• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

I tried glamping at an Australian crocodile safari camp and it was amazing

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 13, 2022

I crouched down, slightly nervous, as a huge 16-foot crocodile gaped its gaping jaws full of teeth perfectly designed to rip and tear flesh just behind me. On either side of me, out of the frame of the photo I was posing for, the guides and dog handlers at Matt Wright Top End Safari Camp stood ready to pounce if this ancient predator made the slightest move in my direction, but on this day There, the beast contented itself with taking the sun on the shore.

We had just completed an airboat tour of Sweet’s Lagoon, a billabong area about an hour and 30 minutes southwest of Darwin, Australia, where crocodiles glided silently along the dark waters and along the shores. One of the guides told me that around 130 crocodiles inhabit this body of water, and after spending a few days in the Northern Territory of Australia, I was convinced that even a puddle of rain in the street probably had a crocodile hiding there.

Northern Australia is a wild and wonderful place full of friendly people and a mild climate, but it’s also full of wildlife as wild as the continent itself. In addition to the crocodiles, Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp had little baby kangaroo-like wallabies bouncing around, wild and aggressive water buffalo wandering around, and maybe, just maybe, one of the camels. elusive savages of northern Australia wandering.

I came to this wildlife safari camp to see the authentic wilderness, but I also wanted a bit of luxury. The glamping was the best of both worlds, and in addition to a fabulous meal, guided tours of the area and a helicopter ride over the “bush”, I was able to stay in a beautiful glamping tent. glamping under the millions of stars of the Australian sky. .

Tried glamping at this Australian crocodile safari camp, and it was amazing.

Posing with a crocodile at Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp was one of the highlights of my visit.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

why i went

I wanted to camp during my 2 week solo trek through Australia’s Northern Territory, but like most foreigners I was a little leery of doing it myself. As a guest hosted by NT Australia, I was invited to spend a night at Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp.

If the name Matt Wright sounds familiar to you, you’re not mistaken. The star of National Geographic’s hit TV series Outback FighterMatt is also an adventurer of the highest caliber, working in his lifetime as a horse trainer, Australian Army soldier, crocodile egg collector, helicopter pilot, wildlife relocator and award-winning tour operator.

He also shares his love for the Australian Outback and wildlife at his safari camp and overnight tour, which includes guided crocodile encounters and feeding, an airboat cruise with knowledgeable guides, a dinner on an open star deck, luxury Lotus Belle tents for sleeping, a large barbecue breakfast and a 10-minute scenic helicopter tour – all in one package.

I drove my rental car for the approximately 2 hour trek to Top End Safari Camp, but the experience also includes air-conditioned coach transfers from Darwin City. I like to drive (even on the “wrong side of the road” compared to what I was used to), and as I left a bit early I was able to stop at one of the famous truck stops from Northern Australia, The Sandpalms Roadhouse and Tropical Motel for a snack and a chat with the locals.

Truck stops are a unique feature along the Australian Outback highways, acting part fuel stop, part restaurant, park accommodation and part gimmick. Some include emu enclosures, rear crocodiles, and even giant fiberglass aliens, but all are a great place to stop for a cold drink and a meal.

Crocodile at Matt Wright's Top End Safari Camp

Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp is home to many resident crocodiles that can be viewed safely.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

Crocs and wallabies up close

I wanted an authentic experience in some of the wildest places in Australia, and Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp did not disappoint. As soon as I arrived I was checked in with the rest of the visitors and we boarded buses down to the “dock” where the airboats and riverboat were waiting.

Signs along the water warned us all not to get too close to the water’s edge, because of the crocodiles. Small, forearm-length baby fangs wallowed in the waters near the shore and above, an eagle perched atop a dead tree to watch for easy fish in the waters.

Matt Wright's Top End Safari Camp Airboat Ride

An airboat tour is one of the best ways to explore the area and spot crocodiles at Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

As we speeded across the lagoon on the airboats imported from Florida, we spotted lazy crocodiles sunning themselves in the grasses and along the shores as the guides shared information about the ecology and the animals themselves. .

At one point one of the guides grabbed a crocodile by the mouth to open its mouth and I almost fell in the water in shock. Unfortunately, the crocodile had part of its lower jaw missing thanks to a fight with another territorial male, so we were able to see its teeth and jaws up close with little danger.

“He’s able to feed himself, huh?” ” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah, he eats well. He is opportunistic. He will take advantage of what other crocodiles have killed and partly eaten,” our guide said in his thick Australian accent.

After the airboat ride, we boarded a large passenger boat for a leisurely cruise along the lagoon to spot birds, other crocodiles, and other wildlife. When I say this part of Australia is teeming with crocodiles, I’m not kidding.

A crocodile in the lagoon of Sweet

A croc cruises alongside our boat during the airboat safari in Sweet Lagoon.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

After the boat safaris, we went to meet the camp’s resident caged crocodiles, large beasts wallowing in shallow ponds that were lured with bits of wild pig on a stick. The biggest of these beasts was the one we all posed with.

Fun fact: Sweet’s Lagoon is named after the 16-foot saltwater crocodile, “Sweetheart,” that roamed the area and chased visiting boats. Authorities attempted to trap Sweetheart to relocate her, but the massive creature drowned in the attempt to pull out. He weighed 1,719 pounds and his body is on display at the Darwin Museum and Art Gallery.

Accommodation at Matt Wright's Top End Safari Camp

My accommodation for the night was a beautiful, comfortable and luxurious glamping tent, with an outdoor shower and a patio.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

Glamour

Matt’s Top End Safari Camp Night Tour includes an overnight stay in a beautiful tent on the property. The spacious tent was equipped with a comfortable double bed, a small table and chairs and an outdoor outdoor shower and sink system. However, the camp only offers shared bathrooms.

After a full communal dinner prepared by the camp staff, we sat under the night sky and around a cozy fire pit to share travel stories, sip local beer and cocktails, and watch the little wallabies jump in the court.

Usually, when the sky is clear, guests have the chance to learn about the night sky and constellations during a stargazing program, but an unusually rainy cloudy day took that experience away from us that night.

The tents are sturdy and comfortable, but in the middle of the night the sounds of mysterious animals rustling through the brush made me curious if I heard wallabies and rabbits or if one of those giant crocodiles was hunting there. -down. I was assured that crocs are quite lazy creatures in general, so it was highly unlikely that they would leave the comforts of water to roam the country.

Matt Wright's Top End Safari Camp Helicopter

A 10-minute scenic helicopter ride is included in Matt Wright’s Top End Safari Camp overnight experience.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

The next morning, we split into groups to do our 10-minute guided helicopter tour, and I was among those in the first group. While the staff prepared a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sautéed potatoes and fresh bread, I boarded the small helicopter for a bird’s eye view of the land.

Helicopter flight over Sweet Lagoon

A scenic helicopter ride over Sweet’s Lagoon gives you a bird’s eye view of the area.

Photo credit: Heide Brandes

Flying over Sweet’s Lagoon is a very different experience than cruising along its waters, and from the air we were able to see a herd of wild water buffalo grazing. Australia has two types of invasive buffalo, which numbered up to 350,000 before mass culling to control the population in the 1980s. Melville Island and the Cobourg Peninsula for meat. When these settlements were abandoned in the mid-1900s, buffalo quickly colonized permanent and semi-permanent swamps and freshwater springs in the upper end of the Northern Territory.

Feral pigs are also a problem throughout the Northern Territory, although feral camels roaming the desert areas here don’t seem to cause as much damage.

Fun fact: Australia is home to the largest population of wild camels in the world. Camel farms on this continent actually export camels to the Middle East!

Overall I was impressed and delighted with my glamping experience at an Australian Crocodile Safari Camp and found the experience to be one of my favorite days on my 2 week adventure in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Pro Tip: The best time to visit the Northern Territory’s Top End is during the dry “winter” months between May and October. While the rest of Australia shivers in the cold of winter, the Top End remains warm and balmy thanks to its tropical climate. The summer months tend to be very hot, humid and rainy.

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