Wednesday, 9 August 1995

AUC 1995 - Crocodylus Park

Nagasaki Day was loosely planned about three objectives: the development of film records of our trip; a visit to Crocodylus Park; and observation of the sunset at East Point.

Unfortunately, a later than wanted start to the day was necessary, because we could no longer go out in public with the clothes we had in our ports. Undies and socks had been hand-washed at Litchfield, but the self-standing collection of shirts and jeans/shorts who stood in one corner of the tent, had to be dealt with.

This done and rogue clothes now firmly placed in custody on the clothes line, we drove into Darwin's
Central District, via Palmerston. This important suburb of Darwin, was the original name of the settlement at the shoreline. It was changed to Darwin Port in the early years of this century. The original name is now honoured in it's main suburb, which contains the banking and business sector.

From here, it was into Darwin itself and a scramble for a parking spot, luckily obtained a hundred metres from the Smith St Mall. Food halls, clothing, jewellery and all types of tourist dollar shopping attractions are provided for. For our part, we dropped off four films for developing and I purchased a new pair of joggers. The old Reeboks were flagging, with tattered soles and tear holes appearing in the tops, so it was time for a new model. Light and comfortable, this particular brand have proven excellent for my difficult feet, so I was loath to alter from the tried and true.

No ... I am not on a commission !

Whilst I was looking after my feet, Sue was giving the children free rein to look after their stomachs. The food halls they were browsing represent the choice and diversity one would expect from a community which has in excess of 45 different nationalities in its composition. Ultimately, Sue was very disappointed that, despite the variety of different cultural experiences she has given their palates over the years, when given a freedom of choice, her heathen children selected pies and chips! Back to the ethnic cooking drawing board, I'm afraid!

By the time this was completed and lunch consumed, we were heading for Crocodylus Park: a new
development which is the brain child of Dr Graham Webb. Not set up in opposition to the more famous Crocodile Farm - but never the less being seen in that light - this is a re search facility which seeks to...
* assist the relatively newly spawned crocodile farming industry;
* support Hie Conservation Commission in survey work and protection of the Saltwater Crocodile; and
* provide information and education to the public.

In the process, they have been attracting an increasing share of the tourist market, as many people believe they offer a better visitor program, which goes well beyond the "oohs and aahs" of the feeding show at the more established business. As you can imagine, the more senior establishment is unhappy about this state of affairs and it was alleged it has been calling in some favours from the Conservation Commission and farmers, frustrating the alms of Crocodylus Park. This is, of course, according to the keeper who showed us through the facility.

The one thing which seemed certain from talking to people who had been to both, our selection of this place to visit over the other, had been a wise and informed one.

An extensive museum is part of the entrance price, as is a clean cafeteria, where we were encouraged to stay and eat our "made at home" sandwiches. A large viewing screen in this section shows videos about crocodiles, which are for sale (the videos ... not the crocodiles).

The "show" part of the entry fee started with information and feeding of the six year old "salties" in the main lagoon. The impression of a lazy ferocity is created as they bask in the sun, only moving to snaffle the chicken halves which are thrown in their direction. However, when they move, they move with lightening speed. An elevated viewing platform provides a good sight of these throwbacks to a prehistoric time. The description of them as a perfect, energy efficient hunting machine, seemed apt.

From here, we were taken on a tour of the breeding pens, where some very large male crocs lounged with nothing else to do but eat and mate: tough work, but someone has to do it!

"Throw in the occasional beer and you would have the role statement of the Aussie bloke," stated one

These were seriously big and dangerous animals and the warning to keep our arms, hands, feet and
cameras from dangling over or through the protective wiring was actioned for us when these seemingly docile giants suddenly leapt three metres into the air to snatch their "chicken feed"from the quickly retreating fingers of the keeper.

A juvenile "freshie" had been causing them concern, as it had been climbing the barrier and making its way into the juvenile "salties" pen. The keeper was not sure what the incidence of crocodiles with an identity crisis was, but he did think it was rare. If the behaviour was not curtailed soon, the "salties" greater growth rate and aggression would make it even rarer!

After the feeding and tour, we went through their quite extensive museum on the history of crocodylus - the family of reptiles crocodiles belong to. There was a wide range of information available ... everything you wanted to know about crocodiles, but were afraid to ask ! Stories and artifacts from others countries were displayed here and some of the horror stories from Asian countries about killer crocodiles which have preyed on villages etc, made our few deaths in the Top End In the past ten years, look very mild.

Also on display were American alligators and Australian Freshwater Crocodiles.

With our tour complete, Chris again came up with the "spot of the day". Sue and I were cruising the hats, looking for a new cap for the croc-shy youngest, when Chris hurriedly reported that Don Burke was out on the verandah filming ! Sure enough, investigation revealed the host of Australia's most popular and most successful lifestyle program, was outside conducting an interview with Dr Graham Web, the founder of Crocodylus Park. I shot some video as evidence of the "star spot" and despite hanging around for an autograph, time eventually drove us out the door.

The late afternoon sun decreed we should head back to town and retrieve our latest films and we were very happy with most of the news we received when we picked them up. The first film I had taken for some time with Dad's old Yashika, had turned out some really excellent photographs of Katherine Gorge and family candid shots.

Unfortunately, the suspect batteries in Sue's camera had done the deed on some keenly anticipated snaps taken at the Corroboree at Katherine and the entire film was lost! She was distraught.

After several wrong turns In traffic, we eventually made our way out to East Point, with the intention of visiting the Military Museum, but the delays in town and my errant driving meant we were too late to gain any use from going in. this gave me a tinge of disappointment, as I had been led to believe the museum was very good.

Back to Fannie Bay shops for dinner - Dad's Treat of pizza and garlic bread - and we drove out to a good vantage point at East Point to watch a famed Darwin sunset. Again the trendies were there with their champagne and again, we seemed to be surrounded by French tourists. Bastards ! The popping of champagne corks accompanied the sinking sun, but as they didn't share, we didn't offer them any pizza ! The sunset was good, but we were beginning to crave an Aussie accent when seeing such delights in our own country.

Evening having started, we left Darwin for our camp, happy fortune had brought us to this beautiful city, when we had not intended coming originally and impressed with what we had seen in two short days.

Before hitting the sack, I caught up with sister Sue, via the telephone and gave her a commentary of recent events in our travels. It was good to hear her voice and share some funny stories about the kids etc. Of concern was the story of Gog and Pa's close shave at Lawn Hill Gorge. The capsizing of their canoe and Gog's spell under water didn't sound good and Sue and I both prayed they may have no further scares of that ilk.

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