On day two, we take a trip out to Fogg Dam, an area of beautiful wetlands dotted with bright pink and light purple lilies the size of my head. Tiger winged golden dragonflies swarm and bee eater birds buzz around white cranes poking through the mud and the grass for their food. We are very excited to explore until we run across this sign reading: “Fogg Dam closed to walking due to the sighting of an “Estuary Crocodile.” Instead of a walk, I dangle awkwardly out the passenger window trying to adjust my long lens to capture the scene.
“Estuary crocodiles” are also known commonly as “salties.” They are terrifying beasts I’ve feared as we’ve sailed through waters they’ve been known to inhabit. (Remember the “Brother crocodile, don’t eat me as we are family,” pre-swim routine in Timor Leste). They emerge from the depths, grab their pray and roll with it underwater until it’s dead from either snapping spine or drowning. My imagination is the only vision that served me as I climbed Sonrisa’s mast to keep lookout while Andrew went in the water to inspect Sonrisa’s keel in Dili. What would a Saltie look like on approach? And what exactly would I do if I saw one coming?
Time to find out. Next, we headed toward the Adelaide River for a "Jumping Crocodile Cruise." A sign on the boat reads: “Crocs are dangerous, do not place cameras, limbs, or your head outside of the boat.” The Captain explains the crocs can jump and pull you in head first if they wish.
It’s a common misconception that these predators only live in salt water, mostly because they have glands in their body that excrete salt and allow them to live in either salt or fresh water. They can travel miles inland through fresh water rivers and estuaries to inhabit places like Fogg Dam or the ponds around those beautiful waterfalls. I shudder again, and imagine a cantankerous croc spilling over the edge of a waterfall and landing right in front of me with a splat. No, thank you.
The boat Captain dangles a fresh hunk of buffalo meat over the edge of the vessel. Two eyeballs emerge from the murky, silted water of the Adelaide River and slide toward our boat. The croc eyes each of the boat’s inhabitants, no doubt wondering which of us is most tasty, then she settles for the easier morsel of buffalo being offered.
“SsssNAP!” The croc’s jaws make a violent “whap-crash" noise as they close around the meat at the apex of a vertical jump. Holy smokes. I’m never swimming again.
At this point, the ghost of Grandpa Kenny has acquired a kangaroo leather adventure hat and decorated it with a crocodile hat band, complete with crocodile teeth. He whoops along with the rest of our ship; I think about his always-cheerful face and the sharp points of freshly shaved scruff on his cheeks. He smells of aftershave and Listerine, always; I can smell it now. Yep, paying for the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise was money well spent.
To be continued...