When you travel in northern Australia, the first and most important thing to remember is DO NOT SWIM.
This is croc country. Crocs are found in water everywhere – rivers, creeks, billabongs, even the ocean. Contrary to commonly held belief, it is not humans at the top of the food chain – it is crocs. Venture into their territory at your own risk. I repeat – DO NOT SWIM.
So guess what I did today.
But first – back to the beginning.
I’m in Kakadu. My sister and I have hired a Jeep (more on that later) from Darwin, and we’re spending 4 days exploring Kakadu. She’s not the camping type, so we’re staying in a cabin, but we’re still in Kakadu. With a 4WD. And that means going out to Jim Jim Falls.
For those who don’t know Kakadu, to get to Jim Jim you travel 50km down a gravel road, then 5km along a 4WD track. From there it’s a 900 walk to the falls. That’s 900m as the crow flies. It’s actually a constant scramble over rocks, which with the up and down and back and forth turns into 1.5km (according to the fitbit). After all that you come to an isolated sandy beach & swimming hole. A scramble over a few more rocks gets you to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls.
It is magnificent.
The beach pool is separated from any other water where crocs might dwell by that scamble over rocks. A scramble that crocs can’t in fact physically do.
The area is also croc managed, meaning that the rangers come out there all the time to check for crocs. There is a permanent croc trap, and if there are any around the rangers catch them and move them on.
So, it’s an almost certain bet that there are no crocs in that swimming hole.
But it’s northern Australia, so you can never be 100% sure.
And when you’re the only ones there, that almost takes on new meaning. When we finally got to the pool we were exhausted. That walk is hot. Especially the last bit in full sun. So of course the first thing you do when you get there is dive into the water for a cooling swim.
Unless you think there’s the slightest possibility that there might be a crocodile in there just waiting for you. Then you become very circumspect about getting in the water.
We picked a spot on the beach to set up. We were the only ones there, so that didn’t take long. Then we got out our picnic and had some food. Then we stood at the edge of the water and looked. And looked some more. As if we would be able to see if there was a crocodile.
Finally, it became too much. We had to get in to cool off. So we summoned up all our courage … and sat at the edge of the pool. As if by being in the shallow water somehow made us immune from croc attack.
Then we discussed whether there might be a crocodile in the water. While we were sitting in the water. But it was only shallow, so we were ok.
“There’s still water at the top of the cliff. What if they were in that water then fell over the cliff and landed in the pool.” was one of our thoughts – seriously – about the 200m drop over the waterfall. Sometimes what pops into your mind really shouldn’t pop straight out your mouth!
And still we sat in the shallow water.
But then … we started thinking that if we’d come that far we really should go that extra bit and go to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. But that meant swimming across the pool we were in – swimming out of the shallows. And once you get into deep water, obviously your chances of being taken by a croc increase!
So we did it slowly.
We swam about 7m to the first rock sticking up out of the water. We pulled ourselves up on that and sat there talking about how a crocodile might get into the pool, while we dangled our feet in the water.
We discussed the odds. We hadn’t been taken yet, but there was still the possibility that somehow he hadn’t noticed we were there.
Problem was, we were in the middle of the pool by this stage, and to either go forward to the rocks to the next pool, or go back to the beach, meant swimming. And by this stage we’d almost convinced ourselves there was a crocodile hiding underneath the rock we were sitting on. The rock we were dangling our feet into the water from.
But then – a miracle. Other people arrived at the water hole. A whole family – with 4 children, and children are absolutely fearless. If there was a croc around, it would take the kids first.
So now we could swim on from our rock to the plunge pool.
The fact that those kids didn’t get into the water we were in didn’t seem to enter our heads. They were there, and that’s all that mattered. We were safe.
So we summoned up all our courage, jumped into the water, and swam over to the rocks to get us to the plunge pool. We were safe, but we still both tried to be the first out of the water, just in case.
And the plunge pool was worth overcoming every irrational fear. Cool and crystal clear, surrounded by towering 150-200m cliffs, it is the sort of place most people dream of.
Just watch out for the crocs!