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Published: July 15th 2018
We started the morning with a quick pop back into Litchfield National Park to look around a bit and see if there was anything interesting about. The most interesting thing for me was that near one of the big waterfalls (Wangi Falls) there was a trail going through a small patch of monsoon forest where the trees above were absolutely filled with Black Flying Foxes. Hundreds of them, possibly into the thousands, making a huge amount of noise, showering the ground below with droppings (though I didn’t get hit) and just making a spectacular sight. I also finally managed to get a picture of Red-winged Parrots. I’ve been seeing them flying around and they are stunning in flight over the road, but today was my first view of them perched.
We then checked out of the accommodation and headed to Darwin which isn’t very far at all from Litchfield National Park, just over 100km (it’s a fairly popular day trip site). We were in Darwin by about midday and then went out for lunch in the city centre. Just across the road, I then noticed that we had ended up in a restaurant directly opposite Crocosaurus Cove. This is a
small zoo-type thing and mainly focuses on being a croc experience for locals and also claims to have the world’s largest collection of Australian reptiles. I had decided that this place wasn’t really worth visiting and that my priorities zoo-wise in the Darwin area would be the Territory Wildlife Park (which I visited near the start of the trip) and possibly fitting in Crocodylus Park if I had a free afternoon (on the cards for tomorrow) which I believe is a fairly typical zoo place with some exotics and natives and worth visiting because I like seeing new zoos. Crocosaurus Cove (note: this is a different place to Crocodylus Park, the names are confusingly similar) though I decided I would skip on this trip, except it was right there, across the road and, well… I decided to visit anyway. At $35 dollars per person, the fee is a bit steep for a place that quite literally occupies a single small city block in the centre of Darwin but I thought I would give it a look in. I was pleasantly surprised.
Crocosaurus Cove is right in the centre of Darwin in the main touristy area and is very small,
but they have spread upwards over three levels to make the most of the small city block. The place focuses exclusively on native Australian and especially Top End of NT reptiles with the main attraction being crocs. There is an aquarium (as in, one tank) with various large native fishes, a pretty big reptile house for smaller reptiles and lots of tanks with crocodiles. There are about half a dozen absolutely massive Saltwater Crocodiles each in a little pool thing, as well as several hundred small Saltwater Crocodiles. Hmm… the numbers certainly don’t add up there because small salties grow into big salties. I think the large shop selling a variety of crocodile leather products at the entrance area provides a clue as to the fate of the small and medium sized crocodiles.
The other thing that I didn’t like about the place were the hundreds of people lined up to take a photograph of themselves holding a baby crocodile with the same crocodiles being held by hundreds of people holding them and playing with them and standing in front of a professional photographer person with a flash all day.
The large crocodile pools are not particularly large
but certainly not tiny and they all have underwater viewing and crystal clear water. The pond with hundreds of small to medium sized crocs had underwater viewing and crystal clear water too which suggests some hefty filtration systems. However what makes the place worth visiting is the reptile house. It is really, really impressive. Unlike the rest of the zoo which is all commercial and tacky and appealing to a kind of irritating show the tourists the big vicious crocs type vibe, the reptile house was really nicely done. Good educational signage, all very well kept and classy looking and finished to a high standard and all the enclosures were really good too. Decently big, especially by the standard of reptile holdings, and nice looking. The reptile house would not feel out of place in any major top zoo. Now that’s all very nice, but why was I so blown away by it? Quite simply, the size of the collection. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large collection of Australian reptiles. By my count, they have about 57 species of native Australian reptiles (+/- a few because of double ups and I tried to count them all but
lost track of what species I had already counted). Yes, really, more than fifty species of native Australian reptiles, almost all top-end reptiles. So many goannas/monitors, three species of velvet gecko, the collection just went on and on as I went down the windy corridor through the reptile house and as I just kept seeing more and more native Australian reptiles I was just amazed. It’s a huge collection, rather stamp collecty really, but all the enclosures are just to such a high standard! And there was an incubator with various eggs on show, off display breeding areas. Just a really impressive reptile house! They even have what they claim is an undescribed species of goanna.
They do claim to have the world’s largest collection of native Australian reptiles, and I just passed that off of as them having 300 crocs and calling in the largest collection, but it really is a very nice reptile collection indeed!
After a couple of hours at Crocosaurus Cove after which I had seen the reptile collection to my satisfaction, we headed on to the evening birding destination: Casuarina Coastal Reserve and the two regular sites on the Darwin birding circuit of
Buffalo Creek and Lee Point. Buffalo Creek is a mangrove-lined creek where all the birders visit to try and find Chestnut Rail which is supposed to be possible here and Lee Point has some rocks where Beach Stone-curlews are sometimes found, both of these would be wonderful birds to see. To save me the effort of pointlessly building up some vague attempt at suspense like I try to do sometimes: I saw neither of those species. This is pretty much the first total dip on this Darwin trip when it comes to target birds so I can’t complain. A major factor in this is that it was a Sunday and fairly busy.
There were a few waders around though in the area, mostly too far away to actually identify but I saw a couple of species well enough to ID. The most exciting thing though was out at sea. There are dugongs here that feed on the seagrass beds, but I didn’t see any dugongs. Instead, there were absolutely loads of dolphins! Several pods, frolicking in the bay regularly surfacing, even occasionally jumping clearly out of the water. It’s normally very difficult to identify cetaceans and to see them
properly from land, but these were not far out at all and there were quite large numbers that were active in the same area regularly coming up and showing themselves. There are three species of dolphins that are resident in the Darwin area and have the potential to be seen: Snub-finned Dolphin, Australian Humpback Dolphin and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose. The dolphins I could see definitely included the latter two species which is really cool. The Humpback especially. The dolphins jumping clear out of the water made me suspect Spinner Dolphins at one point which is possibly but unlikely so close to the coast but I think they were just the bottlenosed being very jumpy. I knew dolphins were theoretically possible in the Darwin area but I never expected to actually see any, so I’m very happy with those sightings this afternoon/evening.
Tomorrow I have another full day in Darwin with my aunt and we’re returning the hire car in the afternoon, and then I have the day after that here in Darwin on my own before my flight to Cairns the next morning.
New birds: Golden-backed (Black-chinned) Honeyeater Mangrove Robin
Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Australian Humpback Dolphin
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