Diving with crocodiles in Darwin

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Have you ever thought about jumping into the water and swimming with crocodiles? There are around 140,000 saltwater crocodiles in Australia and 80,000 of them are in the Northern Territory. Yes, you did just read that and yes, it is true, swimming or diving with crocodiles is an experience for your bucket list.

Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory Australia is home of the weird and wonderful, including the fantastic Adelaide River jumping crocodile cruise where crocodiles leap out of the water. Here are two viewpoints of the crocodile swimming experience. 

The Northern Territory has some of the best Barramundi fishing spots in Australia. 

Diving with crocodiles

By Irene Isaacson

While on a recent trip to Darwin, we heard about a local company that offered cage diving with these top predators.

We had to find out more and see if we could do it as this would be a one and only opportunity to do something like that in the world, surely?

Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living reptile in the world.

They can grow to 6.7m and weigh up to 2000kg.

They are a formidable apex ‘ambush’ predator and a supreme hyper carnivorous beast, eating anything from fish, reptiles, crustaceans, birds and mammals, including humans.

There are an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 ‘salties’ in Australia, mainly in the waterways of the NT, QLD and WA.

So, in great anticipation and with a little trepidation, we went off to Crocosaurus Cove.

There in the heart of downtown Darwin was an experience to bring the wildlife of the Top End to your doorstep.

Amongst offered attractions such as the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles, a ‘fishing for crocs’ platform, a ‘swim with the crocs’ pool and a 200,000-litre freshwater aquarium with daily ”barra feeding, was the penultimate thrill…

In the Cage of Death

Yes, the Cage of Death crocodile dive.

It has a great ring to it, hasn’t it? You just about want to sell your kids and mortgage the house to do this one – or maybe not!

Well, we were ready to jump at the chance.

Even at a cost of $165 per person, for 30 minutes of the biggest underwater thrill, you could ever think of. But despite running it 12 times a day, we were unlucky.

They were booked up well in advance with no free spots before we had to return home.

So what could we do instead? Gate crash someone else’s thrill of a lifetime experience of course! Enter Jan (Jnr) and father Jan (Snr) Machotka from Adelaide who had both decided to test their metal at the Croc Cove’s Cage of Death.

They allowed us to film the event, maybe just in case anything were to happen we would have the record for the insurance company. Only joking guys, don’t panic!

The experience is well controlled. The ‘cage’ is a very thick acrylic cylinder which is then suspended from a crane attached to a monorail.

It accommodates 1-2 people only and gives you a fantastic 360-degree view.

There are many tanks with long term inhabitants in them including Chopper, William and Kate(!).

They rotate the experience from tank to tank so all the crocs have a go, so’s to speak.

Some of the crocodiles are quite old and one or two have lost limbs from old fights in the wild, so they are at the Cove now to live out their lives in comfort without other crocs attacking them.

diving with crocs 2

Once you are in the tank, they suspend you over a tank and then slowly lower you into the chosen tank.

The crocodile is then tempted to come up to the tank with a bit of meat hanging off a rod.

You get a real close view of these amazing creatures, with not a lot of substance between you and them.

Goggles and mask enable you to dip under the water level to get an even closer look.

Croc behaviour

I was quite surprised that the crocs seem to enjoy the experience, or maybe it was the extra titbits they got fed for being on their good behaviour.

There was no thrashing or attacking of the cage that you may have imagined.

It seemed to be a lot of fun, and it does educate people about croc behaviour.

While the purists may not like the idea of captive crocs for human amusement, there is always the other side of the coin.

These animals are showcasing their species to the world.

Most were injured and thus being captive prevents them from being predated upon naturally in the wild.

They are well fed and looked after.

From an educational viewpoint, only when you have seen something up close and had a personal experience with it will you ever have the headset in the future to preserve and cherish it for our future generations.

diving with crocs 5

Swimming with Crocodiles

By Christina Pfeiffer

There are some enticing waterholes in the Northern Territory but I wouldn’t recommend swimming in a billabong with a wild croc. Wild crocodiles have been known to devour the occasional tourist.

In Darwin, there’s an exciting experience where you can dive into the water with the crocodiles and stay safe.

swimming with crocodiles
Photos: Christina Pfeiffer

It’s called the Cage of Death.

Suspended above the crocodile pool – in a see-through cage – your heart thumps wildly as you’re lowered into the water.

The cage has four-centimetre-thick acrylic walls and its hexagonal shape helps prevent the crocodiles from biting it.

As you spot a crocodile slithering in the water, you’ll probably have second thoughts about this adventure you’ve signed up for. But swimming with crocodiles – big crocodiles – of around 5m is an experience you’re not likely to forget.

swimming with crocodiles

Actually, the crocodiles have huge teeth that are rather terrifying.

So if you’re planning on going into the Cage of Death, don’t look at the crocodiles through the viewing panels on the ground floor before you’re scheduled to go swimming with crocodiles or you might change your mind!

You’ll be asked to sign an indemnity highlighting potential risks, in case you happen to suffer from one of a number of potential issues including cardiac arrest, nervous shock, panic attack or hyperventilation attack. 

swimming with crocodiles

Dangling in a transparent cage wearing swimmers is almost as challenging for some people as swimming with the crocodiles, especially if you happen to be swimming with crocodiles on a busy day.

All eyes are on you as you float above the sea of onlookers so suck it in and wave to the crowd.

The cage is lowered into the water and you’re soon face-to-face with one of the resident crocs, with nothing between you and this man-eating crocodile.

Most of the crocodiles you’ll swim with are around 5m long and they are absolutely enormous.

Among them are Burt, a 5.1m, 700kg crocodile that starred in the original Crocodile Dundee movie; Chopper, a 5.5-metre fighter that lost both front feet in a fight with another crocodile and Houdini.

Water pours into the cage and you’re soon submerged up to your shoulders, as a crocodile swims around you curiously.

You slip on your mask, take a deep breath and dive to the bottom of the cage.

The scariest part is the anticipation of the swim as you’re lowered into the water.

Once you’re in the water, adrenalin kicks in and you’ll be too pumped to worry about being so close to a croc.

Crocosaurus Cove 

crocosaurus cove

swimming with crocodiles

Crocosaurus Cove is a three-story attraction dedicated to crocodiles. Located in the centre of Darwin, Crocosaurus Cove has around 200 crocodiles.

It the place to find out all you need to know about these animals.

There are display boards, feeding sessions and roaming crocodile handlers who are available to answer questions.

If you have a fascination for crocodiles this is definitely the place to visit.

Crocosaurus Cove has a 200,000-litre aquarium filled with sea creatures you’d usually find in Australia’s oceans, such as barramundi, stingrays and turtles.

The reptile house has an impressive display of Australian reptiles and there’s a fun Juvenile Crocodiles exhibit, which the kids will love.

Crocosaurus Cove (58 Mitchell Street, Darwin) is open from 8 am to 6pm daily. The Cage of Death costs from $125 a swimming.

Where else to swim with critters?

  • In Australia, head to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia to swim with sharks, tuna, dolphins and sea lions.
  • Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is the spot to swim with the whale sharks.
  • Swimming with humpback whales has recently been introduced in Hervey Bay. Check out this Hervey Bay whale watching guide for more.
  • Akaroa in New Zealand offers the chance to swim with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector’s.
  • South Africa’s Sardine Run is a bucket list experience when millions of sardines swim north along the eastern coastline from May to July.
  • Vancouver Island in Canada is where you can swim with salmon in the
    Campbell River as the salmon swims upstream to return to the place they were born.
  • In Tonga, you can swim with South Pacific humpback whales during their annual migration.

Swimming with crocodiles

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Irene Isaacson Tony Isaacson bio profile
While living the life on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and actively volunteering with wildlife organisations in her spare time as a semi-retired medical doctor, Irene has travelled the world with her shark scuba diving husband, Tony Isaacson (aka DiveCareDare). Experiencing wonderful wildlife adventures as well as voluntourism, travel and nature photography has become her passion. She loves to share their experiences via Instagram and YouTube, in an effort to increase awareness and promote conservation. On a mission to make a difference, their shared motto is: "In the end, we conserve only what we love, we love only what we understand, and we understand only what we can learn." (adapted from Baba Dioum 1968)