people think of Australia, they think of sunshine, beaches, BBQ’s and dangerous critters, well I do anyway. Snakes and spiders being the main culprit of most peoples anxiety, but in my opinion, by far the worst is the Australian Saltwater Crocodile!
You’re walking through the bush and accidently stumble into a “Redback” web, you’ll probably not even notice. Walk into a sunbathing snake in the morning, it’ll probably slither for cover long before you even get close. Then on the other hand is the “saltie”. Stumble into one of these and it won’t try and escape, it isn’t scared of you, in fact you’re on the menu. The first thing you’ll know is when you’re missing a leg!!
I never managed to see a saltwater crocodile, in many ways I’m glad. There was one point at which I could have been chomped by one, complete stupidity….
One my travels north from Perth towards Broome, crocodiles weren’t even on my radar. One night me and Stephanie were driving out of Broome looking for a free campsite to spend the night. After 30 minutes of driving around aimlessly we came across a sign for Willies Creek, me being interested in seeing the pearl farm, this was a winner. By the time we arrived it was black as a bag. After getting stuck in the sand and annoying all the other campers that were already settled in for the night, we found a peg for the night. Out came the citronella candles, box of goon and the table and chairs. Drunk under the stars once again!
The next day, waking up to clear blue skies and around 30C, well what better way to sort out a goon-over apart from a mid morning swim!? Flip flops on, towels in hand, off we headed into the bush looking for a place to swim. Everywhere we went it was just rocky outcrops and mangroves, not really anywhere we could get into the water. Down hearted and defeated, we headed back to the campervan, on route we came across a sign…
BEWARE SALTWATER CROCODILES PATROL THE WATERS EDGE! NO SWIMMING!
Later on in my travels I met many Australians that were all too aware what absolute imbeciles backpackers can be. The amount of stories where tourists are attacked by crocs is unreal. The funny thing is, it was never an Australian. Suppose us tourists know it all eh!?
Are they really that scary?
Saltwater crocodiles are fiercely territorial and very aggressive. These things can grow massive, up to 7 meters in length for the males and weigh not far off a tonne. They kill around two people a year in Australia. Most of the time they eat small mammals, birds and fish. The odd buffalo or horse doesn’t go a miss either, let’s be serious, if one can take down a full-grown horse then what chance have we got.
Where do they live?
Saltwater crocodiles being as territorial as they are is the main reason they can be found over a massive area, from north Australia, the Solomon Islands, the Phillippines to India and everywhere in between. They can travel over a 1000km by sea.
The name itself can be considered a little deceptive as saltwater crocodiles are just at home in the freshwater rivers and estuarys as they are in the sea. As soon as you head further north than Broome to the west or Townsville in the east then any river, creek or estuary could be home to one or more of these ancient predators. They can even be found up to a couple of hundred kilometres inland. Not really the place to get drunk and go skinny dipping eh!?
Not becoming croc food in the far north
When travelling to the far north, there’s a few tips that’ll stop you from being eaten alive:
- Take note of the crocodile warning signs – if there aren’t any it doesn’t mean it’s safe, so always try and ask some one who’ll know.
- Stay away from the waters edge – especially at night
- Don’t return to the same place everyday – crocodiles will learn you’re behaviour and you never know one day they could be waiting for you!
- When crocodiles slide into the water they leave behind a very distinctive mark in the dirt – get back in your campervan and move on, it’s just not worth it.
- Don’t leave food in camp – if a crocodile smells food then it will go a considerable distance from the water to find it.
- Avoid where animals drink – most likely a lazy crocodiles feeding ground
- If you’re in a boat, do not hang over the side – crocodiles can jump half their body length out of the water.
All in all…
Spiders try to stay away from you, snakes try to stay away from you, sharks will only attack if they think you’re their normal food source i.e. seal, injured fish.
An Australian saltwater crocodile will see you, understand you’re not it’s native prey, sink under the surface of the water and stalk you until it can get close enough… At this point it’s all over.
So if you’re going to go to the far north, soon as you see water be very alert and stick to the rules above. Use your bloody head and stay safe.