My wife and I decided to get away from the flocks of tourists at Kakadu who flood the more popular attractions such as the Yellow River Boat tours and instead decided to take a boat tour into Arnhem Land up the East Alligator River. There are no alligators in Kakadu only crocodiles, but early explorers thought they were alligators and thus named the river system that runs through Kakadu the West, Central, and East Alligator Rivers.
The boat tours run from near the Border Store which is located about 40km north of Jabiru and on the border between Kakadu and the Aboriginal lands of Arnhem Land. The border store is where you buy tickets to take all the boat tours up the East Alligator as well as purchasing permits to travel into Arnhem Land. You cannot travel into Arnhem Land unless you have a permit from the Aborigines. The Border Store is also the only place in the area where you can purchase supplies. The people are quite friendly at the store and don’t mind chatting with tourists. I found them very helpful about answering questions about the park, Arnhem Land, and the Aboriginal people who live there.
The boat ramp to the East Alligator tours is a short ride from the Border Store. Signs like you see below are posted all around the river and the boat ramp and make it very clear that there are crocodiles, not alligators in these waters that would love nothing more than making you their next dinner:
Despite these signs and warnings from Park Rangers people still wade into the water, usually to fish for Kakadu’s famous barammundi and get eaten every year by crocodiles.
Look how peaceful and beautiful this river looks:
Who would imagine that such potential danger lies so readily below the waters surface? It didn’t take us too long to see the potential danger though. The Crocodile Dundee like guide who led the boat tour loaded 10 of us tourists into the boat and proceeded to take the boat upstream towards the Arnhem Land escarpment. Not to long after leaving the boat dock we saw our first crocodile:
The guide took us even closer to get a good look at him. In the words of the great Steve Irwin, “What a Beauty!”:
This crocodile was easily just as big as some of the 5 to 6 meter crocs we saw on the Jumping Crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River a few days prior. This croc would be the first of many giant crocs we saw hanging out in the river:
The further up the river we went the sandier the banks of the river became. The guide told us that the crocs like to nest their eggs in the sand with high grass. So the high grass around this sand embankment may very well be filled crocs:
Eventually we saw our first glimpses of the Arnhem Land escarpment:
The escarpment loomed larger and larger the further down the river we went:
Of course the further upstream we went there was still plenty of crocs to see as well:
This guy here was the biggest croc we seen all day. Just an absolute giant.
Here is another picture of the boat entering into Arnhem Land:
Once the boat enters into Arnhem Land the rocks tower over the river on both sides of the river. The scenery is extremely spectacular:
Eventually the boat stopped and the guide beached the boat and we quickly got out after making sure there were no crocs hanging out in the area. The guide took us on a hike up one of the rock escarpments:
After completing the hike we came back to the boat and proceeded to head back towards the Border Store dock. Along the way back we even saw a fresh water crocodile:
The fresh water crocodiles known as freshies in Aussie lingo are about half the size of the salt water crocodiles, which are known in Aussie lingo as salties. Besides the size difference the freshies also have thinner looking snouts that further distinguishes them from salt water crocodiles. Most importantly the freshies are not known to attack humans. They are only known to attack humans in self defense where as the salties would love nothing more than to eat you for dinner.
We eventually made our way back to the docks and our brief Arnhem Land adventure was over. Overall I highly recommend any of the tours up the East Alligator River. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about the local environment and the techniques the Aborigines used to survive in it. Plus the scenery was spectacular and we saw a ton of wildlife most notably all the crocodiles. We paid $80 bucks per ticket and it was worth every cent.