The cruise site is low maintenance to say the least. It could be described as a powered camp site in the bush. It's not a matter of being cheap or any reflection of the quality of the cruise; it's about making as little impact as possible on the Adelaide River environment and the wildlife that inhabit it.
There are a few tables and chairs set up between the palms for while you wait, an outback-style dunny, a fridge stocked with cool drinks available to purchase, and an extensive collection of brochures, photographs, and news clippings about the impending cruise.
Walking along the jetty to board the boat, I will admit to having second thoughts when I noticed a very large crocodile alongside the boat practically salivating as he watched us embark one by one.
That's Dominator for you and it wasn't long before he was leaping out of the water for a feed of buffalo from a pole fashioned much like a fishing rod. To see the ancient reptiles in their natural habitat is incredible. It's not until they're right in front of you and can hear the loud snap of their jaws as they catch the food that you realise their power and ferocity.
The cruise certainly gets up close and personal, less than an arm's length away, but you will be warned repeatedly to keep all limbs within the confines of the boat. It's closer than you expect to get to a crocodile, possibly closer than you may be comfortable with, but provides great insight into the nature of the creatures.
Sea eagles watch eagerly from the sidelines hoping for a bite to eat also. When one began circling the boat, the tour guide threw a piece of meat into the air and the large bird of prey swooped in and deftly snatched it up in its strong talons. It's a sight to behold and nearly as impressive as the jumping crocodiles.
Some of the crocodiles are better jumpers than others, but many manage to wriggle their entire body length and weight out of the murky water and into the air. For the famous three-limbed crocodile Brutus, that's 5.5 metres and an estimated 900 kilograms. It's alleged Brutus lost one of his front legs in a tussle with a shark, but it doesn't seem to hold him back.
Brutus made headlines around the world when a spectacular image of his aerodynamic antics was published and some argued that the photograph had to have been digitally enhanced. Take the cruise and you'll discover there is nothing edited about Brutus or any of his buddies that enjoy a bit of buffalo courtesy of the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruise.
There are concerns that regularly feeding the aggressive creatures could lead to an increase in attacks, but if there is one thing to be learnt from this tour, it's to stay out of croc-infested waters. The famous catch-cry, "you'll never never know, if you never never go", does not apply to the Northern Territory waterways. In this instance the rule should be something more like, "if in doubt, stay the hell out".
The shaded boat seems relatively small, perhaps compared to the size of the crocodiles, but safe and can seat up to 30 passengers. Tours run four times a day at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm in the dry season from May to November. An hour cruise costs $35 for adults and $16 for children and it's worth every cent. There are discounts available for families and large groups. Adelaide River Cruises also operates a full day wildlife cruise which includes sightseeing, fishing, a barbecue lunch, and the mighty crocodiles in action.
The tour operators seem extremely knowledgeable on the region's wildlife. They are also very friendly; our guide took the time to shake everyone's hand and greet us personally. There was some confusion with our booking, but we were still able to be accommodated and catered for accordingly. You can try your luck without a booking, but the cruise appears to be very popular so it's recommended you phone ahead of time to confirm your spot.
Located in Fogg Dam, the cruise meeting site is found at the end of Anzac Parade (a long dirt road that will have you questioning your sense of direction) off Arnhem Highway travelling towards Kakadu. It's around 70 kilometres from Darwin and is just over an hour drive. A stop-over at the Humpty Doo Hotel on the way back for a well-deserved burger and beverage is another authentically Darwin experience to tick off your tourist to-do list.