We’re only a few minutes into our Adelaide River cruise and things aren’t quite going to plan.
The mammoth crocodiles and their jumping shows make the area a tourist favourite, but today the reptiles are proving lethargic. Idle on the riverbank or lurking just below the water’s surface, the crocs are untempted by the bait our guide is offering.
Usually there’s no question of the crocs getting all the attention as they launch themselves out of the water and into the perfect photo opportunity.
They’re probably envious of the competition on board our boat, one of a few that ply this river 60km south of Darwin. As a rule, tour groups everywhere are a motley crew, but our jumbled assortment is especially impressive.
You don’t expect to see badge-wearing American Mormons and dressed-to-the-nines Russian matrons together anywhere, let alone on a jumping reptile jaunt in Australia’s steamy Top End.
But there they are: the Mormons earnest as they look for the best camera angle, the Russians either nonplussed (as the crocs stay still) or delighted (when the reptiles do eventually begin to leap).
The crocodiles’ antics are momentarily impressive, but the ex-Soviet tourists will keep us thinking for much longer. What possesses someone to slip on a Pucci pantsuit and full hair and makeup for an animal excursion on a 30-degree day?
There’s no answer to that conundrum as we head to Litchfield National Park, another regular tourist draw about 100km south of Darwin.
The Russians have cleared off, as have the reptiles -“ Litchfield’s swimming holes are reliably croc-free and a sweet diversion from the heat.
We also find other natural marvels, like a series of ingenious magnetic termite mounds built aligned north-south to reduce exposure to the sun.
Unlike its more famous counterpart Kakadu, Litchfield is a leisurely day trip from Darwin, and its highlights are easily seen in that time.
Goanna Eco Tours is one of several companies offering day trips to Litchfield, including an Adelaide River jumping crocodile cruise -“ although there’s no guarantee the on-board attractions will always be as colourful as those in the water.
Ian Gould visited the Northern Territory with the assistance of Tourism NT.