Gigantic jets, jumping crocs

The Darwin Aviation Museum is a childhood dream come true. I used to be a huge military aircraft buff and the museum has a real BUFF on display, the Boeing B-52G bomber. This huge eight engine beast dominates the museum hanger. Beneath it are a range of other combat and civil aircraft, including American and Japanese World War 2 wrecks and other more modern gems like a CAC Sabre, Mirage fighter jet, AH-1 Cobra, Wessex chopper and the incredible F-111. 

There are also highly informative displays about the bombing of Darwin, women in aviation and the 1919 England to Australia Air Race. The winner took 28 days to complete a trip with 25 stops along the way. In contrast, before COVID-19 struck, Qantas had scheduled non-stop flights between London and Perth of 19 hours.

It’s very hot outside, but after a brief rest we head back to the Arnhem highway and the Adelaide River to join a jumping croc tours we booked earlier in the day. Along the way we stop for lunch at the new and underpopulated Gateway Shopping Centre. I try a meal of satay and roti from Satay Time, advertising itself as Malaysian street food. The satay sticks are basically chicken kebabs and not nicely marinated, so sadly another Malaysian disappointment.

As we continue on our drive I am watching the skies, noting how similar today’s forecast is to tomorrow’s. I do not fancy a flight through those big convective tropical clouds and am wishing we were just driving home.

We make it to the Adelaide River docks with about ten minutes to spare and are lead down to the aluminium boat. It was a view we’d seen out the window as we drove to and from Kakadu National Park. Now is our chance to get up close with the crocs. 

Connie takes us out into the Adelaide River. Big afternoon clouds threaten weather, but the river seems serene but for the wash from the two tour boats. That serenity is deceptive, for lurking below the muddy brown water are saltwater crocodiles of varying size. Sometimes the eyes and the tip of the snout are visible, others are entirely submerged, attracted by the vibrations of the engine.

Once Connie spots a croc, and she knows them by name, she turns the boat to approach them and dangles chunks of fat meat off the end of a pole, teasing the croc until it leaps out of the water to grab the treat.

The leaping prowess of the crocodiles is extraordinary, but the most fearsome of all, giant Agro, is simply lead up to the muddy bank and given the treat with teasing. He dominates that stretch of water, making the other crocs too fearful to come out.

There is something truly terrifying about the crocodile, that reptilian look that elicits no empathy from a mammalian brain. 

We agree that the cruise was well worth it for the experience of seeing these giant reptiles in their own habitat rather than in a zoo or a farm.

Tonight is our last in Darwin. We have exhausted most of the designated sights of the city and its surrounds. Would I visit again? Possibly. There are other seasons to be seen and much more to be explored in Kakadu and other areas. I can imagine coming here and doing nothing but watch the Wet Season storms and eat tropical fruits. Or to visit the night markets by the beach in the Dry.

We sit outside on the balcony munching snacks and watching the boats cruise past. Then head up to the top of the building for our final sunset, the golden orb sinking out of the red sky, a final goodnight from the tropics.

P.S. We finally had excellent Malaysian food in Darwin, our best meal of all. For dinner tonight B cooked some fresh local jewfish and snapper purchased from across the road with the curry leaves we bought at Parap Markets. So good!