You can count on seeing all sorts of crazy things in Australia – termite mounds, bizarre rock formations, sharp-beaked and cantankerous cassowaries, just to name a few.
But it might be a hotel that leaves you scratching your head most.
I’d have to rank the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn as one of the craziest hotels in Australia. Just being in the deep Outback town of Jabiru in the famous Northern Territory puts it on the list. Being built in the shape of a salt-water crocodile takes it into the upper echelon of wacky. And it surely has to be the most unusual Holiday Inn ever.
So is it kitschy or cool? I can’t say first-hand since I only drove through Jabiru with Wilderness Adventures guide Amy and a crew of other loons. We stopped long enough for wallaby meat pies and some oil for The Possum before heading back out. While images of kachinas, cowboys and Kokopelli statues raise the hackles of Arizonans like me, Aussies are more laid-back about embracing the touristy elements of their area. So they probably get a few laughs out of it.
As for you -- if you’re staying in Jabiru, I say go for it. The Gagudju Crocodile could be a really fun departure from the usual bland hotel experience. It’s also owned by indigenous people, so you may get some insights from the staff.
While you’re in the Top End, think about adventuring into the Kakadu National Park, which is 60 by 120 miles of rugged territory filled with wildlife. It’s definitely one of the Northern Territory’s main attractions. I don’t recommend renting your own car and going off into the Kakadu, though. It’s best to grab a knowledgeable guide to navigate the trails – and to know where the crocs are lurking!
Everyone has a reason for traveling – shopping, lying by the beach, sightseeing, sampling cuisine.
It seeing wildlife is the reason you book long-haul flights, put Australia high on your list. The entire continent is too much for most people to explore in a single trip – especially us Americans who struggle to get two weeks away from the cubicle. If you want to maximize the number of creatures you’ll see, there’s one place you need to visit:Â The Northern Territory, or Top End as it’s often known in Australia. It’s a real Australian travel experience you’ll always remember.
If you’ve seen Crocodile Dundee, you’ve caught a glimpse of the Northern Territory.Â It’s littered with towns bearing lyrical names like Humpty Doo and Jabiru, most derived from Aboriginal languages. Among its centerpieces is the Kakadu National Park,Â Â measuring nearly 60 by 120
And each square mile of both the Top End and the KakaduÂ is overflowing with creatures of every size, shape and classification. The roads are rough. The distances are formidable. The routes are varying. And many of the creatures are fierece. That makes a guide a good idea. I highly recommend Wilderness Adventures.
During my time bouncing around the NT, here are some spots that yielded the best creature sightings (WARNING – mind your guides and everything they say about staying safe. Your life is on the line out there):
This place is absolutely crawling with crocs. You know you’re starting to get assimilated when you point one out to your travel buddies and shout “loogit at ‘un! He’s Â a’ least ite meetahs!” You also get a great lecture on the boat tour (which you should take, even though it costs extra) about the croc’s fearsome hunting and killing capabilites – along with a great explanation of how Outback charlatans wrestle crocs and live to tell about it.
But there’s more than crocs. You will see simply too many birds species to even remember half of them. And we’re talking big birds here, not sparrows. Just check the photos! On the way to the billabong, you’ll also get glimpses of wallabies bouncing all over. They’ll be moving fast, and the truck will be bouncing, so it’ll be hard to snap good photos. Not to worry – you’ll see them again.
There’s more here than old rock paintings. Those are cool, but get me within a few feet of a rock wallaby, and I’ll forget all about the paintings. If your guidesÂ are the adventurous sort (G’day, Amy and Grady!), they’ll egg you on to make you lick a green ant’s butt – which really does taste like lime and gets used in Aborginal cooking.Â You’ll see some cool insects and arachnids, along with the big rock where Mick Dundee stood to make a Bushman’s Phone Call – whipping a bullroarer around his head.
White Lilly Billabong
While most of our group went for a swim in this rare, totally croc-free billabong (at least that time of year), Sarah and I went creature spotting. We saw a very cool orange and gray snake, and some cool gray kangaroos! The lighting conditions were rough, and they were skittish. We had to be quiet to sneak a few photos.
This was also our first time seeing a kangaroo in full-speed flight. You might think they make a cute little hop at all velocities. But when they go to warp speed, their upper body seems to fold parallel to the ground, and they turn into a furry missile. I wouldn’t want to collide with one!
Fairly close to Darwin, which is the major hub for adventure travel, you’ll start seeing giant termite colonies. They certainly contain no animals that are cute and cuddly, usually being filled with millions of termites or ants. But they look so cool, like set pieces from The Dark Crystal.
Also, I noticed something interesting: A gray kangaroo at rest looks a lot like a termite mound from a distance. I’d have to guess that’s evolution at work. A perfect camouflage, rapid acceleration and awesome top-end speed must make kangaroos a hard proposition for a predator.
Yeah, it’s a tourist trap. But it also sells really reasonably priced didgeridoos – andÂ your chances of seeing cute creatures are pretty high.Â During my visit, the staff was caring for an oprhaned wallaby, a baby emu and sundry skinks and snakes.