I lived in Darwin for the first half of the 80s. I don’t really remember the heat. What I remember is how fun my childhood was and the endless days of sunshine and fun. Darwin was called a city but really it was the size of large country town. Our days were full of adventures, exploration and at other times, school.
When my aunt and uncle arrived from Tasmania for a holiday, my parents showed them the sites. One of the places to visit back then was the fish feeding at Doctors Gully. The best time to visit was at high tide which coincided wth the end of school for the day. So I went along in my school uniform. We brought our own bread and we stayed for ages before walking through the rainforest. I remember seeing mudskippers too.
Darwin was a kid bucket list destination long before our list became official. I was keen to take my children to the place I had called home for half a decade. I had never travelled back so it was also an opportunity for me to see how much everything had changed (and so much HAS changed). The fish feeding was high on my list of places to visit. What I didn’t anticipate was that it would no longer be a ‘rock up when you want’ type of lcoation. It is now a highly organised, comercial venture. I think my kids found it as amazing as I did many years earlier.
Aquascene – aquascene.com.au is still located in Doctors Gully with wild milkfish, mullet, catfish, bream, batfish and barramundi swimming in during the high tide. I am told that rays, cod, mangrove jack, parrot and diamond fish also venture in, but being a little shy stay back and wait for the bread to come to them! These days you don’t need to take your own bread. It is provided in baskets around the feeding zone and is frequently replenished so you can feed the fish throughout your visit.
When I first came here, all those years ago, we fed the fish from a boat ramp. The location now has feeding decks right around the water with various levels so you can get right to the water safely as the tide changes.
The most impressive thing about our visit was my children’s confidence in feeding the fish. When they take the bread from your hand they will at times suck it from your fingers. I observed many children pulling back and squealing. My two just giggled and continued to feed them. It was hard work at times. The feeding platforms do not have barriers and I was unsure how deep the water was, so needed to keep a firm hand on Miss N who would have been happy to jump in.
We also learned a little Chinese history on our visit which has some links to our hometown of Sydney. Back in 1879 a small statuette of Taoist immortal Shou Lao, God of Longevity, was found under a Banyan tree in Doctors Gully. The Banyan tree’s dense root system had preserved the statue over time which was most probably placed there by chinese sailors in the 5th century. Can you believe that – the 5th century!! Since 1950 the statue has been on exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney (there’s the link).
At the time of writing, Aquascene entry is $43.00 for a family of four. This includes all the bread you will need to fill lots of hungry fish!