The saltwater crocodile, or "saltie," as it's called here, lives in northern Australia. Characterized as a "living fossil," the saltie has remained nearly the same for 100 million years. It's the largest, most aggressive crocodile on earth. An average male is 17 feet (5 meters) long and weighs half a ton (450 kilograms).
In Queensland, a state about 2.5 times the size of Texas, there were 35 croc attacks between 1985 and January 2018. Nearly one-third of the attacks were fatal. To keep the numbers in perspective, horses and farmyard animals account for more deaths than crocodiles each year in Queensland, and those deaths are due to falls or collisions.
So, stay away from the water where crocs are known to be, particularly at dawn, dusk, and night time. Easy-to-follow advice, right?
Apparently not for everyone. A riverboat operator we met on the Daintree River said, "Most people who are the victims of croc attacks are stupid. I think it must be Darwin's way of getting rid of stupid people. To stay safe, all you have to do is ask yourself three things: Are crocs known to be here? Is it dawn, dusk, or night time? Are you within three meters of the water's edge? That's it—all sorted."
His three questions became our mantra for the rest of the trip, and we added one more: Are we being stupid?
One of the things I admire about Australians is their ability to accept danger. They don't kill all the crocodiles or forbid swimming and boating. Instead, they manage the risk by giving people information and expecting them to be responsible. Plus, they keep their sense of humor about sharing the land with dangerous animals. Plums that are marketed to children are called "croc eggs."