Yes, you heard it right. It’s the cage of death – the only crocodile dive in Australia. Crocosaurus Cove is a reptile park in Darwin and is an exhibit for reptiles, turtles and crocodiles. Being the adventure junkie I am, I decided to head to Darwin for the ANZAC long weekend and do the Cage of Death. I booked well in advance and was all set. (Of course, my friends did call me crazy!)
On the day of the dive:
The dive was at 10:30 AM, but the excitement was kicking in , so I reached Crocosaurus Cove well ahead of time at 9:30 AM. I was given a wrist band at the entrance, which allowed me access to the park for the whole day.
On seeing the board at the entrance, I inquired about holding of a baby crocodile. I was instructed to walk upstairs to the tank. As I walked closer to the tank, I saw a huge crowd gathered. I was curious too – I peeped into the tank. I saw the cage that had two people inside and a huge massive crocodile swimming around the cage. I had a chill in my spine. The crocodile was scary and big – very big.
I tried to deviate myself and asked few of the staff for the baby crocodile. One of the friendly staff attended me and walked me to the place where the baby crocodile was. During the walk, he briefed me about the safety precautions and instructions for the dive. He talked about the cage, dive experience and the failure points. The cage was made up of glass and was in circular in shape. It was supported by three set of chains. The first failure point was when the middle chain broke or malfunctioned. The second failure point was when the side two chains broke or malfunctioned. The third failure point was when the cage sank. The cage also had a rope (which I had not seen till it was pointed out to me) through which the cage could be pulled back up.
After the briefing, the staff took me to the place where I could finish the paperwork and hold the baby crocodile. I tried to finish my paperwork as soon as possible. I was specifically told that the cage had some small strips of openings for the water to flow in and some people in the past had actually tried to insert their fingers into them to touch the crocodile. And the repercussion of doing that stupid mistake is that the person could lose their finger forever- as simple as that!
Once done with the paperwork, the fun stuff began, where I had a photo shoot with a baby fresh water crocodile. It was fun – super super fun!
After the photo shoot, it was almost time for me to change and head for the dive. I was nervous. I was alone in the cage and I was getting into a tank of a massive big crocodile. My adrenaline was pumping.
I approached the tank. I had not noticed that there were two tanks – one was empty where the cage was and the other was where the crocodile was. The empty tank was used for people to get into the cage. Near the empty tank were the three staff – the first – who had given me the safety briefings, the second – who was preparing the cage for my dive and the third – the camera guy who would take pictures of mine during the dive.
Whilst the cage was being prepared, I started inquiring about the crocodile. I learned: 1. The crocodile was a salt water crocodile (Fact: Salt water crocodiles are the most dangerous crocodiles – they can eat humans and they are dangerous than the fresh water crocodiles) 2. The crocodile was a male. 3. His name was Chopper (affectionately known as ‘Choppy’) 4. He was 80 years old 5. He was 5.5. meters in length and he was the third biggest crocodile at Crocosaurus Cove 6. He had been doing the dive from past 8 to 9 years and he knew how to behave when the cage is in his tank.
I climbed up the ladder from outside the empty tank and climbed down another ladder to head straight into the cage. I was trying to calm myself and was reaffirming ‘You can do it Raks’. After I got into the cage, the roof of the cage was closed with a mesh. The cage was slowly lifted up from the empty tank and moved towards Choppy’s tank. When the cage was slowly moving down in Choppy’s tank, I tried to look around to see where Chopper was. At first I could not spot him, but as the cage moved down closer to the water, I saw him towards the right of the cage and he was looking up – I think at the cage. I gulped and panicked. I was getting closer to him – a crocodile – a big crocodile.
The cage was half immersed inside the water. I had to go under the water to see Chopper. I was struggling to breathe under water (I am not a swimmer), trying to look for Chopper (I was wearing the snorkeling glasses), recording on the Go Pro, posing for the pictures under water and making sure I don’t put my fingers in those outlets. But every time I saw Chopper, I was so thrilled and happy. A huge salt water crocodile swimming around your cage – Not something that happens every day, right? 😀
I was in the cage for 15 minutes and the first 10 minutes was where Choppy was shown the chicken piece but was not allowed to eat. This was to ensure that he was around the cage and puts up a show. I remember there was this one time, where Chopper tried to grab a bite of the chicken and whilst doing that, he hit the cage with his jaw. Oh my God! That was a big loud thump. I had never ever experienced that in my life. That clearly showed the power and the strength of his jaws.
The last 5 minutes was where Chopper was allowed to take a bite. The cage was pulled up so the cage had just some water inside – may be an ankle length. This was the time where I was allowed to remove my snorkeling glasses and lie down in the cage to watch Chopper. He was swimming around the cage and casually taking a bite of the chicken. It was awesome – Looking at him around so close was awesome.
After 15 minutes of the dive, the cage was lifted up and moved towards the empty tank. And my experience of being so up close was over. I had never come so close to the World’s most dangerous animal – a salt water crocodile. And the entire experience of the dive was so amazing and completely safe. I thoroughly enjoyed being so close to Chopper. The staff had taken all the precautions to make the experience a memorable and a pleasant one. Thank you Crocosaurus Cove for this wonderful experience.