Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

Attraction : Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

Imagine a place where you can walk amongst the animals, climb above the treetops and feel on top of the world before floating back to earth.  You can experience all of these things at one place – Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome.

 

You won’t believe it until you see it for yourself, but that ornate dome atop the Reef Casino in Cairns is home to an open wildlife exhibit with various rope courses, zip lines and the opportunity to get the best view in town.

 

Wildlife Dome

Animal lovers don’t need to travel far from Cairns to get their fix.  The Cairns Wildlife Dome is essentially a small tropical zoo within a 20 metre high glass dome that showcases native Australian animals.  Built within the surroundings is Cairns ZOOm, an elaborate rope course with zip lines, a spiral staircase and a platform at the top to soak in the views of the region.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

There are various talks throughout the day so that you can learn and interact with animals such as crocodiles, snakes, koalas and various birds.  The animals are all fairly used to the presence of people so you can get up close without startling them.  One of the best presentations is the crocodile feeding, where you can see and hear Goliath the saltwater crocodile snap at morsels of meat.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

While many of the animals have their own separate enclosures, birds and small marsupials roam free in the rainforest environment.  Kookaburras, frogmouths, curlews and cockatoos are easily spotted from the ground while parrots, herons and doves fly above and can be accessed from a circular boardwalk.  There are over 400 animals within the dome, including an albino kookaburra that can turn the day into a game of hide and seek.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

While many of the animals are visible during the day, such as the turtles, crocodiles and lizards, if you stick around after sunset, the nocturnal animals come out to play.  Bettongs can be seen visiting the feeding stations, the mahogany gliders leave their cosy log for breakfast and curious pademelons are ready to meet the visitors.  While we were in the pademelon section, they were so friendly, one even hopped into Dave’s lap for a kiss.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

ZOOm Courses & Ziplines

When you enter the Wildlife Dome, the overhead ZOOm course is not hard to miss.  It is the world’s first rope course set up in a wildlife exhibit and has over 65 different crossings, including ziplines, ladders, tyre bridges, rope webs and small platforms.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

There are two ZOOm levels – the mid level course is great for beginners, kids and those who may be afraid of heights.  Once you’ve completed the Mid-ZOOm, you’re ready for the Hi-ZOOm.  This course is twice as long, with more crossings and climbs to nearly 10 metres above the floor of the dome.  The view is amazing and dizzying at the very top.  On the way down, there are three ziplines, with one that goes directly over Goliath’s pond.  Don’t worry – there’s no chance he can jump high enough to get you, and there’s even a camera set up so you can take a cool photo souvenir home.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

We were excited about getting up in the air, and the harnessing and safety processes by the friendly staff was nice and quick.  The Mid-ZOOm course was a great introduction into what we were in for with the Hi-ZOOm, and we certainly worked up a sweat.  It’s a great workout for your arms and core, trying to stay stable on wobbly bridges and holding onto ropes and rails.  For the Hi-ZOOm course, we opted for a GoPro helmet for Dave.  We are so happy to have video of the experience, especially the narrow beams at the top of the course that provide nothing to hold on to.  They reminded Juz of the photos from the 1930s of the Rockefeller building construction workers sitting on beams up in the sky.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

Dome Climb

After the Zoom courses, we ducked out for lunch before returning just before sunset for the Dome Climb.  We ascended the spiral staircase that takes you up to the top of the dome and were connected to a belay system before stepping through an opening to get outside.  A tour guide was with us and she gave us a great run down on the history and geography of Cairns.

 

Needless to say, this is THE BEST VIEW OF CAIRNS, and it was even more magical at sunset.  We dangled ourselves off the edge, walked all the way around the Dome and took heaps of pictures before climbing back inside.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

Power Jump

After soaking in the great views of Cairns from the Dome Climb, we had no intention of walking back down the spiral staircase, so we chose to jump down… or POWERJUMP down! The PowerJump involves stepping off a platform 13 metres high and falling at a speed of about 30km/h to land safely at the bottom.  The descent is controlled by a special fan that dissipates the potential energy and allows for a fast fall and soft landing.

 

Dave suggested Juz go first so he could film her with the GoPro.  He probably could’ve filmed from the bottom, but then you wouldn’t be able to see the expression of her face at the edge of the platform before she jumped – or to be more accurate, crumbled – and let out a nice scream on her way down.  HAHAHA!  After she landed, she promptly curled up into the foetal position.  Dave went next and owned it.  He didn’t even make a noise.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

After de-harnessing, the Dome was dark so we did another lap to meet some of the critters that come out at night.

 

We had an incredible time at Cairns ZOOm and Wildlife Dome.  The open plan of the zoo provides the opportunity to interact with some the animals, while the rope courses above are a great way to get an active thrill.  If the physical aspect of the rope course is not your cup of tea, then the Dome Climb is certainly a must do activity because those views are absolutely magnificent.

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

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Animal Attraction : Kuranda Wildlife Experience

Despite the rain, we drove the Troopy over the Macalister Range and arrived in Kuranda village for a very special day with the local wildlife.  The Kuranda Wildlife Experience is the ultimate ticket for animal lovers and is a fantastic way to meet unique, beautiful and interesting animals from Australia and around the world!

 

Kuranda Koala Gardens

Our first stop was the Kuranda Koala Gardens, but don’t be fooled by the name – they have much more than just those cute, cuddly balls of sleeping fur.  They had a variety of turtles, bearded dragons, kangaroos, pythons, and even freshwater crocodiles!

 

 

The first highlight was watching the wombats – the fussy female was paired with her second potential mate, who was on heat that morning.  We had never heard such a strange hissing/growling noise come from a wombat before!  She was resisting all advances and as she scurried away, the male wombat was hot on her heels.  Later that day, we mentioned it to one of the keepers and she said that the female brings it upon herself, because she often tries to get his attention, and then runs away!  What a tease!

 

The wombats at Kuranda Koala Gardens from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

The second highlight was feeding the swamp wallabies.  These creatures were absolutely adorable and very friendly.  As you offer food, their little paws reach up and hold onto your hand.

 

 

The third highlight was visiting the new glider enclosure at feeding time.  There are two varieties on display, the squirrel glider and mahogany glider.  Both are just as cute as the other, but their feeding habits are a little different.  While squirrel gliders prefer to munch of fresh fruit and vegetables with only a little sip of nectar, mahogany gliders prefer their sweet cocktail over fruit and veg.  Another interesting fact that we learnt was that mahogany gliders were thought to be extinct for over 100 years and were only rediscovered in 1989.

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Just before moving on to the next experience, we decided to cuddle a koala and get a souvenir photo.  Alternatively, if koalas aren’t your thing, you can hold a snake instead, but with our fabulous reptile experiences in Alice Springs and Darwin, we thought the koala was the right choice… although he doesn’t seem to understand what ‘happier and with your mouth open’ means.

 

http://www.koalagardens.com/

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Birdworld Kuranda

All feelings of anticipation and excitement were replaced with angst and trepidation when we were shown the “stolen property” tub on the reception desk at Birdworld Kuranda.  It was full of bracelets, buttons, ear rings, Barmah Hat badges and anything else small and shiny that the birds can pry off you with their burly beaks.   Juz promptly de-accessorised…

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Once we walked through the door we were presented with an aviary large enough to house trees, a small waterfall and a pond.  We walked out onto a platform at the top of the aviary and were greeted with the pleasant aromas of tropical fruit that had been served to the birds for breakfast.  There were three colourful macaws perched nearby, as well as a couple of Alexandrine Parrots and Eclectus parrots having a morning meal.

 

As we did a lap of the aviary, we got to know the inhabitants – there was a small aviary full of little finches, huddles of green-cheeked conures, a white-faced heron in the trees, streaks of colour as rainbow lorikeets sped past, a few mandarin ducks and black swans in the pond, and even an intimidating cassowary.  Despite their danger factor, these huge birds are endangered due to being hit by cars and the destruction of their habitat.

 

 

Once we returned to the platform, the Alexandrine Parrots set their sights on our poor, defenceless pen.  With a big red beak, the parrot effortless cracked the shaft and deformed the push button, and we knew that if Dave let go of the pen, it would never survive.  At this point, Juz spotted a juvenile fig parrot sitting on the wire of the fence surrounding the platform and gave it a brief rub on the back of its neck before a sharp peck said it was time to go.

 

On our way out, we got to meet Cobbler the Cockatoo and then swung past the Troopy for a new pen before hitting up our next destination.

 

http://www.birdworldkuranda.com/

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Established in 1985, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary works to increase butterfly numbers by protecting the offspring.  In the wild, only 1 or 2% of eggs laid survive to adulthood while at the Sanctuary, their success rate is 60-80%.

 

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There are 8 species of butterfly in the aviary, as well as the Hercules moth – the world’s largest moth.  All of them are native rainforest species which is why the aviary has been designed to replicate their habitat.  With 1500 beautiful butterflies, including the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly and the big Cairns Birdwing with its bright green and yellow colours, it was easy to stop and become mesmerised by the quiet fluttering of colour all around.

 

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There are several stations around the aviary that function as both a feeding platform and a place to lay eggs.  Each station has a few dishes that are filled with a special nectar formula and topped with a white lid to attract the butterflies.  They used to put honey in the dishes before they realised that the honey was fermenting in the heat and causing the butterflies to get drunk!  The stations also have particular plant clippings which act as hosts for the butterfly eggs.  Each butterfly has a particular plant they lay their eggs on to ensure the survival of their caterpillars, and having these particular plants at designated stations makes collecting the butterfly eggs much easier.

 

The eggs are taken to the laboratory where they are cared for until the caterpillar hatches, grows up and turns into a butterfly.  Depending on the species, the caterpillar munches for around 20-30 days before they transform into a chrysalis (cocoon) and stew for between 10 and 30 days, before a butterfly emerges and is released into the main aviary to live a short life that lasts between 10 days and a few months.  The more they flutter, the shorter they live – that’s why some of our photos are a bit blurry – butterflies don’t live long and have to get sh*t done!

 

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http://www.australianbutterflies.com/

 

 

Our Kuranda Wildlife Experience was absolutely magical.  We got to see a wide range of animals, from mammals and reptiles to insects and arachnids.  Each experience was interactive as we got up close and personal to koalas, wallabies, parrots and lacewing butterflies.  We even got to meet some fellow Melbournians – Rob and Belinda – who were visiting Cairns on holiday.

 

Tickets for the Kuranda Wildlife Experience are $46 dollars for adults, $23 for children.  They can be purchased from any of the three attractions.

 

 

Cobbold Gorge

Natural Wonders : Cobbold Gorge

Cobbold Gorge

 

Cobbold Gorge was on our bucket list from the beginning, and it was fantastic to finally see it in the flesh… or sandstone.  It is located within Robin Hood station, which is owned by the Terry family.  The cattle property is around 1300 square kilometres but Cobbold Gorge is within a 4,000 acre nature reserve where the cattle are not permitted to graze.

 

We booked ourselves in for a morning tour of the gorge, and boarded the bus to the nature reserve.  Before embarking through the gorge, we were treated to a bush tucker walk.  We learnt about various plants in the area that supplied glue, insect repellent, contraception, antiseptic and food, like the Aniseed Bush, which provided a liquorice flavour to damper, and Bloodwood Tree, a popular place to find sugarbag.  The local aboriginals would find the sugar bag by catching a single bee and sticking a small feather to its butt.  They’d let the bee go and follow it back to the hive of delicious sugar bag.

 

We also learnt about the amazing work of termites, and were delighted by the fluttering of Common Crow Butterflies.  They are so numerous because they don’t have many predators due to their amazing ability to absorb the flavours of the things they consume.  Because they eat from plants such as Oleander, they are not very appetising to other creatures.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

At the end of the bush tucker walk, we found ourselves at the grave of John Corbett, a pioneer who died 1871.  He was only 12 when he willingly came to Australia to make his fortune.  By the age of 14, he was digging for gold in Ballarat with his brother and became a wealthy lad.  Over the next 10 years, he established hotels in Brisbane, and when gold was struck in Cloncurry, he wanted to monopolise the area by establishing another hotel in Normanton.  This was when John’s luck ran out.  After a series of misfortunes, he was found robbed and dead in the bush with a six-foot spear in his chest.  Local aboriginals were blamed for his murder but there are rumours that this wasn’t the case at all.

 

After an enthralling tour of the bush, we boarded the boats and set forth into Cobbold Gorge.

 

The Gorge

As we floated quietly along the river in an electric-motored flat-bottomed boat, we learnt that Cobbold Gorge isn’t just any old gorge – it’s a baby gorge!  Having only been discovered in 1992, the creek that formed Cobbold Gorge changed its course only 10,000 years ago, so Cobbold Gorge is still fairly young.  It was named after pastoralist and surveyor Frank E Cobbold, clearly because he was awesome.

 

The gorge is about 6km long, with 30m cliffs on either side, and is 2m wide at its narrowest point. The water maintains a fairly constant level and is fed by springs that seep through the 200 million year old sandstone and reach the gorge 30 years later.  There was plenty of wildlife to spy on.  We saw a few archer fish, a baby turtle, and plenty of lazy freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun.

 

 

 

The Resort

If you’re looking for a place to disappear to for a few days, then the Cobbold Gorge Resort is for you.  The campground offers quiet and relaxing scenery, unpowered, powered and powered ensuite sites, and includes facilities such as a guest laundry, Wi-Fi, camp kitchen, BBQs and fireplaces.

 

MacDonald’s Deck is a fully licensed bar and restaurant with heaps of character.  Have a few drinks and a meal while you soak in the Aussie outback.  Nearby, is the Boomerang Bar, a swim-up bar in the infinity swimming pool. There is also Corbett’s Store, which offers a variety of souvenirs and a few grocery items as well.

 

 

 

The Essentials

Bookings for tours and accommodation at Cobbold Gorge are essential.  Call 1800 66 99 22 or email enquiries@cobboldgorge.com.au for more information.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

Bye NT

Top 5 Things about the Northern Territory

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

We spent over a year in the Northern Territory; not out of choice but out of obligation.  We had to work in Darwin for nearly a year to replenish the bank account and we got stuck in Alice Springs for three months with Troopy troubles.  In that time, we have learnt a lot about the culture of the Territory and have even grown fond of it.  Despite the unbearable humidity of the Top End during the summer months, the relaxed and almost negligent attitude towards hospitality and business, and the worst television advertisements we have seen since we left Melbourne, the NT has its perks.

 

It was great to be surrounded by so much wildlife and aboriginal culture, and the locals are always up for a drink… or seven!  In Darwin, the lightning shows during the Wet Season are incredible, and it was wonderful to feel cold during the winter months in Alice Springs.  On top of all that, we made a bunch of great friends who we’ll miss until we get to see again.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

There is a big contrast between the Top End and Centralia.  The weather in Darwin and the Top End is hot and moist most of the time, while it is dry and dusty in Alice Springs.  While Alice is a quiet town, placid and laid back, Darwin is a little more promiscuous and is a backpacker haven.  Alice was also considerably cheaper than Darwin in terms of beer and meals when out on the town.

 

Trying to put together a list of only five things that are great about the Northern Territory was tough, but we did it and we think this list is pretty good.

 

Indigenous Presence

As Melbournians, it was unfamiliar to us to have so much aboriginal culture around us.  Whether it’s the colourful bags and wallets in the souvenir shops, the aboriginal art galleries that are probably more common than McDonald’s restaurants, or the groups that wander around the city almost aimlessly, waiting for the bottle shop to open, you can’t ignore the indigenous presence.

 

Our most enriching experiences were down near Alice Springs.  We learnt a little about the local language and their creation stories, but what really stood out was having to ask an elder for permission to stay on the side of the road overnight when our radiator split.

 

Learning about the Anangu culture when we were at Uluru was also eye-opening, and it makes us sad that European settlers interfered with that magical lifestyle with their trampling cattle and introduction of foreign plants, animals and diseases, amongst other things.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Paradise

The Top End has pockets of paradise everywhere.  Hot springs, waterfalls, pools lined with lush vegetation – places that are easy to get lost in.  We found a few of these pockets all over the Top End

 

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park near Borroloola is definitely one of our favourites.  With beautiful waterfalls, cool pools and balmy springs, it was very difficult to pull ourselves away.  The Douglas Hot Springs was another location with a hot spring that fed into a creek, and with a campground nearby, it’s the perfect place for a week-long getaway.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Other great pockets of paradise include Robin Falls, Edith Falls and Gubara in Kakadu National Park.

 

Rock Formations

If you’re keen on rock formations, you can’t go past the NT Trifecta – Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.  It will take approximately three days to explore all three, and if you can catch a sunrise or sunset, then you’re in for a treat.

 

Other rock formations to check out in the Northern Territory are Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve just south of Alice Springs, Chambers Pillar along the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail, and the various Lost Cities dotted around the state.

 

 

Crocodile Craze

As we headed north along the western coast, the first warnings we received about crocodiles was in Derby.  We didn’t believe it at first, but after seeing heaps of freshwater crocodiles in the Kimberley and even witnessed a suspicious splash at the Fitzroy River crossing, by the time we got to Darwin, we were well aware of the presence of these prehistoric predators.

 

Darwin uses the croc craze to promote tourism, with great attractions like Crocosaurus Cove and the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruises, where you can see dangerous saltwater crocodiles snap for a piece of meat within metres of the boat.

 

Don’t take crocodiles for granted.  While some businesses use crocodiles to give tourists a unique experience, it’s certainly not all just for show.  Crocodiles are frequently spotted surfing waves at the beach and crocodile attacks happen frequently, to pets and lifestock, as well as to tourists and even locals (who have no excuse to not know better).

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Markets

The NT is market central, and we took advantage of ever market we could find!

 

In Darwin, there are so many dry season markets you’re spoilt for choice.  Our favourites were Mindil Beach Night Market, Palmerston Market, and the Nightcliff and Rapid Creek Markets, both of which run through the wet season as well.  These markets are the go to places for a great atmosphere, energetic performances, cool shopping and delicious food at fantastic prices.

 

Mindil Markets

 

Goodbye NT!  It’s been fun; it’s been swell, but after more than 15 months, the swelling has gone down and it’s time to move forward.

 

Bye NT

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Experience : Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

We love reptiles.  They vary from smooth and slinky to spiky and strange, they’re one of the oldest living species on earth and they’re solar powered!  Therefore, our time in Alice Springs would not have been completely satisfactory unless we visited the Reptile Centre.

 

The Reptile Centre

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre was transformed from a rundown lot behind Billy Goat Hill into a fascinating and educational attraction that opened to the public in January 2000.

 

The centre has the facilities to display a variety of reptiles from the Northern Territory, such as a cave room for the geckoes and a large crocodile pond with an underwater viewing booth for Terry the Saltwater Crocodile.   The humidity, temperature and lighting are carefully controlled to suit the animals based on their natural habitat, and the geckoes are the hardest animals to please because they are very fussy.  The centre is also an Eco Certified attraction and was granted an advanced solar system in 2010 that generates power to the entire centre.

 

There are about 60 different species of animals on display, and each one is loved and cared for by the passionate and friendly staff.  The centre is busiest during the winter months of July to October.

 

The Reptiles

We got to meet four reptiles very personally during the afternoon demonstration.  The first was Ruby the Spencer’s Goanna, who is the resident reptile at the centre.  Ruby was very happy to just laze around and get patted by the visitors.  In the wild, she’d use her blue forked tongue to seek out food like eggs, mice or snakes.  Spencer’s goannas don’t usually climb trees; they’d rather live in burrows that they’ve dug themselves or stolen from other creatures.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Next up was Jessie the bearded dragon.  It was interesting to learn that bearded dragons change colour depending on their mood or temperature.  They are dark when they’re cold so they can absorb more sunlight and more lightly coloured during the hottest part of the day to reflect the sun away.  Their spiky beard also changes colour from happy orange to grumpy black.  They like to eat fruit, vegetables, insects, plants and particularly spiders – all sorts, even the poisonous ones.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Nora the blue tongue lizard was a southern species with darker colours on its scales compared to the lighter coloured lizards of the north. They eat fruit, vegetables, meat, anything they can – even pet food, which is their favourite.  Nora was smooth, cold, stocky and quite heavy.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Our final friend was a beautiful olive python.   These gorgeous creatures prefer a tropical environment and their diet ranges from mice to crocodiles.  Their jaws can expand to fit larger prey and they have heat sensing pits on the sides of the heads to detect prey.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

After the demonstration, we checked out the other critters within the centre.  The inside enclosures housed a variety of snakes, including adders, pythons and even an Inland Taipan, which is considered to be the most venomous snake in the world!  The dimly lit gecko cave displayed a fantastic variety of geckoes, from Dave’s favourite marbled velvet gecko to the quirky knob tailed gecko, which kinda looks like Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Outside were more blue tongue lizards, as well as a thorny devil and a huge perentie monitor.  It was here that we got to personally meet Terry the Saltwater Crocodile, who was captured in Darwin Harbour in 2002.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

The Essentials

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm, except for Christmas and New Years day.  Demonstrations are run daily at 11am, 1pm and 3:30pm.  The entry fee is $16 for adults and $8 for children, or $40 for families (prices current as of March 2014).

 

9 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs

Phone: 08 8952 8900

www.reptilecentre.com.au

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Cage of Death - Crocosaurus Cove

Experience : Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin

Crocosaurus Cove

Did you know that there are over 200 crocodiles, both big and small, that live in the heart of the Darwin CBD?  They all reside at Crocosaurus Cove, with many other creatures like turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs, and they would love a visit from you!

 

Crocosaurus Cove is an incredible attraction that was opened in 2008 to rejuvenate Darwin city.  These days, they get up to 400 visitors a day during the Dry Season, including families with kids, international visitors and young Aussies.  All staff are incredibly knowledgeable and super friendly whilst always keeping your safety in mind, and the souvenir shop stocks all the usual stuff like pens, shot glasses and toys, stuffed toys, as well as crocodile leather products.

 

There are two roads that you can take when exploring Crocosaurus Cove.  You can pay the entry fee and walk around the centre yourself, getting to the meeting points on time to see presentations and feedings (check the Croc Cove program here), or you can choose the Big Croc Feed Experience that includes a guided tour.  We spent the morning exploring by ourselves and went on the guided tour later in the day.  We both agree that the tour was a bloody ripper.  We had an extra special mate along for the tour – a frilled neck lizard that would sit on our shoulders – and we got to feed some of the critters.  We got so much more information from our guide and learnt heaps about the enclosures and the centre itself.  We highly recommend opting for the Big Croc Feed Experience.

 

 

Meet the Reptiles

The reptile enclosure at Crocosaurus Cove is the largest collection of Australian reptiles… IN THE WORLD!  It holds over 70 species from the Top End and Kimberley region, including lizards and geckos, snakes, turtles and quite possibly a new species of crocodile – the pygmy crocodile.  They’re still waiting on DNA results that will determine the new species, but in the meantime, enjoy this great ‘Terminator’ shot that Juz took.

 

Pygmy Crocodile - Crocosaurus Cove

 

We learnt about non-venomous pythons, like the beautiful albino olive python, which doesn’t grow as big as its olive counterpart, but still has that placid and friendly disposition.  We also learnt about some of Australian’s venomous snakes, like the death adder, who is too fat to move quickly so they usually hide and end up getting trod on.

 

 

An interesting fact that we learnt about snake bites is that the venom is spread by the lymphatic system, not the bloodstream!   If you are bitten by a snake, apply pressure and immobilise the affected area to prevent the venom from reaching vital organs.

 

This was by far Juz’s favourite location, not only for the air conditioning, but because of the displays and the reptile handling.  We got to hold a big blue tongue lizard, a bearded dragon and a friendly Stimson’s python that slithered all over Dave.

 

 

The reptile feeding was also a thrill.  They presented an olive python with a humanly pre-killed rat so that we could watch how the snake gets its big lunch down its little throat.  Contrary to popular belief, snakes don’t actually dislocate their jaw, but they can open their mouths to 160°!  We learnt that snakes have a sense of smell that compensates for their bad eyesight and their forked tongue allows them to smell in ‘stereo’.  They also locate prey by sensing heat and once they capture their dinner, they constrict it to suffocate it so gently that no bones are broken.  If the snake does break bones, the kill will be abandoned because broken bones can scratch or stab internal organs during digestion.

 

 

Meet the Fish

Crocosaurus Cove has a massive 200,000 litre fresh water aquarium that is based on the Daly River system.  The selection of fish include two massive whip rays that can grow up to 1.3m wide, enormous barramundi, and two endangered saw fish, which made our day every time we saw them.  Despite the 22 razor sharp teeth in each side of their rostrum, they looked super happy with their pink gummy smile.

 

 

One of the coolest fish in the aquarium is the archerfish and we got to feed these little guys during the guided tour.  They have fantastic eyesight and spit water at their prey (insects, bugs) to knock them into the water.  They can spit up to 3 metres above the water’s surface, but their accuracy is limited to 2 metres.

 

The Archerfish – Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

Meet the Crocs

The main attraction!  They’ve got big crocs, baby crocs, juvenile crocs and even lover crocs – the royals, Kate and William.  A few of the crocodiles were so old and injured that they’ve been brought to Crocosaurus Cove for sanctuary.

 

As part of the guided tour, we got to do two awesome things – feed the giant crocodiles and go croc fishing!  Juz was first up to feed the largest crocodile in the centre and the feeling of having a 5 metre, 80 year old crocodile on the other end of the pole was indescribable.  After the terrifying crack of the crocodile’s jaws clapping around the hunk of meat, the pole arched as Juz heaved and the string eventually gave way.  What a feeling…

 

 

Dave had his turn with a different crocodile that was sleeping in a pool only 2 meters from our faces.  It took a while to wake the critter up, but after a flash of white water and teeth, we knew he meant business.

 

The croc fishing was heaps of fun.  We approached the juvenile crocodile pond to find a huge ‘crocopile’ and had a giggle as we referenced a South Park episode.   We stepped onto the jetty, the guide baited our fishing line with a small piece of meat and the crocs jumped out of the water for a bite.

 

CROCOPILE! - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Hold a Baby Crocodile

The World of Crocs Museum exhibits various crocodile species from all over the world and is also the place where you can get up close and personal with a baby crocodile.

 

The first thing we did when we arrived was hold Fluffy, a 3 month old baby saltwater crocodile, and holding Fluffy again was the last thing we did before we left.  They had a few Fluffies on rotation to ensure that one hatchling didn’t get overhandled or too tired.  It was a great opportunity to hold a feisty little croc, and get a closer look at its scales, feet, eyes, and teeny tiny teeth.

 

Tom Kelly, the resident photographer was very informative and pointed out sensory spots on Fluffy’s scales before taking some hilarious photos.  The sensory spots help the croc feel even the smallest change in the water – the slightest ripple could mean lunch time!

 

 

Cage of Death

While this feature was recommended to us by a few mates, we chose to watch instead of participate.  The Cage of Death is Australia’s first and only crocodile dive experience and while it looked like heaps of fun to be centimetres away from a crocodile, we were happy to stay dry on the sidelines.

 

We saw three cage drops, with most of the thrill seekers being in their 20s.  We had a chat with some people after their dunk and they said it was really cool, scary and well worth the money.

 

 

There’s a reason Crocasaurus Cove is one of the most popular attractions in Darwin – it’s great fun for kids and adults alike.  We wholeheartedly recommend taking the Big Croc Feeding guided tour – it’s worth every dollar.  Not only do you get to feed the crocs, you get to hold more animals than everyone else, you get your own guide to answer any questions you throw at them, and you get VIP priority for baby croc holding and croc fishing.

 

If you’ve got the dollars and the guts, you should totally book your place in the cage of death!  We might have to find some time to head in to Crocosaurus Cove one more time to take a dunk in a croc tank…

 

Crocosaurus Cove

 

Experience Crocosaurus Cove

Crocosaurus Cove is open throughout the year from 9am to 6pm, except on Christmas Day.  If you have a Northern Territory driver’s license, you’re in luck!  An NT Locals Pass entitles the holder to pay the entry fee once and receive entry for the ENTIRE YEAR – perfect for families with young kids or reptile lovers!

 

Address: 58 Mitchell Street, Darwin City

Phone:  08 8981 7522

Website: http://www.crocosauruscove.com/

 
Book your tour at TripAdvisor

 
Crocosaurus Cove

Gotcha!

Fishing : Keep River

While we were in Kununurra, we had the pleasure of being invited out on a fishing trip with a local couple – Crystal and Jarrod.  The destination was Keep River, which is about 70km north of Kununurra, across the border into the Northern Territory.  The trip didn’t take long at all, even after a quick visit to the Hoochery, and we had our camp set up by around lunchtime.

 

 

Keep River is a muddy, tidal river inhabited by saltwater crocs.  During the dry when the river is low and the muddy banks are baked in the sun, you can see massive croc tracks in the dry mud.  That’s why you need to be super careful when fishing next to the river.  You don’t want to stand in the water while fishing, avoid repetitive activities near the water and don’t camp or clean your fish next to the river.  There are a few species of fish that live in the Keep River, and the most wanted of all is barra!

 

Barramundi is massive.  When you go fishing for barra, legally, your catch needs to be between 55cm and 80cm. It has a maximum size because most barramundi over 100 cm are sexually mature females and we need them to make more barra.   There are two kinds of barra – the kind that swim in salt water and the kind that swim in fresh water.  Saltwater barra are silver with yellow fins and taste delicious while the freshies are more muddy and don’t taste as great.

 

You don’t need a license for recreational fishing in the NT but you do need to stick to the fishing regulations and size limits for each species. If you catch a barra that’s too big or too little, do the right thing and carefully unhook it and chuck it back in the water.

 

Keep River

 

Bait

We started off with a rig that involved a massive hook and a float, and we used a cast net to catch live bait.  Popeye mullet was available in abundance and when we saw a big school skipping about in the shallows close to the bank, we’d run towards them and throw the net.  The live bait was pierced through the base of the tail so that they could still swim about and attract the barramundi.

 

All you have to do is cast in your line, loosen the reel and wait.

 

 

Wait

Rumour has it that barramundi often feed at night after a gush of high tide.  We camped just off the banks of the river in our 5 million star accommodation, and built a fire close to the rods so we could hear if we caught something.

 

During the day, you may see a ‘logodile’ float by, but during the night, you can shine your torch over the water and see the little red, beady eyes of the crocs.

 

Waiting for a nibble

 

Damn Straight!

When a barra is on the line, you can hear your line pulling (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).  There were a few times during the night when Jarrod rushed over to the rods and pulled out a good sized barra.  If it was close to eating time, he’d fillet it straight away and chuck it in a pan.

 

 

A great way to prepare them is to fillet the fish, coat in a mixture of flour and curry powder and cook in a frypan.  Delicious! The flesh is soft and buttery and a pleasure to eat.

 

Dave’s rod snagged a stingray that looked more like an alien, and on the next day we caught a catfish too – both of these are crap eating so we unhooked them and chucked them back.

 

Crocs in the Keep River

 

 

Seeing as we were with locals, they took us to where the locals go, not where all the tourists go.  The only other people around were other locals so we all had plenty of space to ourselves.  We had heaps of fun barra fishing at the Keep River and we’re so lucky to have had the privilege.  We’d like to extend a massive thank you to Jarrod, Crystal and Gavin for showing us such a great weekend.

 

Derby Mud Crab Races

Experience : Derby Mud Crab Races

We timed our arrival to Derby around the first bout of Mud Crab Races.  We rocked up at the Mary Island Fishing Club at around 4pm, grabbed a cheap beverage from the shed and sat down to soak up the atmosphere.

 

The purpose of the event was to raise money for a function centre in Derby.  As people started rolling in, a line formed at the crab table where people could make a donation before picking a crab from a big bucket, giving it a name and hoping for the best.

 

 

There were several bouts of crab racing – each with 10 crabs.  The emcee would get up each time and give the audience some ‘facts’ about the awe-inspiring King Sound Mud Crab…

 

The King Sound Mud Crab is related to the dinosaurs!

Mud crabs used to rule the land – even the Tyrannosaurus Rex was afraid of mud crabs!

King Sound Mud Crabs would arm wrestle with Brontosauruses!

Dinosaur fossils were created by King Sound Mud Crabs because the mud crabs were unbeaten – that’s why there are no mud crab fossils!

They are known to attack whales and they can smell blood from 100km away!

 

It was fun to watch the tourists and locals get in on the fun.  A crab that belonged to a woman next to Juz won the third race and she was so happy that she jumped up and gave Juz a tight hug.  They fired up the BBQ and offered burgers and such, and you could also stick around for some free mud crab samples.

 

About Derby

Derby is about 220km north east of Broome and is the entrance to the Kimberley. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of the three towns in the Kimberley with a population over 2,000 and about half of the residents are of Aboriginal descent.

 

We went straight to the Information Centre for news on road conditions, before spending the rest of the morning in a great second hand book shop, picking out books to swap for some old ones that we had in the Troopy.

 

It took an hour or two to explore the town, and after checking out the Friendly Trees and filling up on fuel, we hung about at the pub, waiting for the Mud Crab Races to start, and met a great welsh chick behind the bar who is travelling around the country with her boyfriend.

 

The Derby Wharf

Built in 1964 to replace the old jetty, it served as a port for pearls, wool, live cattle, fuel, oil and other previsions, but these days it’s a great place to watch the sunset and do a spot of fishing.  It’s also the place where you can experience the extreme tidal variations, with the highest tide recorded reaching 11 metres!  One thing that is definitely not good to do at the wharf is swimming!  There are big signs near the water warning people to beware of saltwater crocodiles.

 

At the entrance to the Wharf is the Centenary Pavilion, with a beautiful mosaic that was installed in 2001.  The mosaic is a collaborative effort of 370 kids and adults who spent about 700 hours laying down the 30,000 pieces.

 

 

The Boab Prison Tree

Derby is packed with boabs, but none other like the Prison Tree.  This big fat boab is believed to be around 1500 years old and was used as a checkpoint when transporting prisoners to Derby from the various parts of the Kimberley.

 

Derby Mud Crab Races

Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

Experience : Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

Located about 20km south of Geraldton is a privately owned wildlife park with a variety of agendas.  While it provides a wonderful experience to all animal lovers, it is also a sanctuary for injured animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated, and a place to educate people and raise awareness about wildlife conservation.

 

Tin animals at the front of Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

 

The Park

Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park has been around since the 1970s but it was handed over to Michelle and Jo in 2008.  Since then, they have made a lot of changes to the park to accommodate school groups and educational demonstrations about wildlife conservation and reptile awareness, as well as constructing new enclosures for the animals that live at the park.

 

 

Within the park is a gnome village, which is sure to delight, and the Easter Island heads add a kooky element to the landscape.  There is also has a picnic area with BBQ facilities and colourful playground, which is perfect if you want to celebrate your child’s birthday, and the gift shop has a variety of mementos to take home with you.

 

The Animals

All the animals in the park have been hand raised and have either lived there for a really long time or are new residents.  The oldest animal we saw was a cocky called Wacker who was born in 1945!

 

 

As we strolled around the park, we encountered crocodiles and pythons, sheep and goats, emus and an ostrich, parakeets and cockatoos, dingoes and kangaroos, and a flock of guinea fowl.  The kids loved the talking galah and feeding the kangaroos, and they were fascinated by the silver pheasant, sparrow hawk and the tawny frogmouth, that silently followed the kids as they moved around the cage.

 

The park also offers the opportunity to meet the animals and have your picture taken patting a dingo or cuddling a snake.

 

 

The Conservation

Michelle and Jo are deeply passionate about animal rescue and conservation and use the wildlife park as a sanctuary to rehabilitate rescued animals that have either been injured or abandoned.  They have an average of 10 animals a month that are brought in due to injury – snakes, lizards, echidnas and bats – they even get called out to assist with injured seals.

 

The most common animal that is brought in due to injury are kangaroos.  In most cases, the mother has been killed while crossing the road or shot while the joey is still in its pouch.  They rescue and raise over 25 joeys a year before they are released back into the wild.

 

Sadly, some animals cannot be released back into the wild and are deemed derelict.  In these cases, they need to be re-homed or euthanised, and this is where the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park steps in.  If the animal is of a young age and will not be stressed in a captive environment, then the park will take them in and give them the opportunity to live a fulfilling life in a safe environment.  The tawny frogmouth that we met in the park is a derelict juvenile and it looked quite at home in the park.

 

 

Birds that have been abandoned by their parents or have fallen out of the nest are also brought in so they can live the rest of their lives in safety. In the case of Priscilla the African Ostrich – she came from an ostrich farm that closed down and she probably wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for Michelle and Jo.

 

Michelle and Jo are also involved with the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program, an initiative based in Victoria that aims to create a database of DNA-tested dingoes for the purpose of breeding.  Dingoes are being hunted and have very little protection so it’s important that we do something to ensure that they don’t get wiped out like the Tasmanian Tiger.  They also support the Ochre Project, which aims to raise awareness about dingo preservation and ban the use of 1080 poison baits in Australia.

 

Michelle is also a licensed reptile remover and has been called to move many venomous snakes, including a 1.3 metre monitor lizard. Because the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park is an animal rescue refuge, if you find an injured animal, you can call 08 99261171 at any time.  If they are unable to take the animal in, they will help you with advice.

 

The Essentials

The Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park is located on Company Road in Greenough.  The Park is open every day from 10am -5pm, and is closed only two days of the year – Christmas Day and New Years Day.

 

 

Entry is at the great price of $9 for adults and $6 for kids, and a bag of feed for the animals is $1 each. Discounts for group bookings are available and callouts with the animals for special events can be arranged.  They also have a huge photo op board at the front of the park.

 

Phone: 08 9926 1171

Website: http://www.wildlifeandbirdpark.com.au/