The Solar Whisper tour was recommended to us by our friends in Melbourne for whom we House Sat for the first time in Australia. “If you make it up to the Daintree, be sure to take this crocodile tour,” they said.
When we read about the Solar Whisper online, the tour immediately sounded promising to us. Solar Whisper is an Electric Eco tour and is the only tour on the Daintree River that has zero emissions. The fact that the boat is eco-friendly and does not emit exhaust convinced us immediately.
We were curious to see how the tour would be and if we really would see a crocodile. Solar Whisper offers both a one-hour tour and a two-hour tour. Since we wanted to see a croc, we chose the two-hour tour just to be safe.
A few days earlier while we were in the Atherton Tablelands, we, unfortunately, were not able to book a campsite, which meant that we couldn’t take the night tour at Paronella Park. To avoid a similar situation, we decided to book the Solar Whisper tour in advance. On the day of the croc tour, we went to the market in Port Douglas, and afterward were strolling down the main street when we saw that we had a voice message. It was a call from Solar Whisper! We called back and learned that the tour had been canceled due to rainy weather. Since there were no other two-hour tours available, and we had already booked our trip to Cape Tribulation, we had no choice but to book the one-hour tour for the following day.
Saddened, we decided to take our time in Port Douglas strolling the boutique shops and enjoying a leisurely lunch.
Afterward, we spontaneously decided to check out the Palmers Sea Reef Golf Course. We parked our campervan and James was about to get out when I saw a message from our friend Alesha. We met her and her husband Jarryd at Mossman Caravan Park. They had also decided to join the tour and were waiting for us there. We immediately called Solar Whisper and they confirmed that the tour was back on. From Port Douglas to the Daintree River, is about a 40-minute drive. It was already 3 pm, and the tour was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. Oh no! But Solar Whisper said not to worry, that they would wait for us. We were so happy, and James immediately jumped on the accelerator!
We skidded into the parking lot at 3.45 p.m. Our five-minute delay was only because we had to stop for a sugar cane train on the way. Of course! Of the 10 million sugar cane train crossings that we have already crossed in Tropical Queensland and never once seeing a train, we had to stop today!
Start of the Tour
We were warmly welcomed and quickly rushed to the boat, where six other passengers were waiting. The tour started immediately. David, the owner and tour guide, started telling us all about crocodiles and the rainforest along the way. And it wasn’t but a few minutes into the tour before we saw our first animal. A tiny crocodile scampered swiftly into the water. It was so quick, unfortunately, that we didn’t even have time to take a photo. It was tiny and looked so cute. David estimated that the baby crocodile was about two months old. Then we saw a Kingfisher. In its bright blue plumage, he stood out from the dark lush green of the rainforest.
A few minutes later we saw our first snake, a Scrub Python! We learned that the “scrub” name comes from farmers, as this type of python is typically found in the “scrub”. Man, weren’t we lucky that this huge python wasn’t out in the bush, but rather was hanging in a tree right next to our boat!
We continued, and after seeing another python, a Tree Snake, and a Secret Kingfisher, it was now croc time!! We saw a full-grown crocodile! It was “Scarface”, a 70-year-old crocodile that weighs 500 kilos and is almost 5 meters long!
He swam leisurely beside us and thankfully did not attempt to eat us. Phew! I am not super keen on seeing a high-flying, overly motivated-crocodile!
Scarface the Dominant Croc
David told us that Scarface is the dominant crocodile in this section of the Daintree River and has six girlfriends. Of the six female crocodiles, there is one that is his favorite. Six girlfriends, at the age of 70. Respect Mister Scarface! Maybe that is why he swam so relaxed beside us. Maybe he is not relaxed, but rather totally exhausted.
Scarface is not only very active in terms of his social life, but he is so dominant that his territory extends for about six kilometers. He is a saltwater crocodile which means that he can live in both saltwater and freshwater. The Daintree River is freshwater, and he patrols his area daily. He swims with the tide to save energy.
While we were driving beside him, twice he swam into narrow creeks where we weren’t able to follow him. But that didn’t trouble us, because Scarface decided to return and continued his swim beside us.
Everyone in the boat was thrilled to see the crocodile. Just like us. My fears were completely forgotten, and I was amazed to be able to experience this! How gently and effortlessly Scarface glided through the water! He was simply majestic. A rather ugly animal that suddenly appeared so beautiful to us. David takes this moment, however, to tell us why it is so dangerous to swim (or even come close) to waters that have crocodile warning signs.
Crocodiles do not create a wake when they swim. This also means that once they are underwater, there is no sign of whether they are dangerously close to you or not. We witnessed this a few times. When Scarface surfaced, everyone was excited with joy, the cameras flashed, and everyone was talking. But as soon as he dived, the boat fell deafly silent. Where do you think he is? It was not possible to see if he was still swimming next to us. Everyone was quiet and nervous. Then he reappeared and we all could breathe a sigh of relief again! His dives as well as his re-surfacing happened quickly and silently. It seemed so elegant yet terrifying at the same time!
Although Scarface has only three teeth left, he is still extremely dangerous, strong, and unpredictable. Only eating his prey might take him a little longer. The number of his teeth also shows that he has endured many fights in old age. We know from David that his territory was once larger. Even though Scarface is the dominant male, it looks like has not won all fights that he has been in.
The Odds of a Baby Crocodile
David not only has a quiet and pleasant way about him, but he also has a wealth of expertise. He tells us all about crocodiles and explains how rare it is to have a crocodile reach Scarface’s age.
Why? Because young crocodiles do not survive easily. Only about one in a hundred eggs reach adulthood. Many eggs fall victim to predators, but the leading cause is environmental. Crocs need a high ground to build safe nests, land that is also prized for agriculture and cattle farms. The loss of their natural habitat forces crocodiles to build their nests closer to the riverbank. This means their nests are more vulnerable to flooding.
Another sad reason was that crocodiles were hunted and killed legally until 1974. However, the illegal shooting of crocs took place until the 1980s! All the more astonishing that Scarface has made it this long. He is a survivor!
An Unexpected Duel
The two-hour tour flew by in an instant. We had taken so many photos, and still had time to watch the crocodile in peace, not just through our lenses. It is incredible what all we have been able to observe in the animal world on our travels. From wild Orangutans in Sumatra to whales in Kaikoura and Hervey Bay! But another unexpected spectacle was just around the corner.
One of the passengers shouted, “Snakes on shore!” and David quickly navigated straight there. And what we saw next completely exceeded our expectations and was something that we never thought we would experience in nature!
As David brought the boat closer, we realized that it was two pythons that were intertwined in a merciless duel in the water.
Over and over they would rise their bodies out of the water. While in the air, they then entangled their bodies which made them look like dark braided hair.
We were maybe 5 meters away but could see clearly that they were two relatively big pythons. They tried to strangle each other relentlessly until they crashed back down into the water. They often stayed underwater for many seconds, which seemed like an eternity to us. The fight was intense, and they never let go of each other.
Never Seen Before
We could tell by the look on David’s face that he was fascinated and did not want to finish the tour just because the two hours were already over. He said in the 23 years he has been conducting the tour, that he has never witnessed anything like this. He has seen pythons fighting on land often, but never in the water.
We stayed and continued watching the battle. Everyone onboard was hypnotized and asked themselves how this fight end would. Was this a duel of life and death? We didn’t know. But we did not dare to think further about it.
After about half an hour, with the snakes still fighting, David joked “Does anyone have a taxi waiting, or need to catch a flight?”
The spectacle was so intense that I did not dare to breathe. Meanwhile, the pythons looked exhausted. They took short breaks, but never let go of each other. It seemed as if they had tied themselves into a knot. They continued this way for a while until they gasped for air, and this time they let go of each other, or so we thought.
A thin branch that was protruding out from the water stretched nearly to the boat. It was precisely on this branch that one of the snakes had chosen for his moment of rest. At least we thought that he would rest! I don’t know if it was the clicking of the cameras, or something else, but the snake was suddenly more interested in us. He seemed to look directly at us and was visibly distracted from the fight. I made a few jokes without finding them funny because I am deathly afraid of snakes. The guy standing next to me said “we’re safe, there are other people in front of us.” The woman directly in front of us turned her head and replied, “Yes, your wife!” Ok, that was pretty funny and relieved some of the tension.
Meanwhile, the snake was getting a little closer. His focus was firmly on us and his tongue was hissing. David has a very calm manner and said “If he comes on the boat, don’t panic. It’s not a bad thing, ok!” Ah, okay!
It probably would have been better if the snake had not turned its attention to us, because the other one was now rested and took the opportunity to strike. The fight continued as intensely as it had started. We thought about how cruel nature can be. And hopefully that no crocodile would come by. The two were fighting so hard that they would be crocodile food within a second. And everything would have been in vain.
By now, it had started to rain and had become dark. We realized how close we were to the jetty where the tour had started. And above the river’s shore was a sugar cane farm, where unsuspecting farmers went about their jobs!
While we all were speechless, realizing how epic this duel was, it happened. Still entangled, one of the snakes had managed to hold the other in such a way that he could no longer make it up to the surface. Everyone on the boat was holding their breath. Was there a winner? It seemed so.
The two had now fought for over an hour, and although neither James nor I are big snake fans, we were hoping that both would survive. Everyone in the boat was searching the water praying to find the other snake.
The victor was now ashore and slowly slithered its way toward the sugar cane field. We could now see how enormous he was. David estimated him to be about 4 meters in length!
Meanwhile, our search for the second snake continued. We had almost given up hope when the tip of his head finally came up for air. We were so relieved that we all clapped at this Hollywood ending!
Only Dougie, the dog, was not impressed at all, and he continued his sleep.
From the environmental aspect to the expertise and passion of David the owner, Solar Whisper was the best choice we could have made for our crocodile tour. While another tour boat approached us at the beginning, causing a lot of noise and exhaust fumes, the Solar Whisper was quiet and pleasant. Just as the name promises.
Seeing a crocodile in the wild was incredible. We had originally decided against a crocodile tour because the only tours we knew of were tours where the crocodiles are fed. This is against our principles, and we didn’t want to participate in this type of tour. Until we heard about Solar Whisper, which doesn’t feed or engage with the crocodiles. And the snake fight was a bonus that no one could have expected and will certainly be something that none of us will ever forget!
We communicated with David a few days after our tour and he wrote that a scientist contacted him. The scientist told David that he believes a python fight in the water is “unrecorded“! Until now!
Should you plan a crocodile tour at the Daintree River, we would recommend Solar Whisper 100%!
Solar Whisper offers one-hour and two-hour tours. The one-hour tour departs several times a day and costs $30.00 p.p. Children are $15.00, and a family of 2 adults and 2 children is $70.0. The two-hour tour costs $60.00 p.p., $40.00 per child, and is limited to 10 people, which David leads personally.
The tour departs directly at the Daintree River, near the junction just before the ferry to Cape Tribulation.
Tip: Definitely take the two-hour tour. You simply have more time and can admire the wildlife and the rainforest in peace. Also, it is more pleasant with only 10 people if you want to take photos. It is best to book in advance, as the two-hour tours are not offered daily.
Phone: +61 07 409 87131
Many thanks to Solar Whisper for this incredible and unique experience! It is a highlight of our world trip, one that we will never forget!