“ Country: Australia / World Region: Australasia / Pacific „
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
WHERE IS KAKADU NATIONAL PARK?
The Kakadu National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site in the Northern Territory and became most well known for being 'Crocodile Dundee' country from the film with Paul Hogan as the famous Mick Dundee. It has a tropical climate with an obvious rainy season in the Australian summer. The rainy season can bring huge floods and at times some areas are impassable by road. The park covers an area about half the size of Switzerland.
Most people would go to Darwin before going into the Kakadu National Park but it is possible to come up through the centre of Australia via Alice Springs and Katherine by road - the Stuart Highway. We flew into Darwin where we spent a night before driving out into the National Park and our first stop was an amazing Jumping Croc cruise.
JUMPING CROCODILE CRUISE:
The Jumping crocodile cruise was on the Adelaide River and cost £30 for an adult and $20 for children and I felt we certainly got our money's worth as you will read. The base from which we boarded the boat was really a large corrugated iron shed with a few chairs and in the centre was a table with a kettle, instant coffee, tea bags, milk and sugar for making your own drink in polystyrene cups as well as a couple of tubs of margarine, a jar of vegemite and a few sliced loaves of bread and a toaster. As breakfast was not included at our hotel we were very grateful for this as a top up to our banana and a muesli bar that we had enjoyed in our room prior to our departure from Darwin. The toilets were round the back in a sort of tin shed - huge rooms with just one flushing toilet in each, the basins with soap and paper towels were outside - all very clean.
When boarding the boat I was told you get a better view from downstairs. There was plenty of room on the boat with seats so that everyone could easily see the sides. I was next to the window which was open so hoped to get a great view. I thought I was being very brave and rather hoped the crocs did not get too enthusiastic in their jumping.
We hadn't gone far when we saw our first croc - he was most obliging and jumped a few times each side - he was quite a large one too. There was a man on the top deck standing on a sort of extended platform from which he dangled meat on a rod. He lifted it up and down and this is what attracted the crocs. The boat went up river a little way and didn't see any more so they turned round and went the other way. We were lucky and saw at least six of these huge reptiles performing and one was particularly enormous beast.
Apparently crocodiles jump naturally for their food as birds in particular tend to try and fly off when they spot a crocodile's open jaws moving in their direction. They are amazingly fast for their size and jump out so that only their tails are still in the water supporting their weight. The crocs in this river now know that boat engines mean food and do tend to come to the boat which helps the tour ensure they usually see at least one croc jumping. Conservationists criticise the idea of this tour as they consider it is feeding wild animals and making the crocs lazy about hunting their own food. Others criticise the tour as they feel it attracts crocs to boats and this may mean more people being attracted by crocs in the area. I can see both arguments but I have to admit that it was an amazing sight to see and I am glad I was able to see the crocs jumping in the wild even if it was not for natural prey.
On the river on either side it was possible to see egrets and other birds while we were waiting to spot the crocs. On our way back to the jetty the men who had been feeding the crocs threw meat for the whistling hawks which hovered and flew down in hoards. These hawks swooped down so quickly to catch the meat that was thrown up and they obviously also enjoyed the benefit of not having to hunt too hard for their breakfast as well as the crocs.
On the boat they provided an esky (ice box) with water for you to help yourself during the trip which was great as it was hot and of course it is vital to keep up your fluid intake in the tropics as you can easily get dehydrated. All in all I really enjoyed the trip, the commentary was typical Australian dry humour mixed with Australian croc stories and also information about crocodile behaviour in the wild and I thought the breakfast and cold water on the boat were nice touches included to make it a great trip.
We got back in the bus just in time as the rain came down in buckets. We made our way to Fogg Dam and saw a number of different birds - egrets, plovers, Jesus birds, magpie gees and a goanna.
THE BARK HUT:
We then drove on to the 'Bark Hut' for our lunch. It was in the middle of nowhere with a typical Aussie tin roof and very rustic logs to sit on with wooden plank tables. There were fish trophies, stuffed mounted barramundi and also buffalo heads as well as other quirky Australian signs such as "stiff shit Corner". It was quite bizarre but the food was nice and service swift and it entertained us as well.
After lunch we made our way into Kakadu National park. We stopped off at our hotel the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn hotel at Jabiru to drop off our suitcases so that they would be in our rooms when we got back at the end of the day. We made our way to Nourlangie Rock which looks exactly like Jabba point in 'Crocodile Dundee'. We filled up our water bottles, slapped on the sunscreen and our hats and went off to Gun-warddehwardde lookout point. It was a 1.5 km walk climbing up the rocks to the lookout point and on the way we went through caves used by the Aboriginal people as a place of spiritual significance. There were a number of cave paintings known as the Anbangbang shelter paintings which could be seen on the way and some lovely wild flowers. It was a lovely walk through the caves and then the bush with typical Australian bush vegetation - wild passion fruit, goat plums, and other bush fruit.
We returned to our lovely Crocodile shaped hotel (see my previous review about this hotel) for a bit of relaxation time, a few drinks and a pleasant evening meal.
WARRADJAN CULTURAL CENTRE:
The following day our first stop was Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural display which was a sort of Aboriginal museum explaining lots about their way of life. The building has been designed in the shape of a pig-nosed turtle ( Warradjan).There were things for sale like pandanus (a type of plant whose long leaves are stripped into long strips and woven into things) bags for $98 but we didn't bother. When we first arrived there was a queue to get in so we decided to go and look at the gift shop and then look around the back. There was a small group of Aborigine women weaving the pandanus baskets and so I went and had a chat and they told us they lived nearby and came to the Aborigine centre to share their culture and help people learn about their people. After this we went into the museum and spent some time in there. It was a very visual display with simple explanations. The displays took us through food that was eaten and how they obtained this -their hunter gatherer methods and equipment. There was also a lot of information and displays about their beliefs and how their art paintings reflect these. It was fascinating and a really very informative place to visit and enabled visitors to learn a bit more about the local Aboriginal people.
COOINDA LODGE AND THE YELLOW WATER BOAT TRIP:
The next stop was Cooinda Lodge for the Yellow water boat ride. We were supposed to see lots of bird and possibly crocs but as the river was flooded because of the wet season rains there were no crocs to be seen and very little bird life but it was interesting to see the flooded areas, the water lilies were beautiful and used by the Aborigine people to make bread, the leaves as rain hats and to carry water in too.
We did see some Dollar birds, a male Jesus bird, kingfishers and some nests. There are more photos and some details on this website:
We returned to the Cooinda Lodge to have lunch. We just ate out crisps, apples and fruity biscuits. There was a buffet on offer for $19 and pies and sausage rolls. In the shop the ice creams were $5 for magnums and I got a very small ice lolly for $2 - the cheapest there! This was not a cheap place and we really did not want to waste money on what we call functional food, we'd rather spend it on a nice meal somewhere in the evening.
After lunch we drove onwards toward Katherine where we were staying for the night. We stopped by the Park gates of Kakadu to take a photo and stretch our legs. Then it was about an hour to reach the mining town of Pine Creek - a former gold mining town and now mineral mines and energy production. It was a very frontier type of town founded in the 1870s - a real outback place with a shop that sold everything and was owned by a Chinese family who were one of the original families arriving in the gold rush. Pine Creek was on the rail route and gold was found as they were digging holes for the railway, this started the gold rush in this area. We stopped for the toilets and some went to the shop to buy drinks. We walked down to take a photo of the old original pub and the railway station which also had a few of the original engines on display. The 'Ghan' train passes through Pine Creek as the railway from Adelaide to Darwin still follows this route.
The Kakadu National Park is enormous and would take days to explore and I am aware that we saw only a small part of the park but I do feel we got a feeling of what the park offered. There are a number of tours that operate out of Darwin and most are two or three day trips. I believe there are some that do long single day trips taking in a couple of visits of interest. The tourist information in Darwin at the various hotels and hostels is excellent and I am sure most people would be able to find an option that would suit them. This park gives you a taste of the real Australia and is well worth a visit. Australians from the southern states ten d to visit in the winter and out of the rainy season when it is cooler and apparently it is possible to see more wildlife out of the rainy season and of course it is easier to travel on the rivers as they are not in full flood.
Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage site, jointly managed by The Department of Environment & Heritage and it's traditional Aboriginal owners. It's covers an area roughly the size of Belgium, and is home to some of the deadliest creatures on the planet including around 1000 species of flora, 30 mammals, 75 reptiles, 1500 butterflies and moths, 50 freshwater fish and 25 species of frog. Although I didn't see a fraction of them, the ones we did come across were pretty impressive and sometimes downright frightening. Why then you may be wondering, was the party chick from the Sydney review so keen to spend two days trekking around this wilderness in the Wet Season? The answer, well, errm... I'm not sure there is an answer. I was just fascinated from the moment I read about it when I was planning my trip down under I suppose. I expected it would be a bit like recapturing those school trips where you tire yourself out hiking up to waterfalls by day and have barbeques by night and there is lots of messing about and everyone has a little drama and a whole load of bonding goes on and yes, it was like that but there was also a fair bit of pain, lots of sweat , much dirt , all washed down with a healthy dose of laughter and forming of friendships. Kakadu is, (without meaning to sound too corny, but hell, I'll risk it ) what it's like to feel truly alive. I booked my trip out to Kakadu from a Youth Hostel I was staying at in Darwin, capital of The Northern Territory. I went with a company called Kakadu Dreams but there are four or five companies who offer similar trips catering for different budgets, age/fitness levels and durations of stay. I chose the two-day one-night option as I was only in the Northern Territory for five days in total. I'm glad I chose that length as I don't think my twice weekly swim really prepared me for the vigour of this experience, and I am rather keen on my home comforts. The tour cost $290
AUD or just under £100 at that time, so good value for money and on top of that, you have to pay the park entry fee of a further $16 AUD. This includes your permission to be on Aboriginal land which is a legal requirement. This is very much the backpacker end of the market and assumes a certain level of youth and fitness. Why oh why didn't I pay a bit more and go with the oldies? Day 1 I had to be outside Kakadu Dreams office at 7am and luckily, as I am not a morning person, it was just over the road from the Hostel. The Hostel let me store my backpack in their storage room as I was returning there and I took only a small daypack with a change of clothes, basic toiletries some pyjamas and a torch. The tour company supply everything else you need sleeping bag, food and drink and most importantly a Four Wheel Drive, trailer and Guide. I had six companions on the trip all solo travellers, all between 25-35. Two Germans, two Australians and two Brits. The Guide, Ben was brilliant from the word go, breaking the ice, making the group laugh with his real life Crocodile Dundee tales. The week before my trip to Kakadu an Australian guy in the park fishing with his friend was eaten by a Salty ( Australian Saltwater Crocodile) so he very much enforced the safety aspect to what we were doing through the whole thing. The drive out there was about 1000 KM from Darwin and we broke the journey up by stopping at the Murray River and doing a Croc sighting tour which was great and we say about 6 or 7 of the beasts which is not uncommon. It was quite a site to see a pair of menacing eyes slightly raised from the water following our boat. We drove on for about another hour and a half from there to the entrance to the park. From then on in a lot of what we could see would be down to the weather as some roads were impassable due to it being January and as I say, the wet season. Our plan was to go right across the park stopping for lunch (s
andwiches) which we made at a picnic area in the rain (yum! Wet sarnies I hear you cry) That afternoon we hiked up to a waterfall called Motorcar Falls then swam in a billabong at the bottom before drying off and heading out to another shorter hike, still tough going though especially in that oppressive heat and wet. I must say the sheer breath taking size and beauty of it all was quite humbling, truly awesome. At that time of year Kakadu is a lush green colour and the flora on display was amazing. The flies and insects were a pain, with a yellow creature like a fly biting you but then instead of having the decency to fly off when you swiped at it this thing clung on, horrid, horrid, horrid. We reached camp after dark and very hungry. I had parts of me aching that I?d forgotten I had and the last thing I wanted was to help prepare our meal and clear away, but that?s what we did. I was too tired for food by the time we ate and although I did eat and clear away, I had just two things on my mind, a hot shower and bed. Boy was I in for a disappointment. We were staying in a mixed dorm with bunk beds and under other circumstances, I'd have been less than amused on this day though I'd have gotten my bits and pieces out anywhere as I had to get my saturated clothes off. I smelt bad, as did everyone else I hasten to add and there was no issue about getting almost naked with strangers and men to boot, we could barely stand. Fun trip hey. So, to the shower then. I had some nice shower gel and although the stall wasn't that clean I was hoping for some hot water. Well I was in for further disappointment as the water was tepid at best I almost screamed with frustration but I'm glad I didn't as I might of frightened the small green tree frog who had come to see what all the fuss was about and was in the shower looking up at me. A Wind in the Willows moment almost. (Yes, I know that was a toad) When I noticed the six inch long stick insect typ
e creature on the tap enough was enough and I headed straight back to the dorm to find sanctuary in sleep. Day 2 Up for breakfast at 7 am, which of course we made and served ourselves, then on our way pretty quick we had a lot to get in. Another hike first of all as it was to wet to go up to JimJim falls. This was not as tough as the day before which was just as well as neither was I. We made our way through the park in our 4x4 and stopped when we found some termite mounds they were huge and a good opportunity for a team photo. After lunch, taken on the rocks near a billabong, we set off to find some rock art sites These were fantastic and dating back 25,000 years I am told many of the pictures are to do with Aboriginal myths and legends. A short hike in the afternoon just up to a look out point with a fantastic view over the mountains and then headed back out of the park to get back to Darwin around 8 pm The Verdict This was tough, I was not really fit enough so I struggled but it was worth the effort. If you only get at one with nature once in your life then this is the place to do it. Looking back now at the range of emotions I went through over that two days it was incredible. I'll put some photos on the op and if any one is thing of going I'd be happy to give any advice I can. A truly fantastic trip.
Whilst in the Northern Territory in June 2000, we decided to visit Kakadu National Park. We decided to only have a day trip as our time in Darwin was limited, and we felt that was a reasonable compromise. The almost empty coach picked us up in the early hours of the morning (7 or 8 as I recall). The driver was very pleasant and knew a lot about the countryside around us. The coach was air conditioned although we were asked not to use the toilets as there would be plenty of opportunities off of the bus. On the way, we stopped off at a local Café, which sold snack foods and drinks. As it was warm, this provided the perfect opportunity to stock up on cold liquid before getting back onto the bus. As I recall, this stop was slightly more expensive than other places we had purchased food and drink from before. Kakadu stretches 200km from North to South and 100km from East to West. It is one of the largest parks in the world and has been included in the World Nations Heritage list. To give you some perspective, Kakadu is almost the same size as Wales. The name comes from an Aboriginal floodplain language called Gagudju, but it is sadly not used regularly in the area today. The Aboriginal people (Bininj/Mungguy) have lived in Kakadu for approximately 60,000 years and the park enables them to maintain their traditional personal and spiritual links with their land. Kakadu is an ever changing, dynamic environment with heavy rains between November and March and the very dry weather for the rest of the year. It’s landscape is also incredibly diverse, covering tidal flats and coast, flood plains and billabongs, stone country, southern hills and basins, monsoon forests and savannah woodlands. It encompasses a whole river system – The South Alligator River, plus three other major river systems. It is home to over 1,275 species of plants, 10,000 species of insects (most of which we killed on our journey back into the City!), 35 species of frogs
, 55 species of freshwater fish, and over 70 species of mammals, 75 species of reptiles and over 280 species of birds. The trip provided us with another opportunity to see the wildlife in Darwin and learn about the Aborigines. Our tour started with a visit to a centre called ‘Window on the Wetlands’ which is free to enter (although you have to pay $15 (£10) entry which allows you to access the park for 14 days) and is open from 7:30am to 7:30pm daily. Fact sheets are available, along with many information boards and displays. The view from the top of the building is wonderful and you can see much of the wetlands and the Arnhem Highway. It’s well worth a visit. It's worth mentioning that on entering the park you are given a booklet containing a map of the whole Park and it also contains a lot of information about the land and the Aboriginal people. Your ticket also has a wonderful picture of some of the river plants on the back. This makes a great momento of the holiday! We had lunch in a restaurant, presumably in the Frontier Kakadu Village. There were bread rolls, fruit and water, tea and coffee to drink. It was very pleasant and we were able to eat our fill and at no extra cost to the tour price. Next up (as far as I can remember) was Nourlangie or Nawurlandja, where you can see views of Kakadu’s escarpment and Nourlangie rock along with many Aboriginal rock paintings and you are told the stories behind them. You are also told a little about the Abourigines and how you should behave whilst on their property. We were warned that if we noticed photos or names that were covered, this was because the person depicted had died and by covering their images and names would allow their spirits to move on. The rock paintings were interesting and the stories related to Aboriginal folklore and way of living gave a great insight. The scenery was also breathtaking and you could see smoke from the fires that were li
t to control the vegetation around the park (this happens between May and July). We even saw a wild rock wallabie!!! The next step (possibly) was a crocodile cruise. I’m not sure what the river was called, but I would hazard a guess at the Wildman River. The boat was a hooded, narrow, fairly unstable affair, which didn’t fill me with much confidence at all! The commentary that accompanied the trip was first class and talked about the plants and wildlife we could see around us. We also saw a couple of crocodiles, one of which disappeared into the water, and I had visions of it attacking the bottom of the boat! The final stop was to an Aboriginal cultural centre (the Warradjan Cultural Centre) where we learnt a lot more about the Aboriginal way of life. This is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm and is a brilliant insight into the ways of the Aboriginals. The journey back took place mostly in the dark. Whenever we went through swampy areas (every few minutes) the sound of rain could be heard hitting the windscreen. Only, it wasn’t raining. The noise we could hear was the sound of hundreds of bugs hitting the screen, so many in fact the driver didn’t bother washing the screen with his windscreen washing fluid as it would have only smeared the screen. Instead, at the end of they day they had to was the screen properly for the tour the following day. I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Kakadu, although I would advise you to book whilst in Australia. We paid £65 each for our day tour, but we think that had we booked out there, it would have been much, much cheaper.
"This huge park of exceptional beauty is located in Australia's tropical north. Location: Northern Territory; 155 mi/250 km east of Darwin. World Heritage Criteria: Natural and cultural Best Time to GO: Dry season (April to October) Area: 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres). Kakadu National Park is located within the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory of Australia. It covers an area of 19,804 square kilometres, extending nearly 200 kilometres from north to south and over 100 kilometres from east to west. It is about one-third the size of Tasmania, or nearly half the size of Switzerland."