Adelaide River Croc Tour

Gnasher and his lady friend
(Click on the image above to see the amazing images of Gnasher the alpha croc and his lady friend)

The final part of our Litchfield National Park tour with Offroad Dreaming was a sunset cruise on the Adelaide River.  The cruise takes place in the vicinity of where the bridge on the Arnhem Highway crosses the Adelaide River.  There are four people in the area who hold the only licences in the Northern Territory to feed wild crocodiles.  Three of these operators run commercial "jumping croc" tours, one of which we did recently.  I wrote about this cruise yesterday on the 3rd July entitled Jumping Crocs and Fogg Dam. That post included some great photos of the crocs and the tour.

When I booked this tour with Offroad Dreaming, I mentioned we were going on the Jumping Croc tour the day before and questioned whether or not we should do both.  I was assured by Yvonne that the tour with them would be totally different. Different! It was like chalk and cheese!

We arrived at the departure point to meet Pat who we are assured is a true Territorian.  He certainly looked the part in his bare feet, shorts and with a large knife and pistol hanging from his belt. Naturally he also sported a big bushy beard and the obligatory Akubra Hat.  The hat was unique in that it had a piece missing from the back of the crown.  The story goes that a gust of wind whipped it off his head and into the water where a young croc took a fancy to it. Apparently Pat knew the young croc and had a bit of a tug of war to get his hat back.  The result was a compromise with the young croc getting a piece and Pat getting his new hat back with a hole in it.

You can't go on this tour independently.  Pat only does a few tours for select tour operators.  His tour starts with a ten minute briefing about safety and also a very informative talk about crocodiles and the river. It is only after this talk that we are taken to the boat which has the capacity to seat about 20 people.  It's a flat bottom punt style with a couple of big 60hp Yamaha motors on the back.  One is used and the other for backup.

We take off up the river in search of crocs and it's not long before the first of them come into view. Pat explained all about the number of crocs in a particular section of the river, that an alpha male controls about 1.6km of territory and cruises up and down all day.  He tolerates younger males in the area but they keep out of his way. Females are not a problem and live in the territory also.  We sighted the biggest alpha male in the river that he knows but he's not interested in keeping us company.  Aloof you might say.  There is a female that is happy to come alongside and Pat encourages her over to the bank and runs the boat up into the mud.  The croc is wallowing in the shallows, enjoying the chicken that Pat dangles for her while he explains as much as he can about her, the breeding habits and incubation periods of the eggs and the expected survival rates of the hatchlings.  This bloke is a font of knowledge on the subject.

We cruised the river seeing several more crocs and then finally sighted another large alpha male who showed interest in having a chat.  Pat led him over to the mudbank and he graciously clambered up next to the side of the boat on the mud in the shallows where we could appreciate this magnificent reptile.  He was absolutely huge! Pat told us he would be around 90 years of age.  Pat talked consistently about the crocodile, whose name was Gnasher, and his experience with him on the river. It was a fascinating story not only about one crocodile but about the society in which they existed.

To our surprise a female came to join the alpha male. She was obviously a bit hungry for some chicken.  Pat told us all as she approached the behaviour that would be exhibited by here. She would open her mouth and grunt which would be a sign of submission to the male.  This is exactly what she did. Pat told us that the male would allow the female to be there and take food but there was no way known a smaller male could come anywhere near him.  We got some amazing shots of these two crocodiles right next to our boat taking food from Pat.  It was truly an unforgettable experience.

One of Pat's stories whilst travelling the river was of the person he considers to be Australia's greatest crocodile hunter. Her name was Krystina Pawlowski. You can read a story about how she shot an 8.63m crocodile on the banks of the Norman River in Queensland.  There is a replica of the giant at Mareeba in Queensland.  There used to be open season on crocs, but it was the efforts of Krystina and her husband that ended up convincing the government to protect the crocs and organise farms to satisfy the commercial demand for skins.  You can read the interesting story at this link.

This was an amazing cruise.  Having already done a couple of cruises on and around the Adelaide River, this was by far the most informative and interesting tour we had done. It certainly taught us heaps about crocs.  It finished on a more solemn note when Pat pointed out the area opposite his jetty where a man had been taken by a croc whilst fishing.  He had got a lure snagged and having been there all day and not seeing anything, waded into the water to retrieve his lure.  That was the end of him. Whilst amazing to look at, these creatures deserve our greatest respect as they will not hesitate in taking a meal if it is offered to them in their domain. No wild animal is any different.

Don't forget, the only way you can take this tour is through Offroad Dreaming. You can't book it direct with Pat.

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