Top time in the Top End: Kakadu National Park

The final days of our journey through the centre of Australia were spent in two more of the Northern Territory’s wonderful national parks.

The first of these was Kakadu National Park, which we visited on a two-day coach tour. Kakadu has important facts in common with Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is owned by the local Aboriginal people; is leased back to the federal government under a joint-management agreement; and it has a dual-listing as a world heritage site, for both natural and cultural qualities. You can find out more about the park here, including the fact that it is about half the entire size of Switzerland!

After a brief stop at a pub for morning tea – it’s an ‘outback Australia’ thing – we and 19 other members of the tour group squeezed ourselves into three light planes for a one-hour flight over stretches of the park. There we are, smiling for the camera aboard that small aircraft, as captured by one of our tour-buddies!


Kakadu has two two main physical elements: the massive sandstone Arnhem Plateau, which we first met at Nitmiluk NP; and its extensive network of rivers, floodplains and wetlands, fed by the annual monsoonal rains. Here are some of the views we had of these features.

   

           

After our scenic flight and a bite of lunch, we got to see one of the wetland areas at close quarters on a cruise around Yellow Water Billabong. (Btw, if you search Wikipedia for the meaning of ‘billabong’, the entry includes just one photo – Yellow Water!)

The airborne object in this photo from our tour is not another small plane. Maggie captured a dragon-fly in mid-flight!


Of course, where there is water in the Top End, there will be animals lurking. And not just any animals. I’m talking about saltwater crocodile-type animals, as in the centre of the photo on the right. It had been a cold night and our tour guide explained that the crocs were not yet on the move; they needed another hour of warm sunshine to recharge their batteries.

We weren’t about to check the veracity of that statement! (That’s a My cousin Vinny allusion, dear readers.)

        

And here is our tour guide, Dennis, son of a New Zealand man and a significant local Aboriginal woman. His commentary was full of interesting information. He also had a classic Australian sense of humour, ie dry and razor-sharp, and his impersonations of a crocodile putting an end to a human life were worth the admission fee alone!


Here are some more scenes from our extensive journey around the billabong. The birds in the last photo of this group are magpie geese. They are not shielding themselves from the hot tropical sun. They are hiding from birds of prey, of which there is an abundant supply in this rich environment!

   

   

Kakadu’s world heritage listing for cultural reasons derives from two main factors: the fact that the indigenous people of the area have a continuous history of active connection going back many tens of thousands of years; and the park’s vast collection of rock art.

Our tour itinerary included two of the three main rock art sites which are readily accessible to visitors. It was an interesting enough experience but we would have gained a more meaningful appreciation if we’d had the time available to go on one of the in-depth viewings led by one of the park’s expert rangers. You can learn more about the rock art in Kakadu here.

   

 

The last item on our Kakadu itinerary was a boat trip along the East Alligator River, led by Roman, son of a European man and a local Aboriginal woman.

It wasn’t long before we saw why this otherwise peaceful river was given its (erroneous) moniker by a British explore in the 1820s

   

Roman was particularly knowledgeable about the area’s flora and the numerous uses made of it by the traditional occupants. His explanation of how a spear was made was especially interesting; pity I didn’t capture it in a video to share with you!


The East Alligator River marks the boundary between Kakadu and Arnhem Land, a vast area in which traditional indigenous culture and practices continue strongly. For this reason, outsiders cannot visit Arnhem Land without a permit. That said, commercial tour groups are generally welcome and our time with Roman included a brief visit to the river’s eastern shore.

   

We definitely enjoyed our visit to Kakadu but, in two days, we barely scratched the surface of this vast and diverse area. Any person who has a special interest in, say, rock art, birdlife, geology or tropical flora, would be well-advised to allow several days for their explorations.

Next stop, Litchfield National Park!

Cheers for now!
Rick Grounds

About rmgtravelsandfood

Maggie and I are both in our mid-60s and live in Melbourne, Australia. This blog is devoted to our shared passions for travel and fine dining at home. As cooks, we are skilful and adventurous within a framework of mainly traditional ingredients and techniques, and we aim to prepare nutritious food that looks good and tastes delicious. Our evolving repertoire is influenced by both our travels and Melbourne's vibrant food culture. While we are young enough, our priority travel destinations are overseas, although we do spend a few long weekends each year exploring parts of south-eastern Australia. As travellers, we are most comfortable with a combination of organised and independent touring. Our first overseas journey together was to Italy in the northern autumn of 2008. We later travelled in France (2009), Spain (2011), Singapore and Cambodia (2012/13). All trips from 2014 to 2016 are documented in this blog. When time allows, we will publish posts about our journeys - eight and counting - in 2017, 2018 and 2019
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