Wujal-Croc

Published on: 19/05/13

Bloomfield River. The best croc spotting around.

The Bloomfield is considered the best croc-spotting river drive in the Cairns Region.

Why? Because most local rivers have bridge crossings, without a river drive. The Bloomfield River is unique with views on both sides.

You see stunning and restful views of the mangroves, the river mouth, jumping fish, occasional boats, egrets, darters, brahminy kites—and crocodiles!

It also helps that it’s in a remote area, usually accessible only by 4WD, with croc-proud and environment-caring communities at Wujal Wujal, Ayton and De Garra.

Yesterday, we saw three crocs over a one hour period, just driving along. The day before? Three.

There are an estimated 12 largish crocs in the Bloomfield River, and around the corner at the Plantation Creek, in Weary Bay.

You can see crocs all year-round, but winter is the best time, when the water is cooler and they need the sun to warm them up and aid their digestion. So, a visit between May and October doesn’t quite guarantee a croc-sighting, but they’re much more easily seen then. I’ve just gone through my 2012 photos to confirm it.

Going north along the Bloomfield Track from Cape Tribulation, you pass the “Wujal Wujal” (Big waterfall) sign, crawl up the hill veering left and come across a spectacular 20 metre high view overlooking the River to the right.

Directly underneath, at lowish tides, you will often see a croc or two resting in the shallow water or on the sandy river bank. This one is gliding slowly along, barely wiggling its tail, and its legs in the “tuck” position. On a very hot day, it may open its mouth –ironically to cool down. The skin inside its mouth is thinner, so it can cool down more easily.

The ford crossing at Bloomfield is exciting but occasionally uncrossable after heavy rain or very high tides. Often on a high tide, a large 5 metre croc — “Brutus” to his friends — glides around the big pond or rests on some big rocks about 200 metres up from the Crossing. Big male crocs especially might travel 2 to 4 kilometres on a high tide, especially at night.

In another pond further up near the marvellous Wujal Wujal Falls we’ve had another regular visitor, Spartaca, which loves to sun herself for hours each day on a rock looking up at the Falls. Even after the sun’s heat disappeared, Spartaca was smart enough to work out that rocks keep their heat longer than sandbanks. Good one Spartaca!Your insights and presence have given photographers great joy and great shots. The croc on the rock. Here is a photo of her swallowing a water dragon. Crocs eat anything from crabs to fish to birds to reptiles, including smaller crocs.

Art imitates life, and there always several croc paintings at the beaut little community-owned Bana Yirriji Art and Cultural Centre at Wujal Wujal. Again, check out the wonderful mural (with buff-breasted paradise kingfisher, croc and other local wildlife) on the Wall of the Wujal Sports Hall. It’s worth visiting just to see it.

As you drive north to Cooktown, and about 3 km past the Wujal community, the road meets the river again. At low tides, one or more crocs might sit on the far bank. A few hundred metres further on, where a little spit of sand pokes out from the mangroves, is another popular resting spot for crocs, often half submerged.

The road continues on, leaving the River past the Bloomfield River State School, then rejoins it for a kilometre or so. There are several spots on the far bank where one or more big crocs hang out. Drive down to the Boat Ramp, and make yourself a cuppa (that’s a cup of tea) under the quaint, rickety shelter. (You mightn’t want it, but there’s mobile phone coverage there).
On a very hot day, it may open its mouth –ironically to cool down. The skin inside its mouth is thinner, so it can cool down more easily.

Through Ayton, (named after Capt Cook’s childhood town in Yorkshire), there’s a short drive up to Weary Bay Road to the picnic tables at WindyLoo. Enjoy the wind and views of the Bloomfield Lodge to the south, and Rattlesnake Point to the north. On a good day, the two Hope Islands (named by Cook) are visible on the horizon near Rattlesnake.
Adventurous 4WDers with good tyres can drive along the sandy bush track either south to the river mouth or north to the Plantation outlet. Both are great croc spots. Plantation has lots of mangroves and is one of the breeding spots during the monsoon season.

Want a little more information about crocs?

Our croc is one of two species in Australia, the Estuarine or South East Asian crocodile, (Crocodylus porosus).
Along the East Coast of Queensland below Princess Charlotte Bay (above Cooktown), we don’t get the freshwater Croc, just our Estuarine species.
These crocs can occasionally travel incredible distances out at sea – hundreds of kilometres. Why? We don’t really know but dispossession is probably the main reason
Crocs grow each year of their life, which can be 100 yrs or more. Males are bigger than females, and 5 metres is considered a big croc. On the Endeavour River in 2012, a croc over 6 metres was measured, with an estimated age of 140 years.

A male might have several females in an area which he patrols more vigorously during mating season. After mating, egg-laying follows 4-6 weeks later at the onset of the wet season (around January). Nest temperature determines sex of the young, with 32⁰ C producing mainly males, and lower or higher temperature more females.
Incubation takes 90 days, with the rotting vegetation determining the temperature, not the female adjusting the nest. That’s for moundbirds!! She stays around the area, however, and helps the hatchlings get by carrying them in their jaws to the water. Then for a few days or longer, she will hang around to protect them from predators, even Dad.
No croc hunting has been allowed in Queensland for over 40 years, so populations are becoming bigger and croc sizes larger. Around here, we just watch them.

They’ve been around with little need to adapt much for about 240 million years. A remarkable example of evolution – or lack of it, in a successful species.

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