Becoming Croc Bait at Bitter Springs

After spending the night in Katherine and having a seriously good sleep in, we set off to visit nearby Elsey National Park and go for a little swim in the beautiful Bitter Springs.

When I say that Bitter Springs is ‘nearby’ Katherine – be warned that this is an Aussie’s version of ‘nearby’ and in reality it is about 110km away! It takes about an hour or so to drive there, but it feels like a much shorter trip.



After arriving at Bitter Springs we found that we were the only people there – one of the benefits of an early morning visit. However, despite the lack of other humans the place in no way felt empty; there were fish, birds and even monitor lizards hanging around the place.

Look at this big guy just hanging out!


This incredible little haven is a naturally occurring hot spring – a bit of a rarity in Australia. The water sits at about 28-30 degrees celsius and even though taking a swim in warm water when the outside temperature is 35 degrees may sound horrible, it was actually incredible soothing.



Like most national parks in the Northern Territory – entry to Elsey and Bitter Springs is completely free. Another bonus for the budget traveller!



Emily and I spent ages splashing around in the water and enjoying having the place to ourselves. I love this next picture of us – the water looks incredible, Em looks like a magical mermaid and I have the most boggly eyes ever – such a winner!


Now, this is where the really interesting part of the story begins.

On the NT Government ‘Crocodile Safety: Be Crocwise‘ webpage (welcome to Australia guys) it states that Bitter Springs is safe to swim in all year round without risk of a crocodile encounter. So Emily and I swam around without a care in the world, left without incident and thought nothing of it.

That was until a few weeks later when I saw this news story pop up on my Facebook news feed.


Naturally, I clicked on the story to learn more about the attack without thinking too much more about it. As I was reading however, something caught my eye…


A 2 metre saltie was spotted right there in Bitter Springs! I sussed out the dates, did a bit of research and then found out that this sneaky croc was spotted there only a few days after we had been fully immersed in its territory! For all we know, the croc could have been in there with us!

A pretty scary thought! A 2 metre crocodile isn’t overly huge for a saltie, but one of that size could still easily have killed us if it had tried. Crocs give me the heebie jeebies, so even though Bitter Springs almost never has croc sightings and has been since deemed safe for swimming, in future I will probably give swimming there a miss and call my swim in these gorgeous springs a ‘once in a lifetime’ kinda deal.


So, if you like the idea of beautiful blue thermal springs but aren’t keen on the croc factor – Mataranka Thermal Springs could be right up your alley.

Located in a caravan park not far from Elsey National Park, Mataranka has native thermal water flowing through a little lake. Stairs have been added, and the lake landscaped with concrete. There are also barriers at either end of the designated swimming area, so you wouldn’t need to worry about crocodilians while swimming in here.


Unsurprisingly at this point, entry is free, even for non guests. You can just park and swim! The water is the most incredible shade of blue, it was hard to get pictures that really did it justice – not that that stopped Emily and I from trying.





Mataranka is exceptionally popular with families, but is enjoyable for pretty much anyone and everyone. It wasn’t insanely busy when we visited, but it was far more occupied than Bitter Springs had been.



We spent the rest of our morning and early arvo (for all my non-Aussie readers arvo = afternoon) chilling out before starting the long drive back to Darwin. Our little weekend road trip to Katherine was absolutely amazing and if you find yourself in the Top End, it is a trip I would absolutely recommend.



T H E   L O W D O W N

Ibis Styles Motel: This is a typical yet comfy motel located in Katherine town and it even has a pool! Click here to learn more and to book
Getting to Katherine: From Darwin, rent and car and drive or catch the Greyhound bus
Getting to Bitter Springs and Mataranka: From Katherine, drive south through the town and follow the signs
Camera: Nikon Coolpix S31 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 with M.Zuiko 12-40mm pro lens
Be Crocwise: Any and all swimming in the Territory should be done with caution – pay attention to any and all signs or warnings
Remember: Croc attacks aren’t common but are always a possibility, proceed with caution

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30-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

63 thoughts on “Becoming Croc Bait at Bitter Springs

  1. The water looks so tempting! I read somewhere that alligators don’t really attack adult humans because we’re too big – it’s small toddlers whom they might go after. I assume the same goes for crocs, but proper precautions and research are definitely called for!

    1. Crocs and alligators are very different! Saltwater crocs get absolutely massive and will attack boats even bigger than they are – just because they venture into their territory! Adults are attacked pretty much every year by crocs in Australia – they definitely will go for anyone!

  2. You are fearless. I’m a wimp and admit it. There is no way I would enter the waters knowing that crocs or gators could possibly be inhabiting! The pics are astounding though!!

  3. Once again, I feel like I hitched a ride with you and had a wonderful outing in nature. Your story reminded me of when I was vacationing in Maui many years ago, my partner and I were snorkeling just off the Lahaina Shores beach area in over 6 feet of beautiful, warm Pacific ocean when I felt something large head bump my ankle and I immediately thought, “shark”. I quickly made my way up to the surface to motion Terry to get back to the beach, we made it back safely but didn’t see anything untoward and put it down to a big fish just saying “hello”. But just like you, back here in Vancouver, we watched a documentary on tiger shark attacks in Hawaii and oh my, a very large tiger shark in the very same waters and at the same time as we were happily snorkeling killed a surfer. Did shivers go up and down my spine? Yes and yes! I’m so glad that you and your dear friend had a happy and safe outing!

    1. Tiger sharks are so rarely implicated in fatal attacks but I would be feeling exactly the same way ha! Although, down south in Aus where there are no crocs but many sharks I really don’t get scared and will happily swim in the ocean without worrying… crocs though… they give me the heebie jeebies!

      1. I’ve never been close to a crocodile but imagine I would feel scared if I was about to jump into a body of water that might harbour one! The tiger shark that was roaming through the waters off Maui was called a “rogue” tiger shark in the documentary and that might explain the fatal attack, I still get shivers imagining the unknown…

      2. You definitely get a sense of feeling very unaware – crocs can swim very quickly without making a ripple on the surface so you would never see one coming!

      3. Ouch! It’s great to see you and your friends having such fun despite the possibility of croc sightings, you are living life to the fullest and it’s so inspirational!

  4. I grew up in croc country so this post gave me so much anxiety! I saw the photos of that first waterhole and my ‘croc sensors’ went off 😂 It absolutely looks like a place a saltie would chill out in haha
    Several swimming holes I went to all the time as a kid are now closed because people have realised crocs live there, I look back and wonder how many times I have swam in the same body of water as a saltie and die a little inside haha

  5. That was a shame for the poor bloke, and I am glad the saltie didn’t show its ugly mug while you were there. That selfie is exquisite- excellent lighting and a lovely model!

  6. Hi there! Good post! I once heard a story about early white settlers in Oz where they saw an aborigine jumping off a bridge into a river…so the settlers started doing it too. What they didn’t realise was that the aborigine only do it once because they knew a croc would happily lay in wait for a long time for the next person. 🙂 Guess you were person number one on this occasion.

  7. You know you’re an Australian when you describe 35 Celsius as ‘soothing’. I would love to visit the NT even if just once.

    Now, crocodiles. I use to live at Rockhampton where despite the number of times I sat at the pier with my feet in the water, not once did I see a single crocodiles. I guess not one of the sixty plus saltwater population were fond of my feet. 😂

  8. Scary! Glad you’re all right, though! The water definitely looks beautiful, by the way and I can only imagine how spectacular it must have looked in real life. 🙂 Great photos!

  9. Amazing photos, so so tempting.
    I cannot imagine myself ever going swimming in the waters where crocs hang out! So nerve-racking. But in retrospect it was good that you didn’t know about it and enjoyed carefree swimming on the beautiful waters there! Are crocodiles a threat everywhere in Australia or just a few territories?! 😮

    1. Crocs are definitely only a threat in the Top Ends of Aus, more specifically, Darwin, the coastline of the Northern territory, anywhere close to rivers and big bodies of water in the NT, far northern Queensland and Northern WA. You would never see a croc outside a zoo in the southern parts of Aus… Just sharks haha

  10. I went swimming there yesterday. Even before I read this post I was still sh***ing my dacks, everything looks like a crocodile in there 😂😂😂
    Really great post to read! Thoroughly enjoyed!

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