7 Crocodile Hot Spots in Australia’s Top End

Crocodiles are a weird combination of Aussie ‘Big Thing’ and perilous prehistoric predator. Maybe our fascination with crocodiles in Australia is what makes this my most viewed post of all time*.

Or maybe it’s because of the awesome photos and superlative writing … read on, and decide for yourself 😀

But before you do, PLEASE NOTE this WARNING:

Crocodiles are VERY dangerous and can be found almost anywhere in the Top End – not just in the places I mention below, and certainly NOT just where there are warning sgns.  Large crocodiles have been found a LONG way from the sea, and in many smaller rivers and streams. SO … you MUST be crocodile aware WHEREVER you go – don’t assume it’s safe just because there’s no sign, or no one has warned you.  Assume they are EVERYWHERE in the Top End – even if you can’t see them.

'Krys', the world's largest crocodile, Normanton, Queensland

‘Krys’, the world’s largest crocodile, Normanton, Queensland with Red, Australia’s best blogger (!!!!)

Of course, the World’s Biggest Crocodile replica in Normanton, Queensland isn’t a ‘Big Thing’ ie several times larger than the real deal. It’s actually a life-size replica of the biggest crocodile ever ‘taken’ (read:  ‘shot’) by croc hunter turned croc supporter Krystina Pawloski in 1957.Now known as ‘Krys’, the 8.63 metre long (28′ 4″) monster croc is bigger than JAWS, and it’s the biggest known specimen in the world.

The golden age blood sport of hunting crocodiles in Australia ended when crocodiles became protected in the early 1970’s. But crocodile hunting still takes place downunder – as long as your weapon of choice is a camera!

Would you trust this face?  Huge Saltwater crocodile at Victoria River via Timber Creek, NT

Would you trust this face?  Huge Saltwater crocodile at Victoria River via Timber Creek, NT

Although that won’t make any difference to the cunning saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus – or ‘Saltie’) who can wait for days to ensnare its prey, and once its victim is in the ‘death roll’, there’s little chance of escape.

And just to make things more confusing, it doesn’t always hang out in salt water, either!

Would you swim with this little beauty? Freshwater crocodile at Windjana Gorge, via Derby, WA

Would you swim with this little beauty? Freshwater crocodile at Windjana Gorge, via Derby, WA

While less aggressive, Australia’s only other crocodile species, the Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni – or ‘Freshie’) has been known to attack, although not fatally.

But hey! Who wants to be the first?!

So where’s the best places to hunt for those elusive ‘live’ Crocodiles in Australia photos? Try my 7 Aussie Top End Crocodile Hot Spots for ALMOST guaranteed sightings!!

1. Marlgu Billabong, via Wyndham,Western Australia:

Marlgu Billabong, via Wyndham, Western Australia

Marlgu Billabong, via Wyndham, Western Australia

This magnificent oasis set like a jewel amongst the stupendous scenery of the Kimberley is better known for the water birds that frequent it.
On the banks at Marlgu Billabong

On the banks at Marlgu Billabong

But what’s that lurking beneath its benign surface?

The video at the top of the post shows why it’s not a good idea to stray from the boardwalk.

But it’s an even worse idea to venture onto the banks of this worrisome wetland when this little beauty is sunning himself!!

Croc Hunter Tip:

Check the billabong banks on the far side regularly – crocs can appear without warning!

2. Daintree River, Daintree, Far North Queensland

Yes, that speck on the sandbank IS a crocodile!!

Yes, that speck on the sandbank IS a crocodile!!

A known crocodile hotspot, crocodile hunter wannabees can choose an assisted croc sighting via any number of river cruises. Daintree River Wild Watch was our choice for its birdwatching credentials, but we also got to see a saltwater crocodile close up whilst on the cruise.

Our first unassisted sighting came after the cruise as we drove up the road and spotted a large saltie sunning himself on a sandbank. He wasn’t there when we passed that same sandbank on our cruise about 30 minutes before!

The Daintree River doesn’t discriminate between salties and freshies – they’re both here in abundance!

Croc Hunter Tip:

So many Daintree River crocodile cruises can’t be wrong! Sightings are virtually guaranteed on a river cruise, and are not uncommon elsewhere.

3. Adelaide River via Darwin, Northern Territory:

Jumping Croc

Jumping Croc

The jury’s out on whether a sighting of a Performing Crocodile (ie a croc jumping for its supper) actually counts as crocodile hunting.

It’s the saurian equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel BUT if you can’t see them any other way, then knock yourself out!!

Choose one of the many available ‘Jumping Croc’ cruises – and hope like hell the boat doesn’t tip over as all the tourists rush to the same side whenever a crocodile appears …

Croc Hunter Tip:

This doesn’t really count as ‘hunting’ – but you WILL see crocodiles!!

4. Lake Argyle, via Kununurra, Western Australia:

The spectacular and otherworldly landscape of Australia’s largest lake will keep budding photographers busy for hours. One of the most magnificent spots in the country, the watery landscape is so panoramic, the wildlife takes second place.

Morning at Lake Argyle, Western Australia ... and not a croc in sight!

Morning at Lake Argyle, Western Australia … and not a croc in sight!

Almost!
Freshwater croc at Lake Argyle, WA

Freshwater croc at Lake Argyle, WA

Below the dam wall, these cold-blooded (in more ways than one) freshwater crocodiles recover from the cool night temperatures by taking in some sun. And while the morning cruise isn’t specifically about crocodile hunting, there are plenty around the banks and in the water.

Which could make the annual 10- and 20 km swimming races in the lake rather interesting …

Croc Hunter Tip:

Check the far bank below the dam wall. And take that 2 hour cruise – even if you don’t see a crocodile, it’s worth it just for the scenery!!

Crocodile warning sign, East Alligator River, Kakadu NP, Northern Territory

Crocodile warning sign, East Alligator River, Kakadu NP, Northern Territory

For more entertainment than is good for you, observe the anglers trying to land a big barramundi at this crocodile infested tidal river crossing into Arnhem Land. It’s also fun watching vehicles crossing the causeway as the tide comes in.

And it’s not called the East Alligator River for nothing!

Watching someone actually being taken by a crocodile would give me nightmares for a long, long time.

No, that's not a tyre ... Yellow Water dawn cruise, Kakadu National Park

No, that’s not a tyre … Yellow Water dawn cruise, Kakadu National Park

So watching a tinnie** full of drunken fisherman, one precariously perched on the nose of the craft as it drifted ever closer to a large crocodile they hadn’t seen, completely oblivious to the warning shouts from observers on the river bank, was a mesmerizing moment I hope never to experience again.

Luckily for them, the croc slid into the water and disappeared – they never even saw it.

As the tide came in, more crocodiles appeared downstream – not that the anglers knee-deep in water seemed to care …

But if you want your croc viewings with a bit less drama, try a Kakadu Yellow Water Cruise!!

Croc Hunter Tip:

Crocodiles abound in Kakadu National Park. See them at Cahill’s Crossing or on a cruise – but don’t make out like crocodile bait!

6. Windjana Gorge, via Gibb River Road, Western Australia:

 

No, those aren't logs in the water ... Windjana Gorge, WA

No, those aren’t logs in the water … Windjana Gorge, WA

No, those aren’t logs in the water … Windjana Gorge, WA

Frustrated crocodile hunters who’ve dipped out*** on crocs at other hot spots will not be disappointed here, unless they’re on a lifelong losing streak. If that’s the case (and even if it isn’t), think twice about heading for Windjana unless you’re keen on experiencing clouds of red dust, brain-hammering corrugated roads, tyre-shredding rocks and other generally adverse driving conditions en route to this remote spot.

Freshwater Crocs at Windjana Gorge, WA

THAT’S what’s in the water!! Freshwater Crocs at Windjana Gorge, WA

Once there, if you can tear your eyes away from the gob-smackingly awesome scenery, you’ll be reaching for the crocodile repellent – yes, there really are that many!

All freshies, of course!! But happily, that makes getting a tad closer for those souvenir photos just that little bit easier!

Back down the road in Derby, crocs are regularly seen around the mangroves, although I have no photographic evidence of the large crocodile we spotted swimming in King Sound near the jetty …

Croc Hunter Tip:

Take the track into the gorge and keep your eyes on the water and sandbanks. Some would go so far as to dub this a ‘sure thing’ sighting spot!

7. Timber Creek, Northern Territory:

Feeding the freshies at Timber Creek, Northern Territory

Feeding the freshies at Timber Creek, Northern Territory

In the creek behind the Circle F Caravan Park campground, there’s a daily feeding session attracting any or all of the 12 freshwater crocodiles living in the creek.

They’re not always interested, but the enticement of a free snack costing virtually no energy is generally too much of a temptation to resist!

Careful observers may notice crocodiles resting on the banks of the creek – while they’re *only* freshies, my tip for the day is to let sleeping crocs lie.

Lurking on the banks of Timber Creek!

Lurking on the banks of Timber Creek!

But the nearby Victoria River’s self-nomination as Australia’s last great wild river may well be true, if the number of crocodile sightings is anything to go by.

The best way to see them is in a croc-proof purpose built river cruiser with a context-setting tour of Timber Creek at one end and sunset drinks and snacks on a float in the middle of the river at the other!

A Victoria River Cruise delivers on multiple crocodile sightings as well, with local Neville Fogarty identifying the ‘local’ crocs by name and reputation!

As we passed the white croc, old ‘Broken-jaw’ and the 5+ metre long Lord Lizard who disappeared without a trace into the water beneath the cruiser, Neville told us the cattle station we were passing lost 200+ cattle to crocodiles each year.

Lord Lizard leaves, Victoria River, NT

Lord Lizard leaves, Victoria River, NT

Somehow, I don’t think they’d mind a change in diet if anyone was foolish enough to stray  too close to the water …

Croc Hunter Tip:

So many sightings of both Saltwater and Freshwater crocodiles, you won’t know where to look first. But be warned – these ones are BIG!!

White Crocodile, Victoria River, Northern Territory

White Crocodile, Victoria River, Northern Territory

Disclaimer: Wild crocodiles are unpredictable, so of course I can’t guarantee you’ll see crocodiles in Australia where I have! But stay ‘croc-alert’ and you may see them where you’re least expecting it.

Two Crocs, a Dead Cow and the Mary River, NT

Two Crocs, a Dead Cow and the Mary River, NT

Like the time we watched in horrified disbelief as two crocodiles fought over a dead cow floating downstream past our campsite on the Northern Territory’s Mary River – but that’s another story!!

Want MORE?

 

* OK, since you asked nicely, the 2nd most viewed post of all time is 7 Days between Adelaide and Darwin

** tinnie = small aluminium fishing boat  There’s no accounting for taste!

***  ‘Dipped Out’ = Aussie expression meaning failed, or not done, or didn’t happen

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34 comments

  • as they say – never smile at a crocodile. We saw a saltie at Marlgu Billabong too. Might be the same fellow. And I nearly stepped on one sunning itself on the bank at Windjana. We also had them coming up onto the bank at the caravan park in Kununurra – they were “freshies”…I think!

    • You HOPE they were freshies at Kununurra, Jill!! I can’t believe I saw so many crocs when touring the Top End, especially the WA parts! On our Timber Creek Victoria River croc tour, the guide knew them all by name – so that’s maybe the case with Marlgu too!! It’ll be interesting to see if the big croc is still there when we return one day!!

  • That’s some mighty huge crocks there Red. I’m not too sure if I’d actually want to see these creatures, I’d need a bigger zoom, 300mm isn’t quite far enough away for me! lol

    Excellent shots you have here, I’ll see if I can find the place to cast a vote for you.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  • @Iris – Haha, love your German saying … but I think my partner would rather fight a croc than huge mosquitoes!! Downunder you learn to check EVERY log very carefully if you are in the crocodile zone!!

  • Oh, by golly! Guess we were not only very, very lucky nothing happened with some spider, but also that we had no accident with any Croc! In Kakadu I couldn´t escape most of the huge Mossies, but luckily a croc in the dark! Windjana Gorge… oh, my, I thought those were logs, I hope they were!
    We have a saying here in Germany: God is with stupid. The real stupid, he helps.
    Boy, we were so naive and careless, it hurts in the aftermath!

  • @Margaret – The scenery is really why we were there – the crocodiles were an added extra!!

  • I would definitely keep my distance, but the scenery in all these locations is wonderful! I’d love to visit them just for that.

  • @Glen – WOW is the best way to describe them! That’s if you can think of anything at all to say after seeing them in the flesh …
    @Debbie – The smart people are the scared ones!! Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view), the days of the REALLY big ones are over!
    @Lea – I only get close when there’s a safe barrier between me and the croc! Thank god for zoom lenses!!
    @Christopher – Haha, just when you thought the threat of JAWS was over, huh?!?!

  • Fantastic croc shots! We have them here in Florida, too, but I do not not get as close to them as you do … WOW 🙂

    Hugs & Blessings!

    Lea @ViralMarketMom

  • Christopher Allen

    I loved this . . . and now I know it’s not safe to go back in the water. Yikes.

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    A 28′ croc!?! Thats huge and something I would not want to run into. This was one scar post because crocs are really scary. I would love to see crocs in person but can already hear myself screaming!

  • Exciting, beautiful and deadly – Crocs are something wow aren’t they?

  • oh no..one of the things i want to experience…a visit to a crdocodile farm..just asking when i can visit Australia..thanks for the visit..

  • @Saucy Kod – Anyone who isn’t scared of crocodiles is an idiot! Deaths still occur, but people still don’t heed the warnings!
    @Dina – I’m terrified too, yet I’m still alive!! I’d rather manage the risk than miss out on some of the most beautiful spots in the country – but Paradise often has a sting in the tail!
    @PDP – The theory is that Krys was the last of the big ones. But who wants to be the one to prove that theory wroong?!?!
    @Mrs Tuna – HHHMMMmmm… maybe we don’t have anything in common after all!!!!!
    @River – The Windjana and white crocs both looked fake!! And the Kakadu cruise was sensational – both in scenery and wildlife (not just crocs)
    @Outside the Guidebook – Scared sh!teless?? Then my work is done …
    @Diane – Not me, mate!! I’m not going to get eaten for my ‘art’!!!
    @Redruby – Winter is better for croc hunting – the cold weather slows them down a bit!!!

  • Oooh! Amazing pictures! What’s the song? “Never smile at a crocodile”. If it weren’t for the telephoto lens, I would have guessed that you were close enough to smile! Eep!

  • OutsideTheGuidebook

    Wowser! This is some scary sh!te man.. I’m headed to NZ in Jan 2013 for a couple of years on a working holiday.. sure as ‘ell going to visit the crocs in Oz after seeing this!

  • Those crocs floating in Windjana Gorge look like oversized fishing lures.
    I like the white croc, had no idea there were white ones.
    I’d like to take one of those croc-sighting cruises one day, maybe the Kakadu one. It seems the safest.

  • My second most viewed blog post? The New Adventures of the Naughty School Girl. Don’t ask.

  • You know what Red, the closest I EVER want to get to a crocodile is looking at them through your images. they scare the you know what out of me, so very prehistoric and evil looking! Just the thought of there being more ‘Kry’s’ at 8.63 mtrs or more out there is enough to give a person the heeby jeebies!!

  • Since I’m terrified of crocodiles; I will use this list as a guide for places NOT to visit in Australia.

    Thanks!

  • Lets face it – crocks have to be the scariest thing ever. You have some really excellant shots here Red. Just makes my skin crawl. I used to watch “Steve” all the time on his show on TV with the rescue of crocs and in their Zoo, till he passed away. I loved how he handled these animals and he had such a love for them all. You have done an excellant job here, both with post and photos. Thanks Red

  • @SFlaGuy – Not sure how biologically close our salties are to your alligators – the biggest saltie we saw was 5-6 metres (close enough to yards) long! I’m betting it won’t be long before the feeding stops here – the best cruises don’t do it.
    @Andrew – Haha, we ‘enjoyed’ reading the NT Times as well!! My personal fave a few years ago was a front pager about a beer drinking dog or some such thing!!
    @Beach Bum – You’ve got the pythons, we’ve got the Cane Toad (see previous post!!). Only difference is, we introduced our pest officially!!!
    @Sallie – I’d be surprised if the feeding is allowed for too much longer – we found the best cruises are those that DON’T feed them.
    @MJWC – Haha, and I’m betting you DON’T want to see them, right??!!
    @diane b – I guess if they’re around all the time you’d just get used to it. Although I don’t know about the swimming thing …
    @Joan Elizabeth – Can you imagine the jealousy factor a pair of white croc shoes would bring??!! I think it’s quite rare, and in some cultures white crocs have special powers!! At least it’s more likely you’d see this one coming …

  • @Indrani – Thank god for zoom lenses, I say!!!
    @FruitCake – Full body armour might not be such a bad idea! Although it probably wouldn’t help with the Jaws-sized one …
    @Greg – Everyone SHOULD be scared!! Surprisingly, some aren’t – we’ve seen some acts of total lunacy in croc country, although they usually involve alcohol …
    @TMWH – C’mon! I’m the world’s biggest coward!! I can be VERY brave from the vantage point of a croc-proof boat, or viewing point!!

  • That big crock is just too scary and the white croc … I was thinking what an exotic handbag it would make … didn’t know white ones existed.

  • Since I love to see their alligator cousins, I’d love to see these big guys! I’m surprised that the “dancing crocodile” cruises are allowed. In Florida (etc) you get huge fines if you’re stupid enough to feed the gators (don’t want them to associate people with food). Plus, like you say that isn’t really fair photo hunting anyway. Just like your first (I think it was) hot spot, the places where we’ve spotted the most alligators are where the birding is wonderful.

  • Sounds like you are having a good time up there. Loved your croc stories. Have been to many of those places but not all. I was surprised at people canoeing on the Katherine River together with the Johnson Crocs. Our cruise boat operator said if the boat sinks you only have to swim faster than the last person.

  • Thanks for scaring everyone! Yeah, there’s no mucking around with them 🙂 I can’t think of a more disappointing way to have a nice swim ruined!

  • My Journey With Candida

    Krys was sure one big croc… Holy crocodile Bat Man!

    Where I live, we don’t have croodiles. If I want to see them, I have to travel a lot further South.

  • Crocs scare me beyond words. You have taken good shots from a good distance. 🙂

  • I know they are no where near as agressive as your salt water crocs but back in the 1970’s American alligators were put under federal protection. Hunters had turned them into steaks, handbags, and luggage to the point they were getting hard to find.

    After a couple of decades they came back in a big way but there is a new danger to them. Don’t know if the story has gotten down to you guys and gals but people in Florida, and soon the rest of the southeastern United States, are fighting the spread of damn Burmese pythons that use to be pets to ignorant suburbanites.

    Those pythons are taking down the native ecosystem and may be unstoppable.

  • For your daily croc story, see the Northern Territory News. We took the Yellow Water Cruise. It was very good.

  • Why is it that your crocks seem so much more intimidating than my gators? It’s very illegal to feed the gators here. One of the air boat captains who cater to the tourist trade recently lost a hand right in front of his tour group – then got fined. I believe the phrase insult to injury would apply in this case. I still kayak with them but those crocks seem a lot more feisty…. and a lot bigger

    If your fans are interested in the big lizards of Florda, check out my bloggy buddy.

    http://davesyaktales.blogspot.com/

  • Wow! What gorgeous crocs. I’ve always ‘admired’ crocodiles and alligators for their hunting abilities and graceful swimming, but only at television-distance. You’re a brave one to get so close!

  • So many of these places are on my bucket list [or should I say barrel list?] but I’ll give the swimming a miss. 28 feet? Unreal.

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