We awoke in our comfortable glamping tent in Kakadu National Park, and headed off to a temporary dock on Yellow Water Billabong to board a small tourist boat.
We had (inadvertently, of course) timed our arrival to perfection. With the Wet just starting, the billabong was just starting to flood its banks, and where the water had swept over the surrounding floodplains, life was erupting with exuberance.
Spectacular white egrets, flashing azure kingfishers, red-winged parrots, and all manner of wildfowl filled the lush floodplains or hid in crevices amongst the mangroves.
In the topmost branches of the trees, sea-eagles and storks had already kicked their fledglings out of their nests. In only a very short time, not only the river banks and the undergrowth, but even the treetops themselves would be under water. Within days, the boat dock that we had used to embark would be completely inundated and the operator would have to move to another site.
The boat itself was basically a metal raft built on two flat pontoons, each with an enormous outboard engine hanging off the back. Our guide chugged us around into the reeds and under overhanging trees, pointing out different birds and plants, all the while exhorting us not to hang any limbs over the water, just in case.
She explained that in the Dry, which is the colder season, crocs tend to sun themselves on the banks, but here in the Wet they are happier to stay cool in the water, and are more than capable of jumping aboard if they think that they can get an arm.
While we all marvelled at the wonders of nature about us (and pondered the possible fate of two men out fishing in a little tin boat) we were of course hoping for our first glimpse of the real king of the waterways.
Then suddenly a small voice cried “Crocodile!” and everybody ran to what happened to be Bronwyns side of the boat, which tipped alarmingly and left her staring at close range at eight feet of heavily armoured reptile.
From then on, we saw crocodiles everywhere. Rooting around in the mangrove palms, rising mysteriously to the surface around us and then cruising effortlessly out of our way, only sinking out of sight when our wake got too annoying.
Eventually, even the youngest and most vociferous of us had seen enough, and we returned to the dock, to our bus, and finally to our shack in Darwin.
It was by now raining heavily, so we caught a taxi for the short ride into town. After a refreshing beer or two, there was only one public building left that we hadn’t visited, so we ducked into the air conditioned cinema to cool down.