I worked pretty much flat out while I was in Darwin. I may have been on a mad partying phase but I was also determined to work as many hours and save as much money as possible. Because of this, I ended up not having very many days off in the three months or so I was there, even if I only worked a few hours, I was pretty much working every single day and I was happy about that. My working hours fitted in well with still having a social life, I often wouldn't start until lunchtime so I had my mornings to relax and see friends, the. I would work a ten hour shift, or split shifts across both jobs, and then I would finish as everyone was getting into the party mood. It was great, but it did mean that I didn't get to see many of the Northern Territory's natural wonders. I never had the chance to go to Litchfield or Kakadu to see the waterfalls or the amazing landscapes. But when I had l had particularly sad few days after some close friends left, another friend decided to get me out of my funk by insisting we get out of the city and do something fun. He was certain my bad mood was down to being trapped in the city and all I needed was a bit of wide open space and a bit of nature to feel good again. It made sense - after all, being a Norfolk girl I'm used to having endless fields, wide open spaces and the ocean at every turn, why wouldn't I be affected by the lack of it?A group of five of us hired a car - for incredibly cheap at just $20 each - and off we drove on the highway. I ended up driving and even that was such a relief, I didn't realise how much I missed having the freedom of a car since travelling and it was great to have my first real experience of driving on Australian roads. We headed out further into the outback and as the city disappeared, the land because dryer, dustier and emptier. It was brilliant to see the bright red colour of the earth contrasted against the clear blue of the sky and with the music turned up we sped out further and further. Eventually we arrived at our destination - it was the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise! Located on the Adelaide River, on the road to Kakadu, the cruise gives tourists the opportunity to see one of around 80,000 saltwater crocs that roam the waterways of Northern Australia. The creatures became protected around 30 years ago after nearly facing extinction thanks to hunting, now you can see them in their natural habitat thanks to the work of the company. The crocodiles recognise the boats and know they have a chance of food from them, which means you actually get to see animals that would normally be hidden away under the mud of in the shade. But don't think that means the crocs are tame - you wouldn't want to mess with these guys as they are still forced to hunt for their food and will happily hunt you too.During our cruise we spotted at least five large crocs - two of them were absolutely huge and the other three were still pretty big. You definitely wouldn't want to cross any of them, whether in the water, or on land as we saw. They were magnificent creatures and it was interesting to see how they hunt - especially how they naturally jump up out of the water to stalk their prey - something I never realised they did. Both terrifying and fascinating at the same time - especially when you see the size and number of their teeth! A few people in the boat were a little nervous, but I have to admit I wasn't scared, just curious. One of the crocs came right up out of the water on one of the banks and it was really great to see his entire body, to see how powerful his legs were and his scaly hide, plus to have it pointed out to us how his scales are designed to absorb the sun and warm the creature's body. On our way back to our landing spot, our guides spotted an eagle up in a tree and wanted to show us the power of the creature so after stringing up some meat, we got to see the huge bird swooping in for the kill. Plus all the gulls swooping on either side of the boat for scraps of meat - it was amazing to see them flying around us so precisely and yet so chaotically - for someone who doesn't really like birds, it was a beautiful sight. We drove back to Darwin with smiles on our faces after a brief stop in Humpty Doo for some food, it was a great day out and one I would recommend. And trust me, if, like me, you felt trapped in the city but were unable to fit in a trip to one of the national parks, this one is a great one to fit in around work. You can easily make it there and back in a few hours then go and work a night shift like I did.
Have you been on the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise - what did you think? Have you ever had that feeling of being trapped in a city and needing to get back to nature?
* There is also a Crocosaurus Cove located on Mitchell Street in Darwin, which I purposefully chose not to visit because I felt it was cruel to have an crocodile as large as that enclosed in such a small tank. I had seen from photos by friends who went along how small it was and I didn't like that it was being kept this way. I would always choose to see the animals in the wild instead of locked in a cage. This trip was using the crocodiles' natural hunting behaviour as a way of enticing them into our view instead of teaching them unnatural ones that would inhibit their lifespan.
After all the fun and games of Fraser Island and Whitsundays, we headed straight off to Magnetic Island - now this was the one we had no idea what to expect of. We had heard nothing about the island and weren't sure if it would bring us a relaxing time or fun filled action. A bus and a ferry ride later, we arrived at Base Magnetic - which turned out to be easily the best and most beautiful Base hostel I have yet seen. It was stunning, the dorms were little six bed cabins set right on the shoreline and next to a swimming pool, with nothing but space - something which is normally rather lacking in hostels. Scattered around the grounds were loads of hammocks and comfy chairs for chilling and sunbathing, with the beach just in front. Our first evening was spent watching the sunset with a cold beer in hand and making new friends, including a huge group of Canadian girls who we spent most of the three days with and ended up being reunited with in Cairns as well! Our first night was hilarious, filled with silly drinking games, delicious food and a lot of laughs.The next morning, the two of us decided to head out and explore the island, we went bush walking on a trail that started our side of the island and took us way over to one of the other bays past a great viewpoint. It was a pretty hot and sweaty hike, but well worth it for the view (see top pic) and the swim at the other end, plus we got to see some of the national park along the way. It took us a few hours to hike, but was well worth doing - just make sure you set off as early as possible to avoid the intense heat of the day. And keep your eyes peeled for Aussie nature highlights like the wild koalas that cling to the trees along the trail. That was a pretty special sight, being within touching distance of wild koalas and getting the infamous koala selfie, even if we were due to visit the koala sanctuary the day after. There's just something so much more special when you seen an animal in its natural habitat. The landscape is just beautiful on Magnetic Island - from the crashing waves around the base of huge rock faces, to the dense bush and scrubland you trek through to reach from one side to another. The beauty of the island speaks for itself and I love that it isn't a place that tries so hard - there is no expectation of what you have to do when you arrive. There are a huge range of activities on offer, but no pressure to take part in these organised trips, it's more about going off on your own and exploring the island.Our final full day on the island was the best by far, we ended up teaming up with the Canadians and hiring jeeps (it's usually supposed to be Barbie cars but we had too many people and didn't get there early enough) to explore the island. First off we started at the koala sanctuary where we enjoyed a champagne breakfast and meeting lots of different animals from lizards to parrots. The food was delicious and we all filled our plates - typical backpackers! Afterwards, we were taken to meet the koalas and to have our photos taken with them. They were gorgeous, fluffy and oh, so soft. They smelt like eucalyptus and clung on for dear life, it was so adorable, and I was glad to be contributing towards helping rehabilitate them and up the numbers in the wild, but to be honest it wasn't as good as the one we had seen in the wild the day before. The rest of the day saw us heading off to some of the best snorkelling beaches where we took our masks and snorkels into the water to spot fish, small sharks and more diving amongst the coral. A few hours of sunbathing were followed by a quick pit stop at the bottle shop to buy some wine for the sunset, before heading to West Point to watch it set over the ocean. It was the perfect end to an amazing day with new friends and I haven't even told you about the best bit yet!Earlier in the day we did something amazing - my favourite part of the whole day. The girls had heard about a butterfly walk, completely natural and undisturbed by tourism. We parked up on the side of the road and walked into the woods to find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of stunning blue butterflies who swooped around our heads as the branches they perched upon swayed in the breeze. It was magical and like something out of a fairytale - as you walked through they were everywhere and I don't think I have ever seen so many butterflies in one place before. Definitely worth visiting - just ask at the hostel and they'll direct you. All in all, Magnetic Island was a seriously unexpected pleasure and I'm so happy we went, it was the biggest surprise of all of our destinations because we had so little idea of what to expect. I know many miss it out because of time constraints or funds on their trip up the East Coast but I would seriously recommend making sure you squeeze in a couple of days there! After one more tipsy night together, we all parted ways knowing we would be reunited in just a few days in Cairns.
Have you been to Magnetic Island - what was your favourite activity? Where did you stay? What did you think of the Koala Sanctuary?