Summer is already under way in the Northern Territory, and a saltwater croc with half its jaw missing is stretched out to his full 4m on the creek bank to catch some sun.
Three-year-old Banjo waves, then hops out of the airboat with parents Matt and Kaia Wright to pose for photos beside the wild saltie. Matt pats the creature’s nose as if it’s a pet dog.
This isn’t an unusual encounter with a croc – it’s everyday life for the Wrights at their Top End Safari Camp, 120km southwest of Darwin.
The family, expecting a new addition in November, are stars of the hit television series Outback Wrangler and Wild Territory, which follow their work running their tourism ventures and relocating animals such as problem crocs and buffalo.
The moment with Bonecruncher captured, they rev up the airboat and head back to camp. Banjo helps his dad feed Tarzan, one of their pet crocs, then Matt takes him up for a joy ride in the helicopter parked on the lawn.
Based on this one afternoon, every day seems like an adventure for the Wright family – and it turns out, their holidays are no different.
What do you love most about the Top End?
Matt: What’s appealed ever since I was a kid is the freedom up here. Wide open spaces, opportunity to get out and have a crack at whatever you put your mind to. Anything you dream up as an adventure and you want to make happen, you can make happen.
Kaia: For us it’s pretty interesting living between so many different worlds. We’ll have to go to events and do the whole city thing, but it makes you appreciate so much more what you have up here. You end up in conversations with people who seem so disconnected to where they live or their environment and I feel so lucky to come back and be able to go camping where there’s no one.
What are the best things about this time of year in the Top End?
Matt: The wet season is beautiful. When you get a big, black storm moving in with the sun setting behind it, it’s just this darkness with brilliant green and a patch of blue and the sun setting over here. And then the lightning when it hits is just out of control. March, April, May are amazing fishing. And the crocs are in fine form, too.
Kaia: Summer is definitely when wildlife is alive up here. It’s breeding season, so if you want to see crazy croc activity, as in see them really pumped up, moving about and mating, summer’s the time to come and see crocodiles.
What are your favourite camping experiences in the NT?
Matt: There are a variety of places we’ve been, but they’re not known to anyone, so we’d like to keep it that way. But as far as places tourists can visit, we love the Daly River, the Douglas-Daly, Tipperary Station – that whole region is amazing. And out around the Victoria River Roadhouse – the escarpment country around there takes your breath away. Obviously, you’ve got to be careful of saltwater crocodiles, though.
Kaia: The best thing is when we go camping and we don’t pack all the paraphernalia. It’s kind of not camping if you’ve got all the gear and the gourmet food. We literally take salt and pepper, and we’ll catch geese or fish or buffalo. I’ve had some slow-cooked pig ribs on the fire and they’ve been pretty questionable, but I kind of like camping in that way and actually experiencing bush life.
What is your ideal family getaway?
Matt: Interstate, we like Margaret River, the Sunny Coast, or south of the Goldy. Locally, the Tiwi Islands are very special – the remoteness, and isolation, just the quiet. The phone doesn’t work over there and there’s so much diversity. Banjo loves the island.
Kaia: I love taking Banjo to the Tiwis. We’ve got a pet dingo (called Ding) who lives out there and Banjo and Ding have this beautiful love affair. Banjo builds sandcastles and the local kids come over and play – it’s his happy place. That fills me with joy.
What sort of things do you like to do on holidays?
Matt: Fishing, spearfishing, snorkelling, kitesurfing, boating. Anything in the ocean.
Kaia: And anything to do with animals. Every holiday we go on Matt finds like a lizard or a snake – he’s like an animal magnet.
Is every holiday you have an adventure?
Matt: Pretty much. We like exploring different places. We went to South Africa when Kaia was eight months’ pregnant (with Banjo). We’ve got some friends over there with a wildlife sanctuary, Care for Wild. They look after orphaned rhinos. Beautiful country, but it was definitely off the beaten track.
Kaia: Pre-Matt I used to travel to big cities. We did a couple of big-city trips when he had media and he’s like, “Every city’s the bloody same,” and I have to admit since going on holidays that Matt’s chosen, I now much prefer an activity or adventure holiday. Matt took me on a bush-bashing safari in South Africa for our babymoon. It was really emotional because there’s these baby orphan rhinos and I was pregnant and having this really beautiful spiritual connection with these animals.
What are the most important things to pack for an NT holiday?
Matt: Mozzie repellent – there’s so much water and life up here and with that comes insects. And I always pack a pocketknife. It comes in handy for so many things. Just make sure you put it in your checked-in baggage.
Kaia: Best attire for any place where there’s midges or mozzies is long, loose linens. Number one. You see people rock up in hot pants and you’re like, “You have made a massive mistake.”
What’s the one experience people visiting the Top End shouldn’t miss?
Matt: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing – it’s such a big place. Litchfield is a good day tour from Darwin – it’s close to town, there are beautiful waterfalls, you can swim. Sandy Creek is one of my favourite spots there. Or Top End Safari Camp – you’ve got an experience with probably the biggest crocs in the world here.
Kaia: Any experience that gives you a taste of all the best bits. That’s why we developed Top End Safari Camp, because it encapsulates all of the best bits of the Top End: adventure, crocodiles, wildlife, relaxing. People leave here and they say, “that was the best day of my life”.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com