They may have a reputation as one of the planet’s most powerful creatures, but crocodiles are equally as fascinating as they are fearsome.
There’s no need to get snappy. You can always spot-a-croc in Tropical North Queensland when you know where to look.
Forty-five minutes north of Cairns, you’ll find Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, a family-owned business with an 85-year long history of protecting and promoting these apex predators. At Hartley’s you’re promised to leave with more than a camera-roll full of crocodiles jumping out of the water for flying chickens, but plenty of facts about crocodile conservation too.
You might already know not to smile at a crocodile, but what about these five facts?
1. Crocodiles; no X and Y chromosomes for these guys
Did you know crocodiles don’t have sex-defining chromosomes when starting life to determine whether they are male or female?
Much like turtles, their gender is determined by mother nature and the temperature at which their eggs are incubated.For those playing at home, high and low temperatures are scientifically proven to produce females and intermediate temperatures produce males.
Find out more: Crocodile genetics and reproduction are at the heart of the daily presentations at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures’ tours, which focus on the sustainability of Australia’s living dinosaur population.
2. A crocodile’s bark is not bigger than their bite
Saltwater Crocodiles are nothing if not bitey. In fact, they have the hardest bite of any animal, capable of crushing at a force of up 3700 pounds per square inch (PSI), making them (almost) four times more powerful than the king of the jungle.
With literal jaws of steel, once a croc gets hold of their prey, it’s no longer a fair fight. Just to unbalance the odds even further, crocodiles have 64 teeth, which unlike ours are constantly being updated and replaced with a fresher, sharper set like an evolution of their inbuilt weaponry to ensure they’re always fighting fit.
See them in action: For front row seats to the crocodile dental show, take a seat at Hartley’s Crocodile Attack Show when an experienced croc-keeper gets into the water for a game of cat and mouse. For a closer look at crocodile orthodontics, book the Pole Feed Experience where you’re in charge of serving dinner, dangling a chicken on a pole.
3. If crocodiles were in the Olympics, they’d win gold
Not just speedy in and out of water, crocodiles like most serious athletes have the lung capacity to support it.
Built for hunting, evolution has stacked odds in their favour, because crocodiles can reduce their heart rate to two to three beats per minute and can stay submerged for long periods of time on a single breath. Put it this way, the human record for underwater breath holds is 22 minutes, but an Australian Freshwater Crocodile can do six hours, no problems.
How to see them: Since crocodiles spend so much time underwater, it makes sense to try and spot them from the water. Cruise Hartley’s Lagoon, which is well-stocked with 50 crocs ranging in size from 2.5m to 4.5m.
4. What comes first the crocodile or the egg
If you’ve only ever seen a chicken’s egg, prepare for something much, much bigger when you visit Hartley’s Crocodile Farm.
Saltwater Crocodiles are capable of laying as many as 60–70 eggs in a single nest. The volume is a deliberate one, with a survival rate of less than 1%. If the thought of coming face to face with a crocodile wasn’t scary enough – take it from us, you don’t want to mess with a mother crocodile. These crocodiles are terrifyingly territorial in nesting, even helping their babies escape from their eggs by gently crushing the shell in their powerful jaws.
How to see a baby crocodile: Don’t just see a baby crocodile but handle one with a Farm Tour at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, guided by croc-keepers who don’t just work in croc country but live here too.
5. Crocodiles sunbake for a reason
When you see crocodiles sunbaking on the side of the river, they’re not just working on their tan.
Like all reptiles, crocodiles are what is known as ectothermic, and need to control their body temperature by basking in the sun. If you thought you were fickle with the air-conditioning in the office, try being a crocodile, having to maintain a perfect body temperature of between 28–32 degrees Celsius.
How to spot more than just lounging lizards: If you want to see a five metre giant get off its tummy and into the air, mark your diary for the daily croc feeding presentation where estuarine crocodiles jump metres into the air for their dinner.
Looking for more than just crocodile action?
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is more than just crocodile encounters. A day trip here promises you’ll come face to face with a mix of koalas, kangaroos, wombats, cassowaries, reptiles, and birds.