Port Douglas, Australia: Hartley’s Crocodile Farm – by Caleb

Today we planned to go Hartley’s crocodile farm and learn about many different animals, including crocs. When we first entered the farm, we went to the cassowary talk and feeding. A cassowary, for those who don’t know, is a large flightless bird, kinda’ like an ostrich. It is the third largest flightless bird in DSCF1239the world. The cassowary is a very cool but complex creature, thus making it tough to explain, but I shall try my best. If you imagine an ostrich, then you are off to a great start. A cassowary looks a lot like an ostrich, except the body is a very deep black and covered in feathers that resemble hair more than feathers. Another great way of explaining it, is it looks like a black pillow exploded and glued together by someone with very poor eyesight! Only, the pillow was filled with human hair rather than feathers. The neck is a nice, solid blue with huge wrinkles on it similar to an elephant leg, or a chunky grandmother. The head is the most complex of the body parts. The eyes are very distinctive. They look like big marbles with DSCF1800over-cooked onion rings incased in them. They have a long black beak with lots of teeth. They only grow teeth when they are older. They also have a big black hump on the top of their heads. It is kind of weird because no one knows exactly what they us the hump for. Some say communication; others, who aren’t as experienced say that they are just there. It almost sounds as if it’s hollow. You just kinda’ hit it and “tonk” it makes that noise. Any who, I hope you now have a good idea of what a cassowary is. If not, read this again and again until you do!

 

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When we arrived at the feeding, all we did was sit there and take photos. Pretty exciting! Finally our guide, who was going to tell us about the cassowary and feed it, arrived. The cassowary is the most dangerous bird in the world and can reach up to 40 kph. That is another reason people say they have that hump on their heads: it acts as a helmet! Makes sense; if we ran that fast and then ran into a tree we wouldn’t even know it ‘til a month later when the doctors told us! Despite being the deadliest bird alive today, it is a fruit eater like my brother. It also is becoming extinct due to humans chopping away at the rain forest. The way we can help save the cassowary is to raise money, or reduce the amount of garbage we produce, because our trash is poisoning their environment.

After feeding the cassowary we made our way down to the crocodile farm. Our guide at the farm, whose name was Matt, told us the many rules we needed to follow before seeing the crocodiles. His number one rule and my favourite was, “Just be wary of the lagoon we’re about to cross. There are no big crocs in the lagoon, in theory, but there is a black swan who isn’t ultimately friendly.” We crossed the lagoon and saw neither a croc nor a black swan.

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After we crossed the lagoon, we stopped in front of a massive cage, swaIMG_0682rming with crocs. Matt said, “Do NOT put your hand over the cage walls because crocs can jump quite high and if you do put your hand over top, you’re going to have a very bad day!” The cage was filled with green water that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for months. There was also a small artificial land area. Alongside the massive crocodile swarm, he showed us the nests, and their breeding program. We were luck enough to be able to touch a baby croc, which in my opinion, felt a lot like a small living piece of mosaic art.

 

After the amazing experience of touching a croc, we went on the tropical boat tour. This was pretty much a tour that shows you through the rainforest by boat. Also, the boat keeps you from being eaten alive by the many 4 meter long crocs. Our guide on the boat tour, named Mario, showed us many different crocodiles and how they naturally jump to catch their food as seen below.

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What Mario did was tie a dead bird of some sort to the end of a pole and start swinging it about two meters above the water. A crocodile, named Clockwork, continually jumped up at the bait even though Mario kept pulling the bait away. After a few minutes of fun and hearing the jaw slap, we made our way back to the dock, still in one piece.

After that, we had lunch, which was delicious, then made our way to the salt water crocodile pen where the crocodile feeding was going to happen. Matt, who was our previous guide, also did the feeding, with his partner Mario, our boating guide. The whole show demonstrated how the crocodiles can jump up out of the water to a great height. There were many crocs they were feeding, all of them salt water crocs. The biggest crocodile they fed was a croc they named Spartacus. Spartacus was four meters long and over a hundred kilos! His jaw slap was incredibly powerful! It was literally the new Big Bang!

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Of course, the walking, humidity and heat was pretty much a recipe for exhaustion. Dad and I returned to the van for a rest ‘til it was time to see the snake show. The snake show happened at two o’clock and was pretty interesting. The keeper who showed us the different snakes was humorous and very good at giving out information. He showed us pythons, the most deadly snake in the world, aka the King Brown, and many others.

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But the real reason we came, was to see the show after this, the Crocodile Attack show. The Crocodile Attack Show here is apparently the best croc attack show in Australia. The guy doing the attack show was named Lee. It is really hard to explain what happened in the show but the photos below should give you an idea!

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Overall, Hartley’s Crocodile Farm was a great experience and something that you should see if you are around the Cairns or Port Douglas area in Australia.

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