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

 

$100 Day

$100 Day : Darwin

$100 Day

Because we were in Darwin for so long, we figured we’d suss out as much as we could and construct an ideal $100 day.  Also, because of the two seasons, we figured it’d be best to put together TWO $100 days to suit whatever time of the year you decide to visit Darwin.

 

So, here are our action-packed $100 days in Darwin for both the wet season and the dry season.

 

DRY SEASON

 

1. Fish Feeding @ Aquascene $15 each (feeding times depend on the tides – check their website for the schedule)

$30.00

2. Stroll through Bicentennial Park

Free

3. Check out the Town Hall Ruins and Parliament House

Free

4. Take the stairs down to The Waterfront (if you go on Sunday, you might catch the live music Sunday Sessions)

Free

5.Lunch for two at Chow!

approx. $40

6. Bus to The Gardens

$6.00

7. Stroll through George Brown Botanic Gardens

Free

8. A Dinner for two @ Mindil Markets

approx. $20

TOTAL SPEND

approx $96

 

 

 

WET SEASON

 

1. 1. Crocosaurus Cove (if you have the cash to spend, do the Big Croc Feed Experience for $79 per adult)

$64.00

2. Two kebabs from Darwin’s Kebabs

$23.00

3. Walk through Smith Street Mall

Free

4. Take a look at Parliament House and the Town Hall Ruins

Free

5.Check out The Waterfront

Free

6. Two pints of craft beer @ The Precinct

$16.00

7. Watch the sunset/lightning show from Stokes Hill Wharf

Free

TOTAL SPEND

approx $103

 

 

Darwin YHA

Darwin YHA

Darwin YHA

 

Located only a few hundred metres away from the heart of Darwin’s nightlife, Darwin YHA gives you the convenience and affordability of an inner city hostel while still providing a quite place to rest your head.

 

Unlike the hostels further down Mitchell Street, Darwin YHA is not a rowdy party hostel – even though they have a public bar adjoining their building!  The Darwin YHA is a former motel that was converted to a hostel around seven years ago and has a friendly atmosphere that caters for guests of all ages.

 

FACILITIES

There are 168 beds available, with mixed or single sex dorms containing either four or six beds, as well a private double and family rooms.  Each room has air conditioning, a fridge and an ensuite, instead of a large shared bathroom.

 

The communal areas include a cosy kitchen and large outdoor BBQ area with lots of seating, a swimming pool surrounded by sun chairs and a dedicated TV room.  There is also wifi available, off-street parking and a well equipped laundry room.

 

The Dry Season is the best time to visit Darwin, so don’t be surprised if the Darwin YHA gets super busy during this time.  Book ahead to ensure you get a bed or come a little earlier in April.  Carolyn and her team at Darwin YHA also run social events (BBQs, etc) during the Dry Season and are more than happy to help you arrange tours and day trips.

 

 

THINGS NEARBY

To the South

Bus stop – 200m – Darwin’s public transport system is a network of buses that run from Darwin, Casuarina and Palmerston interchanges to service Greater Darwin and some rural areas.  For more information on bus times and routes, visit http://www.transport.nt.gov.au/public/bus/darwin

Fox Ale House – 220m – This is a great spot for a cheap feed and late night live music on the weekend.

Ducks Nuts – 220m – across the road from the Fox Ale House, Ducks Nuts Bar and Grill is a favourite amongst the locals and tourists.  It’s great for breakfast and coffee, and if you feel like dressing up and dancing when the sun goes down, there is a vodka bar at the back.

Crocosaurus Cove – 400m – an absolute must see destination when in Darwin. Experience of a lifetime!

Shennanigans – 450m – this is a great drinking location with awesome trivia on Tuesday nights.  Try the Sweet Potato Salad or Chicken Parmigiana.

Waterfront Precinct – 1.5km – with a great selection of pubs and restaurants, the Waterfront is a great place to spend your Sunday afternoon.  Have a picnic next to the Recreation Lagoon or have a dip in the Wave Lagoon.

Deckchair Cinema – 2km – another great attraction that is open during the Dry Season, the Deckchair Cinema is a great way to relax while enjoying a movie under the stars.

 

 

To the North

Aquascene –550m – this attraction relies on the tides so check their website for fish feeding sessions. The gardens are wonderful as well.

Nirvana – 700m – one of Darwin’s popular destinations for food and live entertainment. http://www.nirvanarestaurantdarwin.com/default.html

Mindil Beach – 2km – during the Dry Season, enjoy the Mindil Beach Markets on Thursday and Sunday nights.  Territory Day, the Beer Can Regatta and various cultural events are also celebrated at Mindil Beach.

 

Tours are also available to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve.

 

THE ESSENTIALS

Darwin YHA is located at 97 Mitchell Street in Darwin city.  Reception is open from 6am to 10pm – to make a booking, visit the YHA Australia website: http://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nt/darwin-surrounds/darwin-yha-backpackers-hostel/

 

Phone: (+618) 8981 5385

Email: darwin@yha.com.au

 

Darwin YHA

 
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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/

 
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Crocosaurus Cove