Kakadu National Park

After many years of dreaming of exploring Kakadu, I finally reach it.. and it’s not quite as awesome as I expected. In fairness a wildfire had gone through in the last couple weeks and forced the closure of a few campgrounds and favourite tourist destinations. It is also the end of the dry season so everything is pretty dry and sparse looking. Yet however there was still plenty of wildlife to see with birds galore, huge fish, bigger crocodiles and some feral pigs. Unfortunately the cane toad was also present. It arrived 10 years ago and decimated many of the animals due to their toxic bodies which many animals attempt to eat. Driving in through the South I stop in to the first ranger interp building and find a sign with the bad news that a few of the roads are closed. A parks pass is required which gives you 14 days access for $25.

Regardless my first place to explore was Kambolgie campgrounds. This had a creek next to it with a decent size waterhole which attracted birds and pigs. A large fish, perhaps a Barramundi lived there too. I pass a Jurassic Park hire car that had recently rolled. They must have been doing something stupid as although the roads were reasonably corrugated it was easy going. Probably had never driven off road before.

Bukbukluk lookout offered a better glimpse of the surrounding country.

Gungurul was the next lookout.

Further northwards I took the short hike in at Maguk to a popular swimming spot. These waters are basically “crocodile free” as the rangers trap and remove all crocs from the waterhole each year before opening it for swimming for tourists. Regular patrols throughout the year are conducted just in case one walks overland during the night. It’s really swim at your own risk. The water was cool and the waterfall refreshing. I stayed at the campgrounds nearby that night. A sudden shower with wind gusts blasted through the campgrounds, a sign of the buildup. It helped dampen the heat.

There was an Aboriginal cultural centre at Warradjan. The displays were interesting enough which told the stories of the people who owned this land and their cultural practices on country.

I pulled up at a bridge to take a look at the wildlife beneath. Mirrai lookout was a nice short walk up to a lookout tower.

I headed down to Sandy Billabong which is 4wd recommended. The track was easy just sandy in some places. At the billabong a local in a Land Cruiser troopy waved me down. She had pulled up to do some bird watching and then her car would not start. After playing around with my multimeter a while and attempted a jump start the car would only click. I put it down to some kind of faulty relay on the side of the starter motor. Ended up giving her a tow start which was successful and escorted her back out to the previous campground closer to the main road. There was no phone signal out here and no one knew where she was so lucky I turned up that afternoon.

Afterwards I drove back to the billabong and enjoyed watching the myriad parade of waterbirds, most I’ve never seen. Some fat pigs were off in the distance on the billabong edge digging around for grubs. Spent 2 nights there.

Back on the main road I visit Nourlangie to view the rock art. Some was very crisp and clear. Animals and spirits are the main stars of the show.

The Bowali visitor centre had another interp presentation area and a short video to watch. Interesting enough.

Ubirr is another incredible art site I visited, probably the best in Kakadu. Whole walls are covered in intricate paintings with red, white, black and yellow. They even recorded a picture of an early white man with his hands in his pockets smoking a pipe. Probably some of the last paintings to be drawn. One painting of significance is that of a Thylacine. This animal had become extinct on mainland Australia about 5000 years ago, yet the painting depicts one as a record of the animals which lived here, and the people which lived with them. In other caves I’ve heard of paintings of extinct megafauna which died out around 20000 years ago which shows how long the people of this region have called Kakadu home.

I take a boat tour on the East Alligator River with Guluyambi Kakadu cultural tours. $76 for an adult. It was totally worth it. The crocodiles were plentiful. You could not swim across the 30 metre expanse of the river without being eaten. Must have seen 80 or so crocs. And they are always watching you! There was only 3 of us on the tour as the tourist season was almost at an end. The guide told us about some of the bush tucker on the riverbanks and the peoples and traditions that have been carried out in the area. We also learnt about a few of the spears and hunting methods. A couple of old aboriginal campsites were pointed out complete with rock art by the rock overhangs.

All up I spent 8 days in Kakadu. Kakadu during the wet would be a totally different experience. Who knows I may still be in the top end when the wet breaks.

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Brett is a film maker, hiker, adventurer and Defender owner. He loves the outdoors and feels most at home travelling remote outback places in Australia. The idea of waiting till retirement to begin exploring Australia is not the path Brett has chosen, instead choosing to live life now. Join him on his adventures.

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