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Spotting Crocodiles on the Daintree River: Complete Guide

Spotting Crocodiles on the Daintree River: Complete Guide

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

The Daintree River near Cairns & Port Douglas is one of the best places in Australia to reliably spot saltwater crocodiles in the wild.

The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is the oldest in the world. This ancient ecosystem harbours a unique range of iconic Australian wildlife including, of course, the Australian Saltwater Crocodile.

However, you might be hard-pressed to spot one yourself since they are quite good at hiding. Thankfully, there are several great local operators running Daintree crocodile tours and cruises, providing a safe, sustainable and fun way to spot crocodiles near Cairns, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.

I’ve been on 5 different crocodile spotting tours in Far North Queensland over the years and by far my favorite is Solar Whisper. In this guide, I’ll go into a bit of detail about why I believe they run the best crocodile tours on the Daintree and include a short review and summary of my croc-spotting experience with photos.

Booking a Daintree Crocodile Tour

If you're looking for a crocodile cruise near Cairns or Port Douglas, then you might be surprised to find out that there are absolutely heaps of tour operators!

However, my favourite and one of the best-rated on the Daintree River is a trip with Solar Whisper.

These guys are the only zero-emission Daintree crocodile tour in the Daintree. Their boats are solar-powered and use electric engines, which means less pollution and of course, a quieter cruise that with much less impact on the crocs.

Below are a few reasons why I'm happy to recommend them:

  • Electric engines - no emissions, no loud petrol engine sound
  • More chance of seeing a croc as they won't be spooked by the motors
  • One of the cheapest Daintree crocodile tours
  • The office is conveniently located next to the Daintree Ferry - a perfect stop-over while you wait to board
  • Great commentary and spotting guides

Book Now: 1-hour Solar Whisper Wildlife Spotting ($30 online)

How to Get to the Daintree River

Most crocodile tours on the Daintree depart from the large carpark adjacent to the Daintree River Ferry. While there are others in Cape Tribulation and out of Daintree Town, the Solar Whisper Daintree crocodile cruise is a convenient location since you can do this activity while waiting for the ferry.

The Daintree River is approximately 122 kilometres from Cairns (1 hour 45 minutes) or 67 kilometres from Port Douglas (1 hour).

To get here, you can drive the scenic Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive, also known as the Great Barrier Reef Drive.

Below I've pinned the exact location of the Daintree croc cruise location to help you find it.

Billy tea safari tour guide

Don't Have Your Own Car?

You can still explore this incredible journey by joining the Billy Tea Safaris 4x4 tour. This includes a boat cruise on the Daintree, a guided wildlife walk at Cape Tribulation, and swimming at Emmagen Creek.

Map of the daintree river in far north queensland
Great barrier reef drive from cairns to cape tribulation, queensland australia
The Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation

Preparing for Your Daintree Crocodile Tour

If you've booked online in advance, then all you have to do once you arrive is check in at the office desk. Timings for Crocodile and wildlife tours vary by season, but when we went there were options for 9:30 am, 10:45 am, 11:45 am, 2:15 pm and 3:30 pm trips.

The Solar Whisper Daintree boats are flat river boats with electric engines and a sunroof for shade. What's great about these trips is that they aren't crowded boats, offering more of a small-group experience.

Solar whisper office in the daintree
Daintree crocodile tour, river boat with solar whisper

My Experience Spotting Saltwater Crocodiles on the Daintree River

If you'd rather keep this Daintree crocodile-spotting trip a surprise, then I'd suggest just booking a trip and skipping this part. However, for those interested in what to expect, and what they might see on the Daintree, here's a summary of my recent experience.

On our most recent visit to the Daintree, we picked the earliest, 9:30 am crocodile and wildlife cruise as it lined up best with our drive up to Cape Tribulation.

Daintree river in far north queensland
Daintree crocodile tour, solar whisper cruise from cairns

Wildlife Spotting

Our guide, Marc Peter was super informative and a really good spotter. Less than five minutes out from the pontoon he'd already pointed out a large python hanging high up on the canopy.

Tree python, daintree wildlife tour with solar whisper

Marc pointed out that the timing of this trip ended up being great for us as the sky was clear and the tide was quite low. We spotted our first croc, a 3-metre female basking on the banks just a couple of minutes after the python.

Since Solar Whisper has a flat-bottom boat with electric engines, we could get much closer to the crocs without disturbing them in their natural habitat.

Saltwater crocodile on the daintree river
Saltwater crocodile, daintree crocodile tours

Just a few minutes upstream and we were also lucky enough to spot several native birds including a Herron, a Papuan frogmouth, two kingfishers and plenty of birds of prey flying overhead.

White herron daintree river
Kingfisher bird daintree river australia
Bird of prey on the daintree river
Papuan tawny daintree river

The main attraction of our Daintree crocodile cruise was Scarface, the dominant male of the Daintree River. Experts estimate this 4.5-metre saltwater crocodile as being over 70 years of age!

Daintree crocodile tour, river boat with solar whisper

Marc explained to us that there is a very strict hierarchy in these river systems. The dominant male crocodile is the only one allowed to mate but is sometimes challenged by younger crocodiles.

Daintree crocodile tour, solar whisper cruise from cairns

We also managed to spot two more female crocodiles on our Daintree cruise, as well as a few very small baby crocodiles and an array of crab species and a couple of Radjah ducks once we got into one of the narrower creeks.

Female saltwater crocodile in the daintree river
Female saltwater crocodile in the daintree river
Juvenile saltwater crocodile
Daintree crabs
Radjah duck, daintree river, australia

Overall, my experience on the Solar Whisper crocodile tour down the Daintree was really enjoyable. I'm not sure if we got very lucky or if spotting such a wide range of species is normal on these trips. Either way, based on my experience I'd recommend this crocodile cruise to anyone planning a trip up to Far North Queensland!

Tips for Making the Most of A Croc Cruise IN Cairns & Cape Tribulation

Still in the planning stages of a trip to the Daintree? Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of a crocodile boat tour and maximise your chances of spotting one!

  • Seasons - Crocs are much easier to spot in the dry season. The cooler weather means they tend to sit on the banks to warm up. In the hot wet season of Tropical North Queensland, crocodiles tend to cool off in the water, making them harder to spot
  • Weather - Try to pick a sunny day if you can. The warm sun encourages the crocodiles to get out of the water and bask on the banks
  • Time of Day - Most of the crocodile river cruises on the Daintree time their trips to maximise the chance of spitting a croc. I'd say don't worry too much about timing. However, low tide is a better time to spot crocodiles as the banks are exposed.

More Photography From The Solar WHisper Daintree Croc Tour

Below are some more photographs of the Daintree River crocodiles that I've captured over a few trips from Cairns.

Saltwater crocodile tour, daintree river australia
Daintree crocodile tour, solar whisper cruise from cairns
Crabs in the daintree
Juvenile saltwater crocodile
Crocodile cruise daintree
Daintree saltwater crocodile tour
Crocodile spotting tour on the daintree
Female saltwater crocodile in the daintree river
Bird of prey on the daintree river
Kingfisher bird daintree river
Kingfisher bird daintree river

More Cairns Adventure and Travel Inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this quick guide and review of my experience on the Solar Whisper Daintree Crocodile Tour. If you have any questions about planning a trip up to the Daintree, don't hesitate to contact me. Otherwise, join in on the discussion below and share your experience in the comments.

While you're here, also check out some of my other articles for Cairns and the Far North. I've written loads more articles to this incredible region, with lots of must-do's and hidden gems to discover.

Female saltwater crocodile in the daintree river

Asheesh

Thursday 30th of November 2023

Hi Olly, thanks for the article …very authentic and I really liked it! However, by the title I was hoping you would be coming the top few. Was the Solar Whisper the only one you took a cruise with. If so, then you can’t possibly say it is the best without having experienced others. I’m afraid this makes me wonder is this is an advert sponsored by that tour operator. I will be happy to be wrong here.

A quick question - being a photography enthusiast, which focal length would you like to go with, assuming you may not be able to change lenses mid cruise.Appreciate your response. Thanks.

Olly Gaspar

Friday 1st of December 2023

Hi Asheesh,

Thanks for your comment! I've been on the "other one" at the Daintree ferry terminal as well but I don't want to say anything bad about them as they are good too. I just prefer Solar Whisper (I've been on this boat trip around 5 times now on my trips to Cairns).

I shoot wildlife with my 100-500mm lens. However, if you have a 200mm or full frame equivelant, you should be able to get some great wildlife photos because the boats get quite close to the crocodiles.

Enjoy your trip!