Friday, March 18, 2011

Crocodile Dunking in Australia's Cage of Death

Daily Mail: I’d usually be excited about meeting a film star, even a washed-up has-been like 80-year-old Burt, but I breathed a sigh of relief when he showed no interest in me as I passed him napping by his pool.

Burt was the saltwater crocodile in the classic Eighties film Crocodile Dundee and salties, as the abbreviation-loving Aussies call them, are the largest and most dangerous reptiles in the world. At 16ft long this celebrity was not my first choice of swimming buddy at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin - capital of Australia’s wild Northern Territory.

Tipping the scales at 110 stone (1,540 lbs), Burt also had something of a weight advantage over me and my heart thumped in my ears as I descended into an octagonal acrylic box that only put one-and-a-half inches between us as it hung precariously above his pool.The cheerily-named Cage of Death, which lowers tourists into the water to swim alongside crocodiles, is meant to be the highlight of a visit to the cove.

The bite-marked cage is dangled from a monorail. After my encounter with Burt I was hoisted up and along to the next pool and, swinging like a chicken nugget in the wind, was lowered in to meet Houdini.

Named for his ability to break out of enclosures, I eyed the box’s metal roof nervously as I was lowered into the cold water of the pool. His dinky wife Bess came over for a look so I dived down to the bottom of the cage to say g’day, but 15ft-long Houdini stayed basking in the sun, his eyes closed and his front legs tensed ready to pounce.

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