Darwin to Mary RiverAugust 21, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C
21 August 2017
Darwin to Mary River
Today we started our 4 day tour of the top end and joined the bus at our Hotel. There are 32 people on the tour and suffice to say we would be in the younger section of the group, some people look like they would remember the Dreamtime. Our driver is Sharon and our guide is Meaghan.
The bus trip out of Darwin was ... quick. Remember Darwin is very small so getting out of town was easy. The first stop was a place called Howard Springs.
Howard Springs is a small lake with a weir to make it reasonably deep. You can't swim in it now due to pollution but during the war and afterwards it was an R&R stop for troops who built some of the amenities. Even though you can't swim in it it did have something of interest - big Barramundi! Meaghan dropped some pilchards in the water and some huge Barra came up for a feed. These fish were easily 1 metre long and very aggressive. No one fishes here because you can't eat the fish so they are a bit of an attraction. As well as the Barra there were other fish and a few tortoises that came in for a feed.
The next stop was Fogg Dam. This is a dam that was built back in the 50's (I think) as part of a planned rice industry so it is very large but also very shallow, the dam wall would be less than a metre or two high. The rice industry didn't work out because of the masses of birds that flew in for a feed so it is now a wetland area that is home to millions of birds and an unknown number of saltwater crocs.
A note about crocs. The Northern Territorians are very croc-aware. There are signs everywhere and our tour guides are constantly reminding us to keep 5m away from the water and to always be aware. Interestingly there are parts of Kakadu where they remove the crocs after the wet season so people can swim - places like Jim Jim Falls - I'm not sure how they can guarantee they have cleared all the crocs and Meaghan swears she won't swim there. Anyway we get more than our share of croc encounters in the next few days.
Fogg Dam also showed evidence of another Territory issue - feral animals. Wild pigs and water buffaloes had obviously been doing a lot of digging in the mud around the dam. The other pest is the cane toad but we'll come to that in a bit.
They do a good job of educating people about the wetlands and environment. The next stop was at a Windows to the Wetlands centre that explained for the wetlands work and the issues they face. It also had spectacular views across the Adelaide River flood plain to the river itself - all of which is under water in the wet season.
Lunch was at the Corroboree Billabong followed by a cruise on the billabong itself. Billabong means permanent water and of course crocs. We were loaded onto 3 pontoons with outboards and set of for a couple of hours. It wasn't long till we saw our first croc which was a small fresh water one and then a few more bigger saltwater ones. The Corroboree Billabong is off the Mary River which has the highest concentration of crocs of any river in the north. As well as the crocs there was an amazing collection of bird life with Jabirous, Kites, White Crested Sea Eagles, and many others all making an appearance.
On the way back to our launch place one croc actually came out and circled the boat. They have a habit of attacking the outboard engines and the thought is this particular croc has been one that a tourist boat somewhere has fed and so he associates boats with food. He will probably have to be reported as a problem croc and moved to a wildlife park somewhere.
After lunch it was on to the Mary River Wilderness Retreat, our home for the next 3 days. We are in a neat little cabin and it is all pretty comfortable. After dinner in the dining room we walked out on the deck (the only place where you get intermittent phone reception) and found at least a dozen cane toads hopping around - they are a major issue up here and you can see why, there were loads of them. They slowly hop out of your way but we might play kick-a-toad at some stage.
Tomorrow we check out Kakadu!Read more