We spent five days here and even though we only scratched its surface I feel as though we uncovered a fair bit of what makes Kakadu so special.
Kakadu National Park is under three hours from Darwin, it’s at the top of Australia. At 20,000 square kilometres the world heritage listed Kakadu is HUGE. Here you’ll find rainforest, stone country, rock art, extensive flood plains and the beautiful East Alligator River.
Depending on the season the park is teeming with life, from the wetlands, rivers and billabongs. It’s home to an indigenous culture that dates back to the worlds oldest continuing nature. And the message that came through strongly on our visit was that it’s OUR home too.
We’re in the dry season at the moment, and many of her waterfalls have stopped flowing but still, there’s no shortage of vistas. And because she’s so big, to see her wonders you’ll have to make an effort. It’s like anything. It’s not always obvious where the treasures are but scratch deeper, drive further, research more, walk up a sweat, immerse yourself and you’ll be rewarded with dramatic vistas and experiences that will stay with you forever.
Sensory overload at Waterfalls
Set in the red ochre of the Arnhem Land escarpment, it wasn’t easy to reach Jim Jim Falls. Over 50kms of bumpy, corrugated road, four wheel driving and then a rugged two kilometre return walk across rocks BUT it was sooo worth it.
Our reward was towering 200 metre cliffs and pristine rock pools, the ultimate plunge pool and a sandy beach. In the wet the falls thunder down the rock face and this walking track is inaccessible so the only way to see it is from the air. In the dry (as it is now) the falls are barely a trickle but the trails are open and the views are breath taking.
As we reached the beach and I looked above me at these ancient and towering rock formations I felt such a connection to the earth and a profound feeling of love, gratitude and peace. Breath in, breath out.
All Creatures Great and Small
Kakadu is home to a huge amount of wildlife in its various waterways. There’s over 1000 plant species, a quarter of all Australian freshwater fish species and over one third of all bird species can be found in the park.
Watching the sunrise at Mamukala Wetlands was peaceful and when you go out on a Yellowwater cruise (as we did) you’ll see firsthand many of these wild and wonderful creatures … including crocodiles, buffalo on the plains and a multitude of ducks and birds.
Even driving on the roads the wildlife is ever present. We saw a buffalo one day off into the scrub and were warned by an oncoming car via CB radio. You wouldn’t want to hit one, as Doug said “it’s a bull bar not a buffalo bar”. Once we saw a dingo cross the road with breakfast in its mouth and another time a magnificent black brumby appeared, as though like a mirage. As we slowed down he reared, as though straight from Disney’s Black Stallion, flicked its mane and bolted off into the distance.
The Ultimate Exercise Regime – Walk, Swim, Repeat
Many of the walks in Kakadu are long and strenuous, or maybe it just felt that way cos everyday we were there it was 38C. But when the end destination was pristine plunge pools, well it was a decent but worthwhile work out. There’s Jim Jim, Barramundi (Maguk Falls) and Gunlom, the most popular. Walk, swim, walk back to the car, drive home. Repeat.
It’s funny cos I was scared of water as a little girl, I nearly drowned and consequently I only learned to swim as an adult. Now I’m so grateful and whilst I always have respect for the water I no longer fear it. Crocodiles on the other hand, well they’re a different story.
Camping and Caravanning
Camping is one of the best ways to feel and connect to Kakadu time. Under the stars and amid the rainforest there are many park managed campgrounds within the National Park. They include among many others Malabanjbanjdju and Burdulba, a campground at Jim Jim Falls and one called Merl, near Ubirr, but after reading reviews of the midgies and mozzies we wussed out and opted for comfort and convenience!
So our stay at Kakadu was divided between two caravan parks in Jabiru, the Kakadu lodge and Anbink Kakadu Resort. Both have a great pool and on Doug’s birthday we strolled across the road for a very nice Thai dinner at Anbinik.
There are other ways to explore Kakadu, take a scenic flight, walk with a local ranger, head out to Cahills Crossing and watch silly fishermen and cars cross near where crocodiles feed, book a cruise or just drive, walk and explore the seven regions within the park.
Nineteen aboriginal clans live in Kakadu where there’s a strong connection to country. The art sites of Ubirr and Nourlangie bear witness to this. They’re home to about 5000 rock sites with some of the oldest paintings found in Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwurr. It’s amazing to visit anytime and especially at sunset.
Another place worth visiting to learn about their culture is the Warradjan Aboriginal Culture Centre, where you can read stories and be immersed in knowledge of connection.
We had a wonderful indigenous guide by the name of Dennis who was the Boat Master on our Yellow Water Cruise. He was part larrikin, part storyteller but completely passionate and an expert on his homeland Kakadu. As our cruise finished, his parting words stirred me: “You are beautiful people, respect yourself, respect others, look after your family and enjoy this land. This is not just our backyard. It’s your backyard too”
I certainly felt a connection to something far greater than myself during my time here.
And he’s right, it’s about respect and self love, looking out for each other and feeling as one. Wherever we live on this earth we all breath the same air and long for the same thing, a sense of belonging, kindness and love. It’s that energy and heart felt connection to nature and our fellow humans that I hope will heal the world moving forward.
Kakadu was a wonderful reminder of the power of story and making memories whilst enjoying the now.
Wherever you are I send you lots of love as our journey continues.