CAMPSITE # 158 - Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, QLD

We couldn’t contain our excitement about visiting Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures just north of Cairns, Queensland. We had heard so many good stories from other folks on the road, we just had to go there ourselves. I used James, the 13 year old travelling with us, for an excuse to act like a child at an adventure park and from the stories we’d heard – I liked the place already even before I had set foot inside.

It’s funny how much faster you pack up camp when you’re full of energy and excitement. We arrived half an hour before opening and had expected to have a rather impatient 30 minute wait until they let us through. Instead, we were greeted by a very jovial English lady and led straight through for a pre-opening sneak preview.

The best thing about Hartley’s is that you never once feel like you’re at a zoo. No viewing animals from behind giant iron prison bars, not even the salt water crocs! 9 O’Clock marked the time for the really good stuff to begin. As we were such early birds, we were on the first boat cruise of the day and shared our salt water crocodile viewing & feeding in their man-made lagoon on a very empty boat with less than ten other people. Hartley’s houses 18 salt water crocodiles in their lagoon, 15 females and 3 very busy males. The one you really have to keep your eye out for is Big Ted... the second largest crocodile in captivity in the world.

These 18 crocs are the lucky ones, they laze about day & night, breed their little hearts out, lay their eggs on their nests and then four not-so lucky Reptile Keepers sneak into the lagoon to steal their eggs.

The eggs are then transported over to the crocodile farm where they are hatched and grown for a few years to then become upmarket fashion accessories. Interestingly, as males grow larger and faster than female crocodiles, the Reptile Keepers ensure that they are only farming male crocs. But how do they ensure that only male crocs are hatched? When the croc eggs are first laid, the unborn croc doesn’t have an X/Y chromosome. What determines their gender is the temperature at which the eggs are kept. 32.5 degrees ensure a male crocodile, any degree above or below that temperature are females. It seems there is quite an art to collecting and hatching crocodile eggs, when the Reptile Keepers raid the nests, they must ensure that the eggs remain in the exact same upright position they found them in. Even the slightest movement in their upright positioning could kill the unborn croc.  

Finally! A real life Cassowary, even if it wasn't in the wild. 

I certainly wouldn't be doing this in the wild...

One of James' favourite, the Koalas and the Laughing Kookaburras...

This guy spends his day living in fear, he's a Night Herron and loiters around the crocs to feasts on the Crocodiles eggs... when the keepers aren't fast enough to collect them!

Freshwater Crocodile / Saltwater Crocodile / Alligator skulls

Advertised as “The Greatest Crocodile Show in Australia”, we were really hanging out for the 3 O’Clock show. It is well and truly clear to me now that these guys must have a death wish. To climb into a confined area no larger than a backyard swimming pool with a four metre crocodile is a seriously gutsy thing to do. And there is no such thing as a tame or friendly saltie. They are absolutely vicious prehistoric beasts and only ever see humans as a giant piece of meat. Even after twenty years of working with the same 4 metre beast, our host still had to remain on his guard throughout the entire show if he wanted to keep all of his limbs intact.

At some stages, he would be standing in cloudy shin-deep water with Stan the crocodile lurking in the waters below waiting to pounce.  It was absolutely the most enthralling, entertaining & mesmerising performance of any kind I have ever been to. Looking around the amphitheatre at the other 200 or so people eagerly watching his every move, I’d say it was safe to say they too were enjoying it just as much as I.  

So, how much would you expect to pay for a full day of action pack family friendly entertainment? Having now been there and experienced it all, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay $100 per person and I would still be confident that it was absolutely great value for money. Finally, a tourist attraction that didn’t just see us tourists with giant dollar figures tattooed on our foreheads. Entry was $33 per adult and stuff having to fork out another $90 just to feed the family full of soggy hot dogs and oversized & overprized postmix coke – their food was actually really affordable too!

Hartley Crocodile Adventures, you’ve done everything right, I take my hat off to you. From your friendly staff, to your very affordable price tags to your very well kept & well maintained wildlife habitat... everything about our day was absolutely exceptional.

Site : Palm Cove Camping Ground
Rating : 12 / 20
Facilities : Really close to the beach & fishing jetty. A nice stroll to the restaurants & shops on the Esplanade. VERY reasonably priced @ $20 for an unpowered site. Toilets & Showers were ok. 

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I don't know what the collective noun for crocodiles is. Perhaps a crock of crocs. En masse they look terrifying. I hope I don't have nightmares.