“Be careful of the crocodiles!”
This was probably the first thing anyone at the Northern Territory warned us about when we said we wanted to go swimming. I was part of the Davis Project team that went up to the Northern Territory. We went to help the staff with their holiday program they were running. The purpose of the program was to keep the kids busy during the holiday so they would steer away from petrol sniffing and drinking. These practices are very prominent social issues in the Yurrkala community. On the fourth day, we went camping with the kids and – OH MY GOD, CROCODILES ARE REAL!
It all started at night. All the kids had gone to sleep after singing around a camp fire, roasting and eating marshmallows. I was with 6 other female IHers. They shared two tents amongst themselves while I was supposed to sleep in a swag alone. The girls had gone to sleep early, but I didn’t want to sleep. The whole camping experience had got me pumped and I didn’t want the night to be over. I stayed up and chatted with the staff. They had to wait for the kids to be asleep before they could go to bed. However, instead of going to sleep, AJ (one of the staff members) had prepared for CRAYFISH HUNTING!!
The tide was very very low that night and the fish were stuck in the rocks and corals. It was the perfect opportunity. After the kids were asleep (which was around 12am), AJ asked Peter, another staff member, and me to go with her. We grabbed a prong, a spear and three torch lights and off we went into the rocky part of the beach. It was full of coral, sharp oyster shells and other sea creatures. We walked without realising that we weren’t the only ones hunting that night…
“ Hey Tae, come and check this out!” AJ exclaimed before handing me a sea slug to touch
I could feel it wincing as AJ pulled it out of the water. As I carefully laid the sea slug back down I heard a noise. I turned around to see Peter trying to spear a blue beautiful fish. This was how the first half of the night went – looking around, balancing on coral and oyster infested rocks trying to find crayfish or any other edible creatures to take home. I cut myself in a few places and almost slipped a several times (If I had slipped I would not have returned in one piece as the rocks and coral are as sharp as Hell!). Peter and AJ showed me an octopus, a pentagon shaped colourful starfish and many other sea creatures I thought I would only ever see on Animal Planet. The experience was amazing (even though we hadn’t even found a single cray fish). Halfway through the session, we looked around to check for crocs – as part of our usual routine – and saw a spot of light coming towards us
“Hey Pete! Who do you see?” AJ shouted to Peter with excitement.
“Jeremiah.” It sounded to me like Peter had expected him to sneak out to join us.
Jeremiah was the first Yongul boy I talked to, or should I say played basketball with. He didn’t talk much but you could tell that there was a lot going on in his head. He would randomly give me a bro nod, sometimes a hug and call me “wawa” (which means brother in Yongul). His basketball skill are beyond anyone I’ve ever seen at his age. He is a sweet and talented kid, but Peter had told me that he smokes even though he’s only around 11 years old. It actually seemed like a common thing there. A kid who was around the same age as Jeremiah told me that he sniffed petrol before. It is not their fault that these issues arise in their communities. I guess there is a lot to be done to help these communities out.
“ AJ! AJ!”
“Another one? Yoohoo! Great job Jeremiah”
A third crayfish – This boy is mad! I looked like a toddler learning how to walk next to Jeremiah. He walked around so swiftly and barefooted while I struggled to find good footings on the coral, even with shoes on. We kept on hunting for another hour or so. I managed to spear 2 crayfish. One was already injured by Jeremiah, another one was to kill off the crayfish Jeremiah had caught. Mostly I was just watching them hunt. In the end, we caught 8 crayfish (with around 5 or 6 being caught by Jeremiah) one beautiful blue fish, one giant clamp and a small fish. Jeremiah also caught a little baby shark – But we let it go because we weren’t going to eat it. When the tide came up we stopped hunting and walked back to the spot where we laid all our catches. Halfway through the walk, AJ suddenly froze.
Fun fact: crocodiles can run as fast as 6 meters per second.
I turned and to looked at what AJ was staring at. It was a trail. A crocodile trail. At its end was a medium sized crocodile. It was staring straight at us. We turned the torch light off and backed away. But it was too late. It has already seen us. I had heard that crocodiles are bad at zigzagging and
I was ready to test the theory out. It approached us slowly. But as we were retreating
I slipped. That was all it took. The crocodile sprinted towards us and I got eaten.
No. I lied. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t actually get to see a crocodile, only its trail as it slid from the beach into the water. But, knowing that I had been hunting in crocodile infested water was thrilling enough for me.