If you don’t have very long to spend in the Top End and want to experience all the best bits during your short stay, we’ve found the perfect experience for you. The Top End Safari Camp is the ultimate overnight stay, only a little over an hour out of Darwin, offering crocodile encounters, helicopter flights, airboat rides, river cruises and an overnight stay in one of their beautiful bell tents.
It’s the all in one ultimate experience with all the best bits of the Top End.
The Top End Safari Camp was created by Matt Wright who you might have seen on the National Geographic series Outback Wrangler. He has created some truly unique and amazing experiences in the Top End, that offer a very different insight and perspective into this remarkable part of the country.
Top End Safari Camp
Our adventure started at around 1:30pm, when we arrived at the Top End Safari Camp and met our camp hosts, Amy and Maddy, who would be looking after us during our stay. They showed us around the camp and checked us into our tent for the night, before giving us a quick run down of what we could expect during our stay.
The camp is so well laid out. There are about 10 or so bell tents spread out across a field, with plenty of space between tents so you can really have your own space. In the middle of the camp there is the Star Deck, an elevated platform where they have some tables and chairs for meals and drinks, as well as a big fire-pit with couches to watch the open night sky. There’s even a plunge pool made out of a water tank for you to take a quick dip in the afternoon if you feel like it.
The tents are simple on the inside, with everything you need for a comfy night stay. Each bell tent has a nice deck, with a table and some chairs, and are a great place to watch the sunset later in the day. We threw our bags inside our tent and were ready to go.
It was only a small group on the safari camp, roughly just under 20 people on our visit. We all jumped onto the bus, along with Josh and Rowdy, our guides for the afternoon, and were taken down to the wetlands where we would be spending the afternoon. Once you get out to the activities they split you in half, so the groups are nice and intimate.
As soon as we got there we were greeted by Otis, a huge saltwater crocodile who likes to hang out right near the shore. The guys got him to come right up onto the bank to say hi, he was such a big croc!
Our group set off first on a river cruise, slowing cruising down the wetlands to see what kinds of birds and wildlife we could spot. The boat had plenty of room for everyone to spread out, you could go fishing or trawling off the back deck, there was a flat rooftop that you could hop up on for a better view, and they even served us a cheese platter to enjoy as we crawled along the river. It was a short cruise, only about 20 minutes or so, but it gives you a great view over some of the wetlands.
Next up it was time for helicopter flights. This might have been our favourite activity of the day, everyone got the chance to fly up in the chopper over the wetlands and the surrounding areas. From the sky you could see miles of the rain forest area out here, twisting rivers and different waterholes, before lowering down for a closer look. On our flight we were able to see some water buffalo hanging out along one of the paddock fences, but they regularly spot all kinds of animals on the heli flights, including crocodiles, wild pigs and horses. We also flew over fields of cathedral termite mounds, literally hundreds of them all lined up together in a field.
Our last activity was an airboat ride, where you get to slide across the waters of the wetlands. They are so much fun, and such a unique way to see any kind of waterway. The airboat glides over the top of the water, not caring what lies in it’s path. They literally float straight over reeds, snags, tree branches or roots and even in a couple of cases a crocodile! There was a couple of times where all of a sudden we saw a crocodile in front of the boat frantically trying to splash it’s way out of the water to avoid getting run over by the boat. Luckily the airboats don’t do them any damage if they accidentally glide over the top of them, since there’s no motor or anything underneath for them to get caught on.
In one part of the river we met Bonecrusher, one of the camps most popular and friendly crocodiles. Bonecrusher actually loves the guides of the tour, and they often come down to work with him and learn more about the crocodiles in the area. Bonecrusher is very noticeable along the river, because he’s had many crocodile fights that have left him with distinguishable injuries, the main one being that he is missing half of the front of his jaw from a fight with another territorial male.
After the airboat we joined back up with the rest of the group and headed out to meet some of the rescue crocodiles that live by the camp. The team here often helps to relocate crocodiles that are a threat to people in popular areas, are causing havoc to farmers, or who they find that have been injured or in need of some help. They have a number of crocodiles here that they’re training and trying to find out more about. We were able to go inside a couple of the cages as Rowdy fed them their dinner for the night, and if you’re looking for a bit of a thrill, getting into a cage with a giant crocodile should definitely give it to you.
After all that excitement it was time to make our way back to the camp and settle in for the evening. We had a couple of hours of free time, where we took the opportunity to have a quick dip in the plunge pool and then watched the sunset from our little tent deck. The tents do have their own showers, so you can have a quick wash if you need to. But the water does heat up and cool down depending on the weather, so it’s a good idea to have your shower early before it cools down too much.
Our camp hosts put on an incredible spread for dinner, with fresh fish, roast lamb, and a few different salads and everything was absolutely delicious. The Star Deck was transformed into an outdoor dining room, with one long table so everyone could eat together and it was just a really lovely night. There was a bit of crazy excitement (or hysteria, not sure which to be honest) just after dinner when a VERY LARGE spider decided to crawl up onto the table and scare everyone, but hey, we’re in the outback right. Check out our ‘Top End’ story highlight on Instagram to see the spider for yourself. So scary!
For your drinks for the day, you’re able to BYO alcohol for the afternoons activities, which go from about 2pm until 5pm. You can either bring your own little esky, or chuck it in one of the eskies provided that go out with you for the afternoon. Back at the camp, the Star Deck is a licensed bar, so there is no BYO when you’re actually at the camp, including on the Star Deck, camp lawns and in your tents. All alcohol at the camp needs to be purchased from the bar on the Star Deck.
After dinner we sat around the fire and made s’mores as the stars came out. Since there is so little light pollution out here it’s a great place for star gazing, you can literally see millions of them up there. I’ve never made s’mores but they were SO GOOD. I think the secret is definitely using Nutella as chocolate, amazing.
By the time we got back to our tent at the end of the night it had cooled down heaps, so we had no problems sleeping in our tent. It was spacious and comfy and a great way to spend the night.
Make sure you wake up early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the camp. The whole sky lights up in so many beautiful colours, sunsets and sunrises in the Top End just can’t be beaten.
We had breakfast all together in the morning before we went on our way. Amy and Maddy cooked everyone up a big breakfast and it was the perfect way to end our safari camp experience. It was so good, these girls can really cook.
While you’re in the area, if you have the time we would highly recommend a detour out to Dundee Beach. It’s about half an hour away from the Top End Safari Camp and is just such a beautiful little spot! There’s no swimming there of course, because you are still in croc country, but there’s great fishing and a campground if you’d like to stay a little longer.
Top End Safari Booking Information
When: The Top End Safari operates during the dry season, from the beginning of April until the end of October. You can book any day except Tuesdays for your overnight experience.
Inclusions: Your night at the Top End Safari Camp includes all your experiences, an afternoon cheese board, BBQ dinner under the stars, overnight stay and a cooked breakfast in the morning.
Duration: The tour begins from 1:30pm when you arrive and then ends at 10am the next morning.
What to bring: Make sure you pack sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, warm clothes for overnight and BYO alcohol if you want anything to drink.
Price: An overnight experience at the Top End Safari costs $495 per person.
For more information or to book your stay, head to the Top End Safari Camp website.
We visited Top End Safari Camp as guests of Matt Wright – Explore The Wild. All opinions are, as always, our own.