After the show we had some breakfast in a hut adjacent to the Alligator Rivers – a misleading name, as we would be floating above the larger member of the family, the crocodile (Explorer Lieutenant Phillip Parker King gave the name in 1820 in the mistaken belief it was alligators in the river and not crocodiles, and for some reason no one has thought to change it since to avoid confusion). Once everyone had munched down toast and slurped their coffee we all had to sign a document kindly informing us that should we be savagely killed by a crocodile on safari then the operators could not be held responsible.
Having cheerfully signed my life away, my anxiety went up a notch or two when I noticed newspaper cut-outs plastered across the hut like wallpaper. Judging from the headlines there seemed to be a common theme: death and severe injury. “Giant Croc Kills Unsuspecting girl,” read the first one I saw; “Swimmer Pulled Under by 12ft Croc Still Missing”. I loved the optimism of this one, with there being the suggestion the person might somehow have escaped after being dragged under the murky water by the ferocious beast. “Man Loses Arm in Boat Attack,” was one that particularly worried me, as I would be in a vessel myself shortly, though I hoped it would be something far more substantial than the one in that incident. “Croc Hunts Family,” another read. At least this one had a happy ending, though, with no one eaten for a change. “Swimmers Presumed Dead After Croc Pounces,” a more chilling one said. Somehow I didn’t think I would be going for a dip in a river while in Darwin, even with sweat pouring off me like I’d been in the shower.
As far as I was concerned anyone who went swimming or remotely near the water in the Darwin region needed to be taken away by men in white jackets, with there a very real possibility you would become lunch. How anyone could joyfully splash about in the water when there’s every chance a 14ft predator might be eyeing you up was beyond me. While I sympathised with those who had been eaten by crocodiles, I did think they were slightly naïve for going for a paddle in one of the rivers.
I turned to the man in the hut, who I’d just signed my life away to. “You sure know how to get us in the mood for the boat tour,” I joked, still taking in the various headlines.
He smiled devilishly. “Yes we do mate…some big, big crocs out there,” he replied, as if to reinforce the point, in case I wasn’t yet fully aware of what I was getting myself in to. “Was even chased by one myself a few years back,” he added, his grin now widening like it was all just a big game. I couldn’t help but admire the nonchalant way these people integrated with their highly volatile environment like it was nothing more than having a few rabbits and foxes around, all while dismissing their terrifying ordeals like they were just mosquito bites.
Suddenly the trip was upon us, as we were all rounded up before being told to make our way down from the hut to the boat.