Where: Kakadu National Park
Hanging out with: The Stracks, the Clifts and Tom and Jas
For many Australians, images that come to mind of the top end are those from our biggest national park, Kakadu. The beautiful escarpments, the picturesque water holes and the beautiful wildlife, all make this place a ‘must do’ on a trip to the NT. We decided to head into the park from the southern end with the first stop at the scenic Gunlom Falls. Like most of northern Australia at the moment, Kakadu is very dry! This makes it easy to do any of the river crossings but sadly reduces the likelihood of those majestic waterfall photos. You would also think that the crocs would be less abundant in the remaining isolated pools but we quickly found out that this is not the case.
After a swim in the apparently saltwater croc-free Gunlom swimming hole and a picnic lunch we made our way to the Yellow Water Billabong for a sunset cruise. It’s always fascinating hearing about how places got their name with dreamtime stories and again we had a local guide who had everyone captivated with his stories. The cruise was a great way to see all the surrounding wildlife, including numerous species of waterbirds, and a ridiculous number of saltwater crocodiles! Also on show were the remaining buffalo in the park, that despite a major cull in the 90’s still occur in the park in reasonable numbers. There are also still cattle and horses that run wild as a remnant of previous mustering in the area. After the cruise we made our way to Jabiru and our accommodation for the next few days at Kakadu Lodge.
One of the stunning features of Kakadu is the rock art that spans stories from thousands of years and our day started by wandering around Norlangie Rock and the beautiful rock art. That evening we took a picnic up to the popular Ubirr Rock and watched the sunset. We also managed to find a couple of the local short-eared rock wallabies, which were super cute.
Ubirr Rock, apart from having a rich aboriginal history with rock art that includes a Thylacine, was also made famous by Crocodile Dundee. Sadly our catch up with the Stacks and Clifts had to come to an end and we said goodbye to the Stracks that evening and the Clifts the next day. Who knows where next years catch-up will be?
The next day we decided to see Kakadu from the air – a fantastic way to get a perspective on the ruggedness and remoteness of Arnhem Land, and how much of the place is on fire….don’t get me started on that topic!!.
We then met up with another one of the famous ‘frogging’ crew Tom Parkin in Kakadu. Tom and his girlfriend Jas are working with one of the Arnhem Land communities coordinating ranger activities. It was great to hear some of the stories about their adventures hunting and fishing with the locals – we even managed to wet a line at the famous Cahill’s Crossing, where we saw ten large crocs eagerly waiting for someone to catch a large barra or slip over the ledge! There was even one there with a tracker on him from being re-located – the running joke being that no one is game enough to change the batteries! From here it was on to Mary River National Park for a night of luxury at the Wildman Wilderness Lodge and then back to Darwin.