Kayaking with Crocs in Katherine Gorge
“Don’t worry, they’re only fresh water crocs so they won’t eat you like the salties will,” reassured my guide moments before I was to jump into a kayak. Never mind that my partner had never kayaked before and that I was far from an expert kayaker. Nor were either of us croc wrestlers. It also wasn’t reassuring that the only thing separating me from the crocs was a kayak! ”It’s completely safe, you can even go swimming.” I’ve gone cage diving with crocs and had the illusion of swimming with crocs but actually swimming with crocs? No thanks.
So it was with more than a little trepidation that I jumped into my kayak and set out in Katherine Gorge located in the Northern Territory, Australia. But my curiosity got the best of me. Katherine Gorge is a series of 13 gorges cut out from golden sandstone cliffs. I had seen the photos, now I wanted to see it for myself.
The first few minutes were spent trying to sync our paddles, but our gaze soon wandered to the sandy banks. Pristine beaches beckoned but access was forbidden since they were crocodile nesting sites.
We passed several large crocodile cages. I later learned that Katherine Gorge floods each year bringing the salties with it. The cages are used to round-up the salties. When no more salties are seen, it is deemed safe for swimming. I’m quite sure the procedure it’s more thorough than that. But just the possibility that a sneaky salty MIGHT still be lurking around was enough to keep me in my kayak, which was feeling more flimsy by the minute.
I saw a flicker of a movement from the beach. I blinked. Where my eyes playing tricks on me? I paddled closer. They weren’t. There was a HUGE croc lapping up some rays on a sandy bank.
Our guide, also spotting it paddled closer. And closer. Then SNAP, the crocs jaws slammed open and shut directly at our guide. He then disappeared into the water, disgruntled. Apparently crocs don’t like to have their afternoon naps disturbed by kayakers!
Our guide was visibly shaken and said that he hadn’t meant to get SO close, but got caught up in a small current that had brought him within a meter of the croc. It was SO big I was convinced that it was a sneaky salty, but he shook his head. ”Only a medium size fresh water croc.” Remembering his earlier self confident words, I smiled at him cheekily asked him if he wanted to go for a swim as I reminded him that ”fresh water crocs won’t eat you like the salties will.” He declined.
Know Before You Go to Katherine Gorge:
- Katherine Gorge is located in Nitmiluk National Park, ~320k km SE of Darwin
- Kayaks can be rented from Nitmiluk Tours starting from AU$35.50 pp for 4 hours
- Kayaking is not available from December – March due to safety reasons.
- For more info on Katherine Gorge see the Northern Territory’s Tourist Information Site.