Two fishermen thought they would die before being rescued after spending two days stranded up trees in a remote Kakadu river during which time a crocodile circled them.
The Darwin men, aged in their 20s and both boilermakers, were in the middle of a fishing trip on Monday in the South Alligator River when their boat accidentally took on water and began to sink.
They climbed up trees to escape the salty, crocodile-infested water.
They spent the next 48 hours in the trees with no food, water and other supplies including an emergency beacon that had floated away.
Temperatures were mostly 35C or higher and 90 per cent humidity, and they were relentlessly bitten by mosquitoes and sandflies, CareFlight nurse Jayne Sheppard said.
One of the men fell in twice as he became sleepy, giving him bumps and cuts, she said.
“They also said they saw a 3.5-metre crocodile below them, but there was way more around there as the waters are full of crocs in the Top End,” Ms Sheppard told reporters.
“You are left alone, no-one knows where you are, two days later you’ve got no word, now you have got the bugs and then the crocs … it is a pretty horrific situation.”
One of the men told Ms Sheppard they had started to think desperately and negatively and believed they would not be found before they perished.
When their boss realised they were missing and their car was still at a boat ramp, he hired a charter helicopter to search for them.
They let off a fire extinguisher they had salvaged to get the helicopter’s attention.
They were rescued on Wednesday and flown to hospital with extreme dehydration after not drinking water for two days and severe insect bites, which Ms Sheppard described as the worst she had ever seen.
“They were quite distressed and relieved at the same time, they were emotional and there were a few tears,” she said.
The mens’ boss had “gone above and beyond, done an awesome job“, she said.
However Ms Sheppard said government-funded CareFlight recommended people ring triple zero in such emergency situations as trained experts can generally find and rescue people most quickly in time-critical situations.
“But either way it’s a great outcome for everyone involved.”