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Face to face with giant crocodiles at Australia's latest tourist attraction  Oct 12, 2008

It would strike terror into the hearts of most sane people but Australia's newest tourist attraction involves coming face to face underwater with giant saltwater crocodiles.

The newly-opened attraction, Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, offers the chance to be lowered into a tank full of crocs, among them suspected man-eaters, wearing nothing more than a mask, snorkel and swimsuit or trunks.

The 'Cage of Death' is said to be "perfect for serious adrenalin junkies" who have perhaps become jaded with swimming with dolphins or cage diving among great white sharks.

The cage is hexagonal-shaped to stop the crocodiles from getting a grip on it with their fearsome teeth.

It enables tourists to come within a few feet of several 'salties' measuring more than 16ft long, some of the largest in captivity in the world.

A maximum of two tourists at a time climb into the purpose-built acrylic cage which is then lowered into one of four separate crocodile enclosures.

The cage stops just short of full immersion so that the visitors can still come up for air.

But they are free to dive down to the bottom of the 15ft-high enclosure, where the crocs are barely an arm's length away.

The big crocs include Burt, the 15ft long star of the first Crocodile Dundee film, Chopper, who lost his front teeth in a vicious fight with a rival and Snowy, an albino crocodile which was trapped and removed from a river in the Northern Territory on suspicion of having killed and eaten a man.

Although the cage is meant to be croc-proof, visitors have to sign an indemnity form which warns of the risks of panic attacks, hyperventilation, nervous shock and even cardiac arrest which might occur on coming face to face with one of nature's most deadly predators.

Before taking the plunge, nervous participants would do well to avoid talking to Crocosaurus Cove's keepers, who claim that crocodiles have the most powerful bite force of any animal, stronger than lions, hyenas and great white sharks.

The jaws of a 15ft long saltie exert two tons of pressure - enough to punch through plate metal.

Crocosaurus Cove, in the centre of Darwin, is a three-storey attraction which boasts eight big adult crocs and 200 juveniles.

A large aquarium contains animals native to the waters of northern Australia, including turtles, stingrays and barramundi, a fish species popular with anglers.

Australia is home to an estimated 140,000 wild saltwater crocodiles, of which more than half are found in the Northern Territory.

This week the suspected remains of a British man, Arthur Brooker, 62, were found inside a crocodile after it was trapped by rangers in the Endeavour River of northern Queensland.

Mr Booker, who was originally from Scotland and served with Australian forces in the Vietnam War, vanished from the banks of the crocodile-infested river on the Cape York peninsula last week while checking pots used to catch crabs.

Face to face with giant crocodiles at Australia's latest tourist attraction
Crocosaurus Cove

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