When you see a film like Crocodile Dundee, you might think it is all an exaggeration, a bit of a caricature, some hype about the legendary Australian saltwater crocodiles – but it isn’t!
In Far North Queensland on the Eastern Coast of Australia, the World Heritage Daintree Rain Forest reaches down to the coast; and the rivers that traverse the jungle flow out of estuaries via the beaches on their way to the sea. These brackish water river courses are the home and breeding ground of numerous Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodiles, Crocodylus porosus, which can grow up to 7 metres (21 feet) long. They are cunning and dangerous ambush predators. They attack, bite, and kill people.
The guide books warn visitors about these wily reptiles. Beaches have signposts to put unwary visitors on guard. Media often report beach closures when crocodiles are spotted strolling along the sandy seashore, or swimming just offshore – (sometimes they even get into the safety nets that are installed to keep out the seasonal influx of deadly stinging jellyfish).
We spent a fair bit of time looking over our shoulders when we were on the beaches, and kept a keen look out for suspicious looking rocks and logs on the seashores but thankfully didn’t see any crocodiles that might have had a go at us. But we couldn’t go all the way to Australia without sighting one – so we went on a special boat trip down the Daintree River.
Tropical rain forest clads the mountain slopes and reaches right down to the banks of the Daintree River where we went on a crocodile-spotting boat trip.
Saltwater, Estuarine, or Indo-Pacific Crocodiles lurk in the brackish back-waters of the Daintree River that runs through the coastal range of mountains down to the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef.
The tangled root systems of trees on the river bank prevent larger crocodiles from crawling ashore for extensive stretches along estuary. The crocodiles like to come on land to warm themselves up at certain times of the year but first they have to find places along the banks where there is a break in the vegetation.
This is a large mature saltwater crocodile resting in a muddy clearing on the bank of the Daintree River in Queensland, Australia.
This is the largest wild crocodile we saw. It is about 6 or 7 metres long and has hauled itself onto a sandbank for a sunbathe.
We didn’t get too close because this old croc could still inflict a lot of havoc on a boat but this zoom lens photograph shows that he had lost most of his teeth.
The skin of the crocodile is really prehistoric looking with its embedded dermal plates.
There are lots of places in Queensland where you can see Saltwater Crocodiles up close and personal in the safety of a reserve or farm. The Wildlife Habitat near Port Douglas is one of these and the pictures below show a cute little creature – but even this wee thing could give a nasty bite if you aren’t careful.
COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2012
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