The Top End’s acclaimed 1000km Nature's Way loop from the NT capital and back passes through shimmering wetlands, historic goldmining, railway and wartime-service towns, and lots of tiny bush outposts.

Story Kerry Sharp  Photo Tourism NT

On the glassy, coffee-coloured Adelaide River, Anne-Marie arrives for breakfast. With one gunshot-sharp snap she demolishes a pork chop served up by cruise skipper Steven Pitkin. Named after a former skipper’s two daughters, Anne-Marie – and many of her frighteningly powerful cohorts – hurl themselves from the murky depths to snatch dangled morsels on an Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile Cruise.

“We’re a bit like the ice cream truck of the river,” Steven laughs. “They recognise our boat and make their way over. They’re not stupid. They’ve worked out in 35 years what we do and we’ve never had a cruise without crocodiles. Every day is different and every crocodile changes its attitude – so we talk to them like kids, too.”

More than a million guests have gasped in awe at these close encounters with saltwater crocodiles – including one of the river’s oldest and biggest, 6.5m-long Agro, a survivor of Australia’s pre-1970s crocodile-skin harvesting days, when numbers plummeted to a few thousand. Hunting was banned in 1970 and an estimated 100,000 crocs now inhabit Top End waterways.

Cruising a croc-filled river an hour out of  Darwin is a heart-pumping entree to what lies ahead on the Top End’s acclaimed Nature’s Way, a 1000km loop from the NT capital and back through shimmering wetlands, taking in Kakadu, Mary River and Litchfield national parks, historic goldmining, railway and wartime-service towns, and lots of tiny bush outposts full of quirky characters.

The full version of this story was published in both OUTBACK magazine and the 2020 edition of our special one-shot magazine OUTBACK Travel.

This story excerpt is from Issue #134

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2021