A veteran tour guide has shared his most intense experience in the wild as part of a career getting up close and personal with Australia’s most awe-inspiring species.
Crocodile tour leader and self-described “wildman” Damian Duffy has had plenty of close encounters with big reptiles, but he’s recently shared the only experience that left him truly rattled.
The incident, which occurred in the Northern Territory, took place shortly after Mr Duffy heard word of dozens of crocodiles had been spotted feasting on a dead buffalo on a nearby river bank.
He headed out on his boat to see the sight and came across “about 15 crocodiles hanging around” the carcass. He decided to drop an anchor, Mr Duffy told Channel 9, but then the wind started to pick up.
“I wound up abandoning the photography mission as it was too difficult to keep the boat out of harm’s way,” he said.
“I pulled in the anchor and went about 15 metres up river. I’m idling the boat, keeping it against the wind. I just got goosebumps, the spider senses were tingling, and I was looking around.”
It was then that Mr Duffy saw the “colossally huge” animal that had pushed him into fight or flight mode.
“I looked to my right, about 10 metres away, up popped this big bull crocodile,” Mr Duffy told the publication.
“It was like a five-metre crocodile, colossally huge. It was up there with the biggest I had ever seen.
“Then he did something — ‘get out of my personal bubble’ behaviour. He took a big deep breath, swirled himself right up high, puffed his back right out high of the water.
“The size of this animal compared to the three-metre boat that was in, I was like, ‘Time to get out of here. I’m not the top of the food chain here.’
“I turned the boat and started fanging back, but the wind was gusting so hard it was lifting the front of the boat and turning it sideways.
“For the next 45 minutes, my bum was twitching like a rabbit’s nose.”
Mr Duffy is now based in South Australia, but plans to return to Darwin later this year to resume touring. He says crocodiles are his favourite of Australia’s famous — and sometimes deadly — wildlife.
“You have all this wonderful wildlife in Australia, but crocodiles, there’s just something about them,” he said.
“For years I tried to figure out what it was.
“As a young fella, I was always fascinated with dinosaurs, and they’re one of the last remaining dinosaur-like creatures we have on this planet.
“They are the pinnacle of predatory evolution. There’s something so captivating about that. I can’t stay away from them for too long.”
In other incredible footage captured by Mr Duffy on tour, a 3.8 metre saltwater crocodile can be seen positioned vertically in the muddy Adelaide River.
The image, taken as Mr Duffy hovered his phone over the swirling waters, captures what would typically be “the last thing you would see” out in the wild.
The pose is adopted by crocs when they are ready to jump.
Despite his line of work, Mr Duffy urged members of the public to keep a safe distance from any wild crocodile.
“Respect them. You can appreciate them but at a distance. They are a very unforgiving animal,” he said.
“I’m a professional, I suppose, in regards to crocodiles and they surprise even me.
“They are unpredictable in a sense, they are so fast and powerful.”