Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures is 40 minutes north of Cairns in Far North Queensland. We have just boarded a boat for a twenty-five minute lagoon cruise. The murky water is swarming with massive, prehistoric-looking monsters: saltwater crocodiles, the largest living reptiles on the planet. The safety briefing is short, sweet and sparks a muffled chorus of nervous laughter.

"If you look under your seats you will find there are no life vests. The reason is obvious."

Several crocs notice our presence and swim silently toward us. Luckily our boat has a solid, unsinkable feel to it.

We cast off and head for the far bank where 'Hercules', a reptile of gargantuan proportions, is warming himself in the tropical sun. He is so still it is hard to believe he is real. I can understand how hapless tourists coming across such an animal in the bush might be tempted to administered what our guide laughingly refers to as 'the poke test'. He definitely doesn't recommend it!


Hercules




Continuing in the same humorous vein he draws our attention to a red-beaked water-hen.

"See those little black birds. They wander around sharing the banks with the crocs - and they disappear. They have to be the world's dumbest birds."

Is this the world's dumbest bird?

After a while we stop. Crocodiles swarm around the boat - looking for lunch. Our guide holds out a long pole with a baited hook at one end. Almost immediately a reptile shoots out of the water, its massive jaws snapping. The bait swings just out of reach.

"You have to make them work for their food, otherwise they get lazy," he explains.

It occurs to me that teasing such a creature isn't the safest way to earn a living. He repeats this process again and again from both sides of the boat in two different locations until all the bait has gone.

Missed it by that much!

As we head back to the dock we see a sea-eagle scanning the lagoon from a nearby gum tree. It is not only the crocodiles who get fed here. The boat stops next to a horizontal pole suspended between two uprights and our guide hangs out another bait. The eagle swoops, grabs the bait in its talons and flies off with its prize, all within the blink of an eye. It is one of those rare moments of pure magic.


The sea-eagle swooping down toward the bait.

After the cruise we follow a small crowd along the 'Wildlife Discovery Trail' to the 11.00 am crocodile feeding.  There are two keeper's platforms, each surrounded by low steel fences. For some reason only one of them is connected to the path outside the enclosure. To get to the other the keeper must cross a couple of metres of crocodile infested open ground. As we watch him negotiate the distance a second keeper maintains a running commentary from the relative safety of his own platform?

"This is how promotion works around here," he jokes."This guy is new in the job. His boss and his boss's boss were a bit slow."

Not to be outdone however our commentator/comedian proceeds to feed several crocodiles by hand. Each one has a name and he treats them like pets, to the tune of more nervous laughter from the crowd.


Imagine doing this every day!
After the show he invites us to follow him to the freshwater lagoon where he wades through knee-deep water to a small island populated with a dozen or more 'freshies'. It turns out that freshwater crocodiles are far less aggressive than their saltwater cousins but we aren't told that until he has crossed the lagoon and is standing on the island, bare-footed, surrounded by reptiles.


Notice the 'freshies' waiting on the island.

 Check out the bare feet.

There are more crocodile shows later in the day. The dramatic 'Crocodile Attack Show' is still to come but for now I am glad of something a little less nerve-tingling.

Hartley's is not just about crocodiles. It is one of the few places you can see a Cassowary. These magnificent birds may look gentle, but they have a reputation as the world's most dangerous bird with quick tempers and vicious claws.

Hartley's also has kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, emus, snakes and turtles. There are shows and feeding times throughout the day. After the excitement of the morning, it is therapeutic to wander through the more peaceful corners of the park patting kangaroos and wallabies and posing for photos with koalas.


It is hard to imagine that this guy is the world's most dangerous bird.

No Australian animal park would be complete without koalas.

It is hard to know who is looking at whom!

Where is Hartley's Crocodile Adventures and how do I get there?

  • Hartley's is on the Captain Cook Highway at Wangetti, 40 kilometres (24 mi) north of Cairns and 25 kilometres (15 mi) south of Port Douglas.
  • There is ample free parking.
  • Tours, coach transfers and chartered limousine services operate to the park from Cairns and Port Douglas. Click here for details.


What are the park's operating hours  and how much does it cost?

  • Hartley's is open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm every day except Christmas day.
  • The cost of entry is $37/adult, $18.50/child (4-15 years) and $92.50/ family (2 adults + 2 children).
  • Concessions are available for local residents, students, school groups and Seniors Card holders.

Tips, tricks and things to know. 

  • There are tours, shows and animal feeding throughout the day. Click here for times and locations.  Each show finishes in time to get to the next.
  • When you arrive you will be given a map and timed ticket for your lagoon cruise. Try not to miss it, this was a highlight of the day. The boats leave at 9.00am, 10.30am, 1.00pm, 2.30pm and 4.00pm with extra cruises scheduled during busy periods.
  • The seating on the lagoon cruise boats is tiered so there aren't any bad seats. Don't worry about getting a good view of the feeding, the crocs are fed equally from both sides of the boats. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time. We spent three and a half hours at the park and could easily have stayed the whole day. There is a great looking cafe with a deck over-looking the lagoon.
  • Self-drive visitors are entitled to a 3-day complimentary return pass. Just don't forget to have your entry ticket validated before you leave.


A few crocodile facts.

  • The Estuarine, or Saltwater, Crocodile is the largest of all living reptiles. In Australia they are found in northern coastal areas from Broome in Western Australia to southeastern Queensland. Able to cross large stretches of open ocean, they also occur on islands as far as 96km off the coast.
  • Estuarine Crocodiles are extremely dangerous. According to the Australian Museum in Sydney, "A person seized in the water by an Estuarine Crocodile has little chance of escaping without serious injury, if at all." 
  • Other crocodile and alligator species are positively docile in comparison.
  • Crocodile hunting (think Crocodile Dundee) was once a real profession, but crocs have been protected in Queensland since 1974.
  • Don't let the crocs put you off visiting beautiful Far North Queensland. More people are killed each year by black swans and coconuts than by crocodiles - at least according to our guide at Hartley's.

Would I recommend you visit Hartley's?

  • Without hesitation! David and I had a fantastic time there.


Note: David and I received complimentary entry to Hartley's Crocodile Adventures.

I have linked this post to Travel Photo Mondays

44 comments:

  1. The crocodiles are amazingly scary creatures aren't they! I went on a boat tour through the everglades in Florida and was equally scared and amazed by the size of the Alligators and how close they would come to the boats.
    Great pics!

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    1. We visited the everglades many years ago. It was great fun but alligators are positively harmless compared to saltwater crocodiles.

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  2. We nearly went there last week but time ran out. We did go and see the crocs in the Daintree years ago, but went at midday when they were smart enough to get out of the midday sun, unlike us. We saw a few cassowary though, so beautiful and so mean

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    1. I envy you seeing cassowaries. I dragged David around Mission Beach for hours in the heat looking for one. We did see them at both Hartley's and Birdworld though.

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  3. Looking at the picture of your guide in bare feet approaching the crocodiles definitely freaks me out! I don't know that I could do it! Despite their intimidation, I did enjoy learning about these saltwater crocs and their personalities as well as the variety of birds and other animals that live nearby.

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    1. The guide seemed to be very confident that he was safe, although he did make quite a few jokes about the mountain of paperwork needed whenever someone got bitten - lol.

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  4. Great croc pictures! Crocs and alligators freak me out! When we were in the Everglades in Florida, there were all these alligators sitting motionless sunning themselves along the walking path. They were so still that they seemed fake, but you knew at any moment they could pounce. Fascinating but creepy. Cheers - Ellen

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    1. I remember seeing alligators in the Everglades. There is something very scary about them, although I have read they are not nearly as aggressive or dangerous as saltwater crocodiles. They are a bit smaller too.

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  5. I've never seen crocs in the wild. I am both fascinated and frightened at the idea of seeing them so close up. You got some great photos. I didn't realize cassowaries are mean, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

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    1. It's a bit of a disappointment to find that such a beautiful bird is so bad tempered but it does make them that little bit more interesting, don't you think?

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  6. Ahhh, I have a bad thing with reptiles, so, I am not sure if I will want to visit these crocodiles. I have seen some in the wild but they were minding their own business and everything was fine if distance was kept.

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    1. Haha - keeping your distance from crocodiles seems like very wise advice.

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  7. Well, this is something I honestly wouldn't care to do: seeing crocodiles. I've seen some in the Everglades, but I don't quite like the swamps. I'd rather be on a mountain top, or a great beach.
    Very interesting post, though. I'm sure it was fun.

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    1. We were in Far North Queensland for the beaches - the crocodiles were a bonus, although a pretty scary one.

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  8. I'd guess Hartley's Crocodile Adventures' admission prices are high because of their insurance costs, combined with the high salaries they must have to pay to get anyone to do that! Having said that, it looks like great fun (for visitors)! I saw a cassowary in the wild up in Daintree, which was a thrill for us and our children!

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    1. Because we received complimentary entry I didn't comment on the cost of admission but I actually thought it was very reasonable, particularly given that you could easily spend the whole day there.

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  9. No offense, but unless they're behind glass, I have NO desire to be near alligators or crocodiles. Or sharks. Or centipedes. Or tarantulas or scorpions.
    I know. I'm a coward. But I'm in my 6th decade of life and have all of my limbs and digits!!!

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    1. Haha - There was glass along the sides of the boat. We were close without it actually being scary.

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  10. Someone was rather brave with those gators. Rather him than me. i would've been OUTA there.

    Brilliant photographs.

    Thanks for sharing.

    John

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    1. Lol - I had the impression that the keepers all really enjoyed their jobs. Perhaps some people are just braver than others. I'm with you, I would pay NOT to have that job.

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  11. "If you look under your seats you will find there are no life vests. The reason is obvious."

    That is a hilarious thought, talk about stating the obvious. Bare feet and crocodiles just doesn't seem like a good combination, I'd be keeping my distance. (sorry if more than 1 comment came through, had some troubles)

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    1. Your comment only came through once. It is pretty easy to delete comments if I get multiples. I apologise if you had trouble commenting. I have no idea why but it does seem to happen to all of us from time to time. The bare feet thing just blew me away.

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  12. Sounds like you enjoyed your day out, especially the hilarious comments from the crazy guide! I bet the international tourists were amazed by him - and the animals. Someone buy that bloke some shoes! :-)

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    1. Haha - love your comment about the shoes.

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  13. Wow the crocodiles look so scary yet fascinating at the same time! I would LOVE to visit and see them in person! I have to say, though - the kangaroo is just too adorable! :) #WednesdayWanderlust xo

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  14. The crocs are such fascinating creatures - so prehistoric! I saw them in the Adelaide River near Darwin in few years ago and I actually got to hold a baby croc with its mouth taped shut! Great photos!

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    1. Harley's also lets you hold a baby croc in their crocodile farm section. I was too buys taking photos.

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  15. Funny you mentioned Crocodile Dundee! loved that movie and that is exactly what I thought of when you mention crocodiles and Australia in the same sentence.

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    1. A couple of the keepers mentioned crocodile hunters. It was the first time I realised that it had been a real profession once. Ironically the most successful crocodile hunter in history was a woman.

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  16. Ah, great memories of feeding crocs. Not that it is something we will ever forget.

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    1. I didn't feed them myself but you can do that at Hartley's if you are adventurous enough.

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  17. I lived in Florida for years and we occasionally had to call Animal Control when we had an alligator in our yard that wouldn't leave when they saw us. For the most part gators try to avoid people and keep their distance. That is why people shouldn't feed them. If they aren't afraid of people anymore, it's sad. Animal Control has to destroy them.

    You're right, Lyn. Saltwater crocs are far scarier.

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    1. Several of the crocodiles at Hartley's were living out their lives in peace after having been relocated from beaches and creeks around Cairns where they had become a threat. Generally crocs that get too close to people don't get destroyed in Australia but the man-eaters get put down pretty quickly.

      We travelled through Florida years ago when our boys were young and just loved seeing alligators.

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  18. Didn't get that far north during my visit to Australia. Sounded a bit scary with all the crocs :D

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    1. That was half the fun, although the tourists were perfectly safe - not so sure about the keepers!

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  19. We went to this same place on our trip! My favorite part was the commentators/comedians.

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    1. I completely agree - without doubt the best part is the dry humour of the keepers.

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  20. I wish we had the time to have done something like this while we were up there last week. So Aussie to add in that humour isn't it. Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust, I'm a bit late commenting but I was travelling so I figured that was a good excuse :)

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    1. Travelling is a great excuse for almost anything - lol. We travel so often it is a wonder I ever get anything done.Thanks for making the effort, I saw that you were in Queensland.

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  21. This looks great. I've done something similar near Darwin and couldn't believe the size and strength of these prehistoric looking creatures either!

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    1. They are enormous, aren't they and Darwin has lots of them.

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  22. Traveling to Australia is one of my lifelong dreams, it's an amazing country, and it as crocodiles, snakes and spiders what more can you ask for.

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    1. Haha - I'm more a koala, kangaroo and echidna kind of person but the crocodiles are interesting.

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