When you visit Australia’s Northern Territory, you’re generally advised to stay as far away from saltwater crocodiles as possible. Crocosaurus Cove, one of the city of Darwin’s most popular visitor attractions, doesn’t play by those rules. In fact, it encourages you to get as close as possible to these incredible, terrifying creatures.
Crocosaurus Cove is the only place in Australia where you can safely dive with saltwater crocodiles. We went along to face our fears and see what it’s all about. Here are a few things we learned.
1. The ‘Cage of Death’ is safer than it sounds
Crocosaurus Cove has loads to see and do, but the ‘Cage of Death’ crocodile diving experience is undoubtedly the highlight.
After a safety briefing, I climbed into a clear plastic tube suspended over the crocodile tanks. Once I was ready, it was hoisted up and lowered into the enclosure with the crocodiles. My heart was pounding as the water rose around my feet and lapped around my waist – I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a pre-dinner appetiser. Yet by the time the tube was submerged I felt completely safe, and it gave me a perfect close-up view of these magnificent animals. It really is something you can’t experience anywhere else.
2. Saltwater crocodiles are absolutely massive
I had the pleasure of diving with two crocodiles, a male and female pair charmingly named Will and Kate. Their reaction to my entering their domain was suitably regal: they lingered at the bottom of the tank for a few minutes, before Will drifted up to check me out. He was mere inches from my face.
It might seem like stating the obvious to say he was huge – at least four metres from nose to tail – but seeing him at such close range, while we shared the water, was truly exhilarating.
3. There’s more than one way to meet a croc
If you’re not up for diving with crocodiles, Crocosaurus Cove offers plenty of other ways to get acquainted with Australia’s apex predator. You can hold a (surprisingly cute) baby croc, or swim in a pool next to a tank teeming with them. Throughout the day there are feeding shows to demonstrate the ferocious power of crocodile jaws. You can even ‘fish’ for crocs by feeding them yourself.
I was particularly thrilled to meet a bona fide celebrity during my visit: Burt, the main croc from Crocodile Dundee! Thankfully he wasn’t too much of a diva about it.
4. It’s not all about the crocs
The crocodiles might be the main attraction, but Crocosaurus Cove also boasts the largest collection of Australian reptiles in the world. Over 70 species are represented, most found naturally in the surrounding Northern Territory region. Seeing them all in one place really brings home the area’s unrivalled biodiversity, and offers the chance to learn more about them.
The venomous snakes (including the most deadly in the world) are an intimidating sight, but it was equally fascinating to discover the huge range of lizards, skinks, geckos, and more on display – most of which are too elusive to ever see in the wild.
5. Not everything in the water will eat you
Another marvellous sight at Crocosaurus Cove is the 200,000 litre freshwater aquarium, modelled on a typical Top End river system. It’s home to an enormous assortment of fish species: don’t miss the opportunity to see whiprays (the freshwater equivalent of stingrays) and Darwin’s famous (and delicious) barramundi. Perhaps most impressive were the Archer Fish, the daily feeding shows giving them the chance to show off how they shoot down prey with jets of water.
Elsewhere, the Turtle Billabong houses a colourful assortment of adorable turtles, including red and yellow face turtles, pig nose turtles, and snapping turtles. It’s turtley awesome.
Crocosaurus Cove can be found on Mitchell Street in the centre of Darwin city. It’s open seven days a week, and you’ll need to book the Cage of Death experience well ahead of time. Don’t miss out!