The Big Croc, Normanton

Big Things : The Big Crocodile & Big Barramundi, Normanton QLD

The Big Croc, Normanton

 

Despite being a small town, Normanton has two Big Things – the Big Crocodile and the Big Barramundi.  After a quick midday pub crawl, we sussed out both of the Big Things, and we have to admit that the Big Crocodile was far more interactive.

 

 

Big Croc

Located on the main street of Normanton, the Big Crocodile is an artist’s impression of the biggest salty ever killed.  The legendary crocodile was nicknamed Krys the Savannah King, and was killed in 1957 by Krystina Pawlowski by the nearby Norman River.

 

The croc replica is 8.63m long, and we took advantage of the great photo opportunity by mounting the croc any way we could!

 

The Big Croc, Normanton

 

 

Big Barra

Located a little way out of town, the Big Barramundi is an eye-catcher at the front of a hotel.  It’s 7m tall.

 

The Big Barra, Normanton

 

There is plenty more to see in Normanton.  Go on a pub crawl to the three pubs in town, stroll down main street and see the heritage buildings, or check out the Visitor Information Centre.

 

The Big Croc, Normanton

 

Darwin 2014-05-05 027

The Big Boxing Crocodile, Humpty Doo NT

The Big Boxing Crocodile

 

 

Located just outside the United fuel station on the Arnhem Highway, the Big Boxing Crocodile stands 6 meters tall and makes reference to the crocodile population of Darwin and the surrounding area.

 

It was supplied by a guy called Ray Park, who made it to celebrate Australia winning the America’s Cup in 1983.  It took 14 weeks to build, 2 weeks to paint and install, and has since helped out by attracting tourism to the area.  These days, it’s almost shrouded in vegetation, but the red mitts and gaping mouth full of teeth are still visible from the highway.

 

A big thanks to Ray for contacting us and giving us more information about the Big Boxing Crocodile.

 

Humpty Doo Hotel

Eating Out : Humpty Doo Hotel, Humpty Doo NT

We spent the morning on Adelaide River watching crocodiles jump out of the water so by the time we were heading back to Darwin, we were famished.  Someone in the group had the great idea to stop into the Humpty Doo Hotel for lunch.

 

This historic pub has a real rustic feel with the concrete floor and bull horns mounted on the wall behind the bar.  There is even a framed newspaper clipping of the article about Norman the Beer Drinking Brahman Bull.  The Humpty Doo Hotel also boasts about being the only drive-thru bottle shop on the Arnhem Highway.

 

We sussed out the menu – plenty of kangaroo, buffalo and crocodile on offer.  Dave went with the barramundi fish and chips while Juz couldn’t resist the trio of mini burgers.  While we waited for our food to come out, we had a few games of pool.

 

 

Dave’s fish dish looked delish!  Two pieces of battered barramundi that were juicy and tender, with a pile of tasty chips and some lemon for seasoning. It was super filling and everything was delicious.

 

Juz’s trio of burgers were so cute – one was buffalo, one was crocodile and the other was barra.  Working her way from the mildest flavour to the most robust, the barra burger was juicy and delicious, the crocodile burger was ok but the patty was so salty and spiced that the true flavour of the crocodile was masked.  The buffalo burger was very similar to a beef burger.  The buns for all three burgers were super soft and included lettuce and tomato, with a cup of beer battered chips on the side.  Juz went to the condiments and brought back some tartare sauce to add a bit of extra flavour and moistness to the barra and crocodile burgers.

 

We can’t wait to go back to the Humpty Doo Hotel.  A parmigiana is in order, as well as a purchase of one of their merchandise as a souvenir.

 

http://www.humptydoohotel.net/info/humptydoo/

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

Experience : Adelaide River Cruises

Our mates in Darwin invited us to come on a jumping crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River.  The only reasonable thing to do was to accept the invitation.

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Adelaide River Cruises is about 70km out of Darwin.  The drive took about an hour with the last 15 minutes being good quality dirt road.  A ticket aboard the shaded boat costs $35 and it gives you a 1-hour ride on the river with about 30 other people.  Go to an early session if you can – there will be more crocs that approach the boat for a feed.  And make sure you have your sunnies, a hat and your camera.

 

Our tour guide, Morgan, was very knowledgeable about crocodiles and knew where to find them.  He joined the team 10 years ago – his brother, Harry, started the business about 20 years ago. Plenty of crocodiles came up to our boat to visit us, and many did spectacular vertical jumps out of the water.  They were a constant reminder for us to ensure that we kept our limbs inside the boat.  The biggest croc we saw was the infamous Brutus.  He’s about 100 years old, about 5 metres long and can’t jump very well because he’s missing one of his front legs.  He is a really stunning example of how big, powerful and deadly crocs can be.

 

 

Even if there hadn’t been any crocodiles, it would have still been peaceful just gliding over the calm river.  We saw some huge spider webs and a sea eagle perched high up in a tree.  Back on dry land after the cruise, there’s a little shack with various souvenirs you can buy (if that’s your thing).  We were happy to get a few great photos of the crocs and enjoyed the soothing cruise on the Adelaide River.

 

Do we recommend doing a jumping croc cruise, and would we do it again? Hell yeah!

 

http://www.adelaiderivercruises.com.au/

 
Read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

 
Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Flames of the Forest

Experience : Flames of the Forest, Port Douglas QLD

Flames of the Forest

For a truly magical and romantic experience in Port Douglas, you can’t go past the Flames of the Forest.  We were lucky enough to be treated to such an exquisite night by Juz’s sister during our birthday celebrations in September.  The event was a total secret to Juz – and when Cyn told her to put a nice dress on and a bus arrived to pick the four of us up – Juz was getting pretty excited.

 

We entered the forest and about 5 minutes later, the road was on fire.  The bus driver stopped and told us that it was time to get off.  A path lined by kerosene lanterns led us to a clearing in the forest.  A marquee had been set up, with beautiful jellyfish-like chandeliers, tables and candles, and a singer on stage playing Somewhere Over The Rainbow on her ukulele.

 

 

We sat down and noticed how many knives and forks there were – it looked like it was gonna be a gastronomical night!  Drinks were also plentiful, with two ladies walking around with wine all night.

 

Flames of the Forest

 

The first course was kangaroo carpaccio with rocket and parmesan cheese, drizzled with truffle oil and balsamic glaze – YUM!

 

The second course was the winner – smoked crocodile rillettes (sort of like paté) with crispy ciabatta crackers and a dill salsa verde, as well as crab tortellini in a fennel cream sauce.  Both of these were served on the same plate and both were ABSOLUTELY AMAZEBALLSTASTIC!

 

Next up was trout with some beans and white sauce – not so amazeballstastic, but all was redeemed with the next course – tender beef cheeks with potato and baby vegetables.

 

Dessert was divine – black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit) pave with orange blossom cream, raspberry sauce and a crispy nut toffee on top.  SO GOOD!

 

 

We had a quick boogie on the dance floor before the bus was back to whisk us away from the beautiful dreamscape and to our beds in the hostel.  Thank you so much Cyn and Matty for taking us to such a beautiful place.

 

Flames of the Forest

 
Book your magical experience at TripAdvisor

 

Frogs love the Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 2

About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls.  If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.

 

Mitchell Plateau

Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness.  The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.

 

We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.

 

 

Miners Pool

Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest.  The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.

 

Drysdale Homestead

We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S.  As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L.  The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.

 

Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could.  There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.

 

 

Lawley Lookout

In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms.  It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.

 

Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)

Located within the Mitchell River National Park.  Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.

 

The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out.  Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy.  There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs.  Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim.  The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.

 

 

Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole.  We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings.  We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.

 

Big Merten Falls When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls.  The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down.  We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.

 

Big Merten Falls

 

Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise!  The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge.  The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.

 

 

Camping

It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.

 

The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast!  While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple.  Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home.  We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs.  It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!

 

The Lamb

 

Surveyor Pool

After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning.  Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.

 

It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms.  We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge.  We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.

 

 

Eastern Kimberley

The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains.  Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier.  We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.

 

Eastern Kimberley

 

Take care of your vehicle

Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April.  The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.

 

Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings.  Petrol vehicles need not apply.

 

Stock up!

We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley.  Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.

 

Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals.  If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.

 

 

Emma Gorge 

As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave.  Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation.  Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there.  We declined and left.

 

The Grotto

When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham.  The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge.  There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.

 

During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge.  It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be.  Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.

 

 

Warmun (Turkey Creek)

The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD.  Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400.  Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.

 

The Bungle Bungles

A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road.  Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.

 

Reflections - The Bungle Bungles

Boab sunset - The Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 1

The Kimberley is a huge savannah plain in the north of Western Australia.  It stretches from Broome in the West to Kununurra in the East, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek in the south to the coastline in the north.  The area is bigger than Tasmania and Victoria combined.

 

 

Some areas of the Kimberley have been settled by Europeans since the 1800s, while other parts are only newly discovered, like the Bungle Bungles.  It is considered to be one of the last remaining wilderness areas on earth and if you’re game enough to explore it, the Kimberley will give you the ultimate outback experience.

 

The land was first explored in 1837 by George Grey, and the area boomed during the 1860s due to pearling, sheep and cattle farms, mining for diamonds, gold and iron, and cotton picking.  It is believed that the Kimberley coastline was possibly the original landing spot of the first aboriginals who came from South East Asia thousands and thousands of years ago.

 

The natural attractions are plentiful – gorges, waterfalls, palm forests, rocky outcrops and swimming holes – and you will find yourself surrounded by wildlife like crocodiles, birds, frogs, lizards, kangaroos and dingoes.  Cattle stations are scattered throughout the Kimberley and you will see their stock grazing at the side of the road.

 

Aboriginal Art Styles

We saw lots of aboriginal art galleries in the Kimberley containing drawings of crocodiles, kangaroos, people and handprints.  There were two distinct aboriginal art styles that we saw – Bradshaw and Wandjina – and it was really interesting to see the difference between the two styles.

 

Bradshaw Art depicts people like fat stick figures.  Sometimes they hold weapons or wear ceremonial clothing.  Most of these are painted in red and they are believed to be at least 17,000 years old.

 

The Wandjina Style is represented by ancestral beings surrounded with halos and sun rays, with big eyes and a nose but no mouth.  It is believed that this is a more recent style of art from about 1000 years ago.

 

When we departed from Derby, we promised ourselves one thing – no laptop activity until we finished the Gibb River Road.

 

Gibb River Road

Considered to be the artery that travels through the heart of the Kimberley, the Gibb River Road is a 660km stretch of dirt road that was constructed in the 1960s to transport cattle from the stations to the ports of Derby and Wyndham.

 

There was heaps of wildlife to spy as we drove along – brolgas, bustards and the occasional cow – but the real attractions were the gorges.

 

Windjana Gorge

Located within the Windjana National Park, the entrance to the gorge is equipped with a picnic area and toilets that actually flush!  There is an entry fee into the national park but if you have a WA Parks Pass then you’re all sorted.  Camping is permitted in designated areas and the 7km walking track into the gorge starts at the Day Picnic Area.

 

Windjana Gorge - The Kimberley

 

The first thing we noticed as we entered the gorge was the towering cliffs overhead.  As we passed through a narrow corridor of rock, we followed a trail alongside the Lennard River through lush vegetation and trees wrapped by vines.  The path led us down on the banks, where about a dozen freshwater crocodiles were sunning themselves.  When Juz saw the first one, only 10 metres away, she jumped up and grabbed Dave, but the crocodile didn’t budge.  They were all perfectly content with lazing about in the morning sun like statues.  We hung around taking photos of the crocs and waited for a bit of action, secretly half-hoping that a bird (or a tourist!) would get just that little bit too close…

 

The birdlife was incredible, with lots of little finches, rainbow bee-eaters and birds of prey.  We also found a tree laden with noisy fruit bats.

 

 

Lennard Gorge

A decent hike from the car park along a dry creek bed brings you to a lookout that provides great views of a waterfall and the gorge below.  On the way back, we found ourselves sweaty and stinky so we deviated from the path and found a little creek under the shade of a tree and had a refreshing dip amongst the frogs and lilies.

 

 

Bell Gorge

This gorge is a clear favourite.  The hike from the car park was nice and easy and brings you out to the top of the waterfall.  We were spewing that we forgot our togs because it was a great spot for swimming.

 

 

If you cross the river, you can follow another path to a great viewpoint that overlooks the waterfall.  You can even scale down the rock cliff into the gorge for a quick swim.  Watch out for crocs though.

 

Adcock Gorge

After a short, tight and rough track leading to this gorge, we were very well rewarded. Adcock Gorge is a great location for a dip, but watch out for all the St Andrews Cross spiders!   Juz kept screaming ‘Jumanji’ and desperately avoided their webs out of fear of wearing a spider silk mask.

 

The calm pool leading up to the waterfall was full of flowering lilies and as we navigated the stepping stones, Dave stumbled upon what he first thought was a snake but later realised it was a legless lizard wiggling about on the rocks!  The waterhole itself is lush and full of moss and overhanging roots from rock fig trees.  Despite being a little bit murky, the water was cool and refreshing and Juz had a quick swim.  There is also some Aboriginal art on the rocks next to the waterhole.

 

 

Galvan Gorge

A short walk from the car park will bring you to another waterhole with a water fall that you can swim in.  There is another aboriginal art gallery to the right of the waterhole.

 

Barnett River Gorge

Not the most picturesque gorge in the Kimberley but a great place to camp out for a few days.  When you enter the gorge car park and camping areas, you’ll pass a house that says ‘”Trespassers shot on sight” – not exactly the warmest of welcomes so leave them alone and keep moving.

 

 

We found a nice patch to set up camp that was relatively shaded and private, and close to a shallow creek and the path towards the gorge.  While we couldn’t find the actual gorge at first, we found a series of shallow falls that turned out to be the perfect place to cool off and wash the sweat off your back.

 

We later found a trail along a dry river bed that led us into the gorge.  There was a tour group already there, with a few members having a swim in the river.  Juz was about to jump in with them but found out that there were some freshwater crocs inhabiting the water less than 50 metres away.  She wussed out, the tour group had a bit of a laugh and we returned to the shallow falls back near camp.

 

Burnett River Gorge - The Kimberley

 

Stay tuned for The Kimberley – Part 2!

 

 

Straya Animals!

FOREIGNER FAQ

Australia can be a pretty confusing place if you don’t understand the lingo or the law.  We hope this post will help international visitors navigate around what you can and can’t do, and what you shouldn’t do.  If you have any questions that you would like to have answered, send them through and we’ll put an answer together as soon as we can.

 

Aussie Slang

Update your vocabulary with some words of vague origin that are used by Aussies during general speech.  Of course, you may have to get used to the accent and that our laid-back attitude seeps into the way we talk.  A simple sentence can come out sounding like a series of grunts and slurs or a really long word, so the two options you have if you don’t have any clue what was just said to you is to either smile, nod and leave, or keep saying “you’re gonna have to say that again in English because I don’t understand you” until a conversation ensues.

 

Check out our Aussie slang post here.

 

Straya Animals!

 

Free Camping

The most valuable resource you can purchase is a Camps Australia book.  Not only is it a great road directory of Australia, but it also marks off petrol stations, landmarks and places where you can stay overnight.

 

Some of the places are barren rest areas in the middle of no-where, others are sheltered camp spots with picnic facilities and toilets.  Some are in homesteads and remote stations, others are in caravan parks.  The book will tell you whether you need to pay a fee to enter or camp, and it also provides a contact number, just in case you want to call ahead and find out what the fee will be for the night.

 

We purchased one of these brilliant books in Mount Gambier and it has paid for itself over and over again.  We’ve gone through the thing and highlighted all the free camps for quick reference, but there have been a few paid places that we’ve stayed at, purely because they only charge $5 per person for the night.

 

Get your copy here http://www.campsaustraliawide.com/

 

Cobboboonee camping

 

Cheap Supermarkets

Fresh produce prices vary from state to state but you will generally find that the cheapest supermarkets are the major ones (Coles or Woolworths).  Some towns only have IGAs but it’s still worth going in and having a look for some deals.

 

Almost every supermarket you enter will have a clearance section, where you can get stuff like moisturiser and sunscreen, old holiday stock and packet mix foodstuffs super cheap.  The dairy and bakery sections will also have reduced stock like a whole loaf of bread for $1.50 or a 500g tub of yoghurt for $3, while discounted meat is usually marked off with a special clearance sticker.  These reduced products are often very close to their “use-by” date, so make sure you have enough time to eat everything you buy before it gets gross.

 

Half a roast chicken on special for $2 - SCORE!

 

Cheap Petrol

With the fluctuations of petrol prices, it pays to do some research.  More often than not, prices will be lower in larger towns along the coast than smaller towns.  For diesel, the average price is around $1.50 a litre in the cities. We saw the price get up to about $2 a litre on the Nullarbor in South Australia and over $2.35 in the Kimberley.

 

Lots of supermarkets have discount programs with petrol stations.  Coles is connected to Shell, Woolworths is connected to Caltex, and in smaller towns, the independent grocery stores may be connected with the local petrol station.  To get a discount voucher for your petrol, you’ll need to spend around $30 on groceries and your voucher will be a barcode at the bottom of the docket.  Give this to the console operator at the petrol station to get around 4 cents off per litre.

 

Dangerous Wildlife

It is not a secret that Australia is covered with animals that will peck, bite, sting and eat you.  Here is a very brief guide to those animals, but we suggest you do some further research if you are seriously concerned about meeting one of these critters.

 

Crocodiles

There are two kinds of crocodiles in Australia along the northern coast.  Freshwater crocodiles grow to about 1-2 metres in length and tend to just want to chill out.  It doesn’t matter how relaxed they look, leave them alone because they still have a mouth full of sharp teeth.

 

Saltwater crocodiles are found in rivers, estuaries and on beaches and can grow well beyond 2 metres in length.  These guys are aggressive and love eating humans.  A general rule to remember is – if there’s barramundi, there’s crocs, but there are usually signs near water that tell you if crocs are about.  Don’t eat or clean fish near the water’s edge and camp well away from rivers, estuaries and pools.  You don’t want to end up like one of those wildebeest in those documentaries that get dragged and twisted into the water.

 

Spiders

If you want to get close enough to a spider to touch it, then you’re nuts.  Just leave ALL OF THEM alone!  White tails are scavenger spiders that can cause your flesh to rot from the bacteria on their fangs, while funnel webs are seriously venomous and can chase a human just to bite them!  WATCH OUT AND STAY AWAY!

 

 

Snakes

Some are not a threat to humans while others will not hesitate to inject you with a lethal dose of venom if you make them feel threatened.  To avoid any confusion, respect and stay away from all snakes.

 

Cane Toads

These introduced bastards are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems.  An adult cane toad is chunky, about 10-15cm in length with a bony head, poisonous glands behind the ears, dry, bumpy skin of grey, yellow or olive brown and a pale belly.  At the moment, they are found in Northern Territory and Queensland and we don’t want them spreading anywhere else.  Check your car and luggage for stowaways.

 

Marine animals

Jellyfish are an issue, especially the Box Jellyfish, which is one of the most lethal animals in the world.  They are usually found along the coast and have long stingers that administer painful venom.  You can put vinegar on the affected area and remove the tentacles with a towel, but seek medical attention immediately!

 

Other marine animals include the Blue-Ringed Octopus, a pretty little thing that is actually the most toxic sea creature in the world.  It has a powerful nerve toxin in its salivary glands that can paralyse you in 10 minutes and kill you in 30 minutes.  Stonefish are masters of camouflage and are gagging for you to step on them so they can give you a nasty sting.  Stories stay that the pain is so excruciating that the only thing that will stop the pain is amputation…

 

The other obvious marine animal to look out for is the shark.  Just watch JAWS before you arrive in Australia and you’ll get your education.

 

Fishing Permits

Each state has their own laws about fishing.  Some require you to purchase a fishing license while others allow fishing in the ocean but not in rivers and estuaries.  Perhaps you’re allowed to catch this fish but not that fish, or you might be allowed to catch a 13cm blue swimmer crab in South Australia but a 12.7cm crab in Western Australia.

 

Make sure you check the laws at information centres before you end up with a fine.  You can get free stickers that give you the acceptable lengths of each fish that you can catch in the state, and there are identification booklets available to let you know what’s good to eat and what’s poisonous.  Just Google ‘fishing licence Australia’ to get you started…

 

Fishing on Busselton Jetty during a sunset 

 

Quarantine & Exclusion Zones

Quarantine zones are mainly about stuff that you can and can’t bring in and out of the country, but did you know that there are exclusion zones within Australia?  If you’re planning on doing a road trip, make sure you’re aware of these zones.  The last thing you want is to be fully stocked with fruits and vegetables, honey and nuts, and drive past a sign that tells you that you need to put all of that into the bin before going any further.

 

A big checkpoint is Border Village on the Nullarbor.  We were aware of the restrictions and made sure that we had no fresh fruits of vegetables, nuts or honey.  When we got to the check point, a guy with a clipboard searched our vehicle and found adzuki beans in our grains box.  They were confiscated and we were allowed to proceed.

 

The reason for quarantine zones is so that pests like the notorious fruit fly or other little bugs, weeds or diseases don’t get brought into uninfected areas and wreak havoc.  Read up on interstate quarantine here: http://www.quarantinedomestic.gov.au/index.php

 

Bush Fires

Australia’s aridity leaves it susceptible to bush fires that either spring up naturally due to the intense heat, accidentally from a discarded cigarette butt or campfires, or intentionally by an arsonist.

 

Bush fires are serious business and can move really fast, burning everything in its path.  If you hear about a bushfire in the area, talk to locals, listen to the news and make sure you’re not driving to your doom.

 

Darwin 2013-07-01 236

 

Aboriginal Communities

There are many aboriginal communities throughout Australia – some are open and welcome visitors, while some are closed and prefer to be left alone.  It’s important to be respectful and make contact with the community via the appropriate channels before you go to visit.  You may be required to explain why you want to visit and how long you want to stay.

 

Getting Work

Working while you travel is a great way to fund your adventure, and there are a couple of things that you might want to consider. The first thing you’re gonna have to do is get a tax file number.  If you don’t, you could get taxed at a really high amount, thus leading to less money in your pocket.  Get a TFN at www.ato.gov.au.

 

If you’re visiting Australia, you’ll also need a Working Visa that you can get from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.  Go to www.immi.gov.au for information and advice.

 

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you can check out farm and harvesting jobs, or office and hospitality jobs. If you want to pour beers in a pub, you’ll probably need a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate (RSA), and if you have any particular qualification, you can search for relevant jobs on www.seek.com.au.

 

Renting/Buying a car

Buying a car in Australia isn’t as easy as going to the milkbar and buying an ice cream.  You need to have a valid license and get a roadworthy certificate, car registration and possibly car insurance.

 

As with some of the other things mentioned already, licensing, registration and roadworthiness differs from state to state.  If you can get a car with registration, then you’re winning, but you need to make sure that the registration is renewed once it runs out, which is usually once a year.  Suss out all the details with the Department of Transport for the state that you plan to visit.

 

If you’re considering renting a car, there are plenty of options for you.  There are companies which offer cars, campervans, mobile homes, and even 4WDs.  Consider the places and things you want to see, and choose your vehicle accordingly.

 

Troopy on the beach!

 

Wyndham 2013-06-02 047

Big Things : The Big Crocodile, Wyndham WA

The Big Crocodile

 

The Big Crocodile in Wyndham was built in 1987 by the kids of the community to remind locals and visitors to be aware of crocodiles in the surrounding waters.  The crocodile is 20 metres long and is made from 5.5km of steel rod, 50kg of welding rods, 10 rolls of chicken wire and 5 cubic metres of concrete.

 

The Big Crocodile

 

About Wyndham

This small, sleepy place is the oldest town in the area, and is considered to be the Top Town of the West.  It used to be a little port that was used to export cattle to Perth and overseas, but with the state’s first gold rush in 1886, Wyndham became an established town.  The meatworks became the major industry but has since closed down, so these days Wyndham survives mainly on tourism.

 

Our day in Wyndham started at Maggie Creek, a rest area about 30km out of town.  We woke up before dawn and hooned up the highway to get to the Five Rivers Lookout on top of the Bastion before sunrise.  We made it in time, and watched the sky turn pink, the fishing boats leave the wharf and the smoke rise from controlled fires scattered across the countryside.

 

 

At about 9am, we rolled back down the mountain into town and sussed out the supermarket and petrol station.  While the prices inside the supermarket were a bit steep, diesel was a bargain so we took on just enough to get us down to the Bungle Bungles and back to Kununurra.

 

We headed north to the wharf and walked along Anthon’s Landing with the hope that we’d see a croc but we didn’t.  Back in town, we visited the eerie Dreamtime Statues, which are larger than life sculptures made of bronze.  Sadly, they were vandalised with red spray paint, but Juz let herself be cradled by the scary blood-face Dreamtime statue.

 

 

Menacing!

Wildlife : Crocodiles

Menacing!

 

There are two species of crocodile in Australia – the estuarine or saltwater crocodile and the freshwater crocodile.  They are found mainly in the northern parts of Australia and both species are fully protected.

 

If you are concerned about being attacked by a crocodile, like Juz’s parents, look out for crocodile warning signs, speak to locals, contact the state’s national parks management, and visit information centres when you get to new towns and cities to make sure that you are crocodile-aware.

 

Fast Facts:

  • Crocodile eggs are as big as a goose egg, and the female croc will lay up to 80 in a nest and will protect them for about 3 months while they incubate.  When they hatch, most are eaten by surrounding wildlife like fish, lizards and birds, and weirdly enough – by other adult crocodiles.
  • Crocodile leather is valued at around $400 per square foot, which has lead to poaching and many crocodile species being threatened.  Let’s not get into how the crocodiles are ‘processed’ once they get in the hands of the poachers – it’s just cruel.
  • Crocodile tears are known to depict false sadness, but crocodiles do release fluid from their lacrimal glands, particularly when they’re eating due to the pressure of their bite squeezing tears out of their eyes.
  • Crocodiles can live for up to 80 years.
  • Crocodiles have 24 sharp teeth that are designed to chomp and crush.  Because they can’t chew, they swallow stones so that their food is ground up inside their stomach.
  • Crocodiles have been around since BEFORE the dinosaurs, about 135 million years ago! Back in those days, they were around four times bigger than today’s crocs!
  • Crocodiles have night vision due to a layer behind their retina called a tapetum.  This layer contains reflective crystals to help them see better, but also allows humans to spot them with a torch at night.  If you see a pair of shiny sparkles in the water, you know that crocs are around.
  • Crocodiles that are hanging about with their mouths open are just trying to chill out – they sweat through their mouth and opening their jaws wide stops their brains from overheating!
  • The saltwater crocodile is the largest species of crocodile in the world and can reach up to 7 metres in length.
  • While crocodiles have a four chambered heart like humans, so they can be very active when required.  When they are underwater, their heart starts acting like a three chambered heart so that they can stay submerged for longer – up to 3 hours at a time.

 

One of the salt water crocs getting ready for a feed.

 

Name: Estuarine crocodile

Scientific Classification:  Crocodylus porosus

Alternative Names: Saltwater crocodile, saltie

 

Salties are the largest of all crocodile species and can grow up to 7 metres long.  They are found in estuaries, billabongs, and the floodplains of the Kimberley, as well as the open sea.  Despite their name, they are not found exclusively in salt water and can live in freshwater pools and rivers hundreds of kilometres inland.

 

Their diet consists of fish, waterbirds, some land animals like wallabies, but they will also eat humans.  Even though they use stealth and camouflage to catch their dinner, they can also can be aggressive and chase you from the water’s edge.  They are almost as fast on land as they are in the water so your chances of outrunning them are slim.

 

  • If you are fishing by a river, stand at least 3 metres from the water’s edge – this might give you a fighting chance to get away if a croc attacks.
  • Don’t camp next to the water’s edge – we heard a campfire story of crocs that drag your tent into the water while you’re asleep!
  • Don’t clean your fish next to the water’s edge – the crocs will be attracted to the smell and won’t be able to tell the difference between the fish and your arm.
  • Don’t lean over your boat or stand on logs that overhang water – crocs can propel themselves through the water at incredible speeds and even launch themselves into the air.  If you think you’re safe within 3 metres of the water, think again…

 

A fresh water crocodile sunning itself

 

Name: Freshwater Crocodile

Scientific Classification: Crocodylus johnsoni

Alternative Names: Johnston Crocodile

 

Freshwater crocs grow to about 1-3 metres in length and inhabit lakes, creeks and freshwater rivers, but sometimes tidal areas as well.  They eat insects, small aquatic mammals and fish, and while their diet doesn’t include humans, that doesn’t mean they won’t bite you if you get too close.

Other than the size difference, the best way to tell the difference between a saltwater croc and a freshwater croc is by their snout.  Salties have a broad snout while freshies have a narrow snout.

 

Our Encounter:

Our first experience with wild freshwater crocodiles was in Windjana Gorge – there were crocs everywhere!  Most were sunning themselves on the banks of the river and a few were having a leisurely swim.  We even saw a crocodile pile up – about four crocodiles cuddling up to each other in the heat of the sun.  We could get fairly close to them if we wanted to, but being the clever people we are, we kept our distance and became hyper-aware of our surroundings, just in case one wanted to creep up behind us.

 

 

Our only encounters with a saltie (other than at a wildlife park) have been at Surveyor’s Pool up on the Mitchell Plateau and at the Keep River in NT.  From the safety of about 100 metres above Surveyor’s Pool, we spied a croc that was just hanging about but it soon caught sight of us and swam out of sight.  While driving along the west side of the Keep River, we could see quite a few salties on the opposite bank.  We can get closer… but we will need to be super cautious.

 

A giant croc made of fish nets

 

The Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park

 

Happy snaps with the koala!

Urimbirra Wildlife Park

Menacing!

 

Urimbirra Wildlife Park is located only 5 minutes north of Victor Harbor and is the home for over 400 Australian animals, like kangaroos, koalas, snakes, lizards and birds.  There are also farm animals like chooks, rabbits and guinea pigs and you can get up close and personal with most of the animals.  They also have a kiosk and souvenir shop onsite and you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch to cook up on their electric BBQ and enjoy it in the Park.

 

Urimbirra is an aboriginal word meaning ‘to preserve’ or to ‘take care of’, which is very appropriate. The Park was opened in 1975 by the local council and went private in 1992.  It sits on land with a rich Aboriginal history, which is evident in the canoe trees on the property.

 

 

The first thing you’ll see as you walk through the park is the range of birdlife, including devious rainbow lorikeets.  The emus are curious creatures with eyes that are bigger than their brains.  They are the second largest bird in the world and can be a bit intimidating, but the ones at Urimbirra are tame enough to hand feed and peck at the folds of skin in your hand as you offer them food.  The cassowary, on the other hand, is a little more aggressive and was separated by a fence, and for good reason.  They are known to jump and kick your guts with their long and strong legs, usually aiming for disembowelment.  The young cassowary got a little upset when Juz called it Testicle Neck.

 

The Park’s echidna was an active little guy who was busy licking up the ants that were scurrying around his food plate before marching around his pen and diving into his burrow.  The wombats were a little more sedate but came out for lunch.

 

 

The Park also breeds lizards, snakes and tortoises.  The Reptile house has a variety of lizards and snakes, including the Tiger snake, which causes the most deaths in Australia, and the Brown snake, which causes the most bites in the state.

 

 

The Crocodiles

We made it to the crocodile enclosure just in time for the feeding.

 

Fresh water crocodiles range from 1.2 metres for females to 2.5 metres for males.  They have a longer, more slender snout which is perfect for gliding through the water to catch fast little creatures like fish.  They pose minimal threat to humans but if approached, they might close their eyes, which makes them look like they’re sleeping, but they’re actually protecting their eyes from danger and are ready to ‘defend’ themselves and deliver quite a bite. Andy, the onsite handler, has been bitten a few times. He said that flesh wounds aren’t too bad, but if they hit a bone then it really hurts. Ouch!

 

 

Salt water crocodiles eat larger animals like duck and geese, but once they reach 3 metres long, they’ll attack anything, like cows and horses.  They are much faster in the water than on land, prefer murky water so they can ambush their enemy, and usually kill larger animals to defend their territory.  They are very aggressive and are definitely a danger to humans.

 

The Koalas

We had the opportunity to touch and pose with these guys.  Their fur is thick and soft but a little wiry and they were mostly oblivious to the hands that reached out to pat them.

 


These days, koala numbers are dwindling due to death by cars and dogs, whereas back in the day, their main threat was the dingo.  Check out our post on the Koala.

 

The Kangaroos

Urimbirra have a variety of kangaroos, like Eastern Greys and Kangaroo Island roos.  They are super friendly if you had a bag of feed so make sure you get one when you pay for your ticket to get into the park.

 

 

They also had an albino kangaroo that was fenced off with the Tammar Wallabies.  This poor fella looked a little sad because the other kangaroos would beat him up.  He’s been sectioned off for his own safety.  Urimbirra also breed albino peacocks, which are native to Sri Lanka, and only 1% survive, which means they get one every two or three years.

 

The albino kangaroo - separated from the rest because it gets bullied.

 

The Snake

Also known as the Inland Carpet Python, this cute little Murray Darling Python was brought out so everyone could have a good look at his beautiful scaly skin.  These non-venomous snakes are usually found in eastern Australia and feed on small mammals, birds and lizards.  They are popular as pets because they’re not very aggressive.

 

 

The Essentials

Urimbirra Wildlife Park is open every day from 10am to 5pm.  Entry to the park is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.  Because the park is privately owned, all fees go towards education and maintaining the park.    Koala shows are at 11am, 2pm and 4pm, while the croc feeding is at 1:30pm and the snake petting is at 4pm.

 

Phone: 08 8554 6554
Website:  www.urimbirra.com.au

 

Juz overrun by kangaroos - friendly buggers!