The Kimberley coast’s gorges, estuaries,waterfalls and rockpools are a real pull for travellers visiting the area. However, there’s more to this watery spectacle than meets the eye. Lurking beneath the still waters could be a crocodile, which is why you always need to be Croc Wise.
I can (almost) guarantee that you will see crocodiles on your Kimberley cruise – from a safe distance. Sometimes you will see that sunning themselves on a river bank or even in the sea near your vessel (especially if your crew are preparing a freshly caught fish for the BBQ. They really are magnificent and scary creatures.
The expedition leaders and crew on your Kimberley cruise will be very croc wise and will ensure your safety. The following information is general advice for travel in the Kimberley especially if you are self-driving.
There are two species of crocodile in the Kimberley (just as there is in the NT and Far North Queensland) the freshwater or Freshie (Crocodylus Johnsoni) and the saltwater or Estuarine (Crocodylus porosus) also known as the ‘Saltie’. Saltwater crocodile numbers fell dramatically due to hunting, but since they became a protected species in the 1970s, the numbers have increased significantly.
The more sedate freshwater crocodile can grow up to 3m, although it is more likely to be around 1.5m. As their name implies, freshwater crocodiles live in lakes and creeks. You really are not in much danger from the freshies but the rule of thumb here, as with all wild animals, and regardless of whether they are aggressive or not, is to avoid them and refrain from aggravating them.
The Saltwater crocodile is a genuine threat however. The term ‘saltwater’ crocodile is something of a misnomer, as they can also live in freshwater and miles inland. How will you know if a croc is a Saltie? Being the largest reptile in the world, saltwater crocs can grow to over 6m so the size will be a clue (but only if it’s an adult). The other clue will be its aggressive nature! The best advice is if you see a crocodile move away.
Many tourists to the Kimberley come with ideas about where crocodiles swim and how they move. They are usually surprised to learn that you might see a crocodile on the beach, that they can swim through fast-flowing waters, surf on waves, swim in estuaries, tidal waters and river pools and around offshore islands. Furthermore, they can climb rock faces to get to pools higher up in a waterfall.
Read the signs (even if there isn’t one)
Throughout the Kimberley region, you will see signs advising you to be Croc Wise but what does that mean? Firstly, if you see a sign make sure to read it. If, however, there isn’t a warning do not assume that there are no crocodiles. Always ask locals and in tourist information sites for updates.
When to swim, when not to swim
You are best to avoid swimming in any water that is muddy, deep or still as crocodiles often lie on the bed where they can’t be seen. The opportunity to swim is a big attraction for many people when choosing to visit the Kimberley but the existence of saltwater crocodiles limits your options. Most Kimberley cruise operators will include safe swimming locations on their itineraries.
Safety at the water’s edge
Standing close to the water’s edge is dangerous as crocs can move from underwater to land surprisingly fast. We have all seen Crocodile Dundee! If you are at the water’s edge always face it – never turn your back.
If you intend to fish you should pay careful attention and avoid cleaning any caught fish near the water’s edge. The same goes for launching a boat into the water, avoid having to actually go into the water. When you’re in a boat, refrain from dangling legs or arms over the side.
Not surprisingly, it’s recommended that you don’t go near the water’s edge at night.
Look for croc clues
You might see marks, scuffs or skids along the bank where a crocodile has slid into the water or where it has made a nest. If you see such markings, it is advisable to move away.
Avoid swimming in places where you see other animals drink. Chances are a crocodile knows they drink here too and could be waiting…
Pitch up being Croc Wise
If you are camping near water, make sure you apply all the rules above as well as considering where you pitch. Make sure your tent is at least 50metres from the water’s edge. Clean up after you’ve eaten to avoid leaving any tempting and tasty food scraps around your camp. Always pay attention and be cautious, especially at night.
Pay extra care during the breeding season
The crocodile breeding season is between Sept-May. At this time they are at their most aggressive, but males are territorial at the best of times.
Being Croc Wise won’t spoil your holiday. Being eaten by a crocodile will!
I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here and I will call you then.
Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements. If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here. I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.