Category Archives: Kakadu

— Kakadu —

Kakadu Bucket List: 8 things you must do…

WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 9, 2015

  • Consider these eight amazing activities your Kakadu bucket list (Jac Taylor). 

    1. Cruise Yellow Water

    The most famous of Kakadu’s many billabongs, Yellow Water Billabong is your postcard shot: regular boats cruise across its great swathes of floodwaters, half-submerged paperbarks, pandanus and water lilies, while Kakadu’s famous crocs cruise beneath. The birds here are out of this world: jabiru, sea eagles, magpie geese and egrets. Cruises operate all year round; in the dry season you can also explore the billabong on foot, via boardwalks.

    ACCESS: Via 2WD in the dry (you can drive virtually up to the boat ramp); in the wet you simply drive to nearby hotel and hub Cooinda Lodge and hop on a shuttle bus.

    2. Swim at Gunlom Falls

    You’ve probably seen Gunlom’s top pool before; it resembles a resort-style infinity pool, though of course it’s even more special since it is entirely made by nature. The plunge pool is located at the bottom of the falls at Waterfall Creek, but you can also take the moderately steep, 30-minute walk to the top of the falls for even better views overlooking the southern hills of the park, and more freshwater pools to swim in. Facilities for campers include solar hot showers and shaded picnic areas.

    ACCESS: Via 4WD in the dry (occasionally you can make it in a 2WD, but check the road report); then it’s a short walk to the plunge pool (with wheelchair access) or a moderate 30-minute climb to rock pools above the falls. NB: inaccessible in the wet.

    3. Swim at Maguk

    This is one of Kakadu’s hidden gems. It’s only an hour’s drive south of Cooinda, but you’ll need to turn off the sealed highway and drive a 14-kilometre, 4WD-only track, then walk a kilometre to get here. The effort required makes this one of the Park’s lesser-visited natural plunge pools, but it’s absolutely gorgeous to swim in, and the walk in, via a beautiful creek and classic pandanus forest, really is lovely. A short, but steep, climb will get you to the top of its waterfall, where more pools await you.

    ACCESS: Via 4WD in the dry; then it’s a two-kilometre, easy to moderate, return walk. Maguk is inaccessible in the wet.

    4. Admire Ubirr

    Ubirr is one of two popular Aboriginal rock art galleries – though really, it’s not so much a gallery, but a collection of them. A kilometre-long circular walk from the carpark takes in the Main Gallery, the Namarrgarn Sisters gallery, and the Rainbow Serpent gallery, with the dates of art ranging from over 15,000 years old to as recent as 150 years ago. Ubirr’s most famous pieces include X-ray paintings of animals, Dreamtime folklore and ‘contact art’, showing local impressions of contact with white explorers. Make sure you take the extra 30-minute moderate climb to Nardab Lookout for sunset views so excellent.

    ACCESS: Via 2WD in the dry (though check road conditions early in the season). The circular track is partly wheelchair accessible. In the wet, only 4WDs can drive here; if 4WD access is also closed due to flooding, you might be lucky enough to access the site via boat, on a wet season Guluyambi Cultural Cruise.

    5. … and Nourlangie

    The second of Kakadu’s most famous rock art sites, the red rock cliffs of Nourlangie offer not only spectacular views across the wetlands, but a fascinating window into local Aboriginal culture. You’ll need 90–120 minutes to tour the multiple art sites, along a 1.5-kilometre circular walk that also includes the Anbangbang Shelter, providing refuge from the weather for 20,000 years for locals who whiled away the time by decorating the walls with their stories. The sites feature highlights like the amazing Nayombolmi frieze, Dreaming figures and remarkable views from the top lookout, Nawurlandja. Catch a ranger talk several times a day during the dry season; entry to the site is free.

    ACCESS: Via 2WD, year-round. The 1.5-kilometre walk is easy; the 600-metre climb to the lookout is moderately steep.

    6. Check out Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls

    No visit to Kakadu is complete without seeing these beautiful waterfalls – they’re key to the massive movement of water that marks the seasons. However close to each other geographically, they’re actually very different. Jim Jim Falls features vertiginous 150-metre-high cliffs surrounding a beautiful, deep plunge pool, and flows only after the wet season. You can swim there in the top pool during the dry season and admire the unexpected presence of silica sand – this area was once an inland sea. The Twin Falls are in spectacular flow all year round, continuously gushing over a 220-metre drop onto the beach below.

    ACCESS: You can get to Jim Jim Falls via 4WD in the dry season. From the carpark, take a moderately difficult 45-minute walk over boulders to the top plunge pool where you can swim. To get to Twin Falls you’ll need a snorkel on your vehicle to get through an 0.8m water crossing. You then board a shuttle boat from the car park, which takes you up the gorge, before a short walk to the falls themselves. Twin Falls has a very pretty plunge pool at the bottom, but you can’t swim here; saltwater crocodiles do occasionally make their home here. Scenic flights are also available from Jabiru airport.

    7. Take one of the Yurmikmik Walks

    Time to get your rugged on! The Yurmikmik walks are a series of interconnected trails exploring the wilds of the park’s southern region, and they are underutilised, underrated and local favourites. The two-kilometre-return Boulder Creek Walk runs through monsoon forest and woodlands; the five-kilometre return walk to Yurmikmik Lookout takes you to the ridge for fantastic views over Yurmikmik country (pack your camera). The 7.5-kilometre return Motor Car Falls Walk journeys along a historical track through to shady creeks and rainforest; and the ultimate Kakadu walking experience, is the 14-kilometre overnight Motor Car and Kurrundie Creek circuit, with some sections best navigated by GPS and compass (you’ll need a permit to camp here). For full details and a complete list of walking trails throughout the entire park, visit parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu.

    ACCESS: Via 4WD year-round. The area may be closed due to flooding in the wet.

    8. Visit Mamukala Wetlands

    A hugely important part of Kakadu is its birdlife, and Mamukala has a bird hide shelter where you can have some quiet time and really enjoy the sight of thousands of magpie geese (particularly from September–October) coming together to feed, undisturbed. Walks nearby range from one to four kilometres; the three-kilometre walk alongside the wetlands is ideal to enjoy the paperbarks, pandanus and water lilies. Beautiful and accessible for most of the year, it’s most dramatic in the late wet season when birds congregate in their thousands.

    ACCESS: Via 2WD year-round; although the area may be closed due to flooding in the wet. The bird hide is accessible by wheelchair, 500-metre return; the three-kilometre loop walk is rated easy.

     

    And before you go anywhere…

    Visit the Bowali Visitors Centre at Jabiru – it’s stuffed with helpful info. Find it on Kakadu Highway, Jabiru (08 8938 1120). For more information see Tourism Northern Territory and Parks Australia.

    The Kakadu Guide: Everything you ever wanted and needed to know about Kakadu

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    — Kakadu —

    The best Kakadu wet season fishing trips

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 25, 2015

    When the wet season displaces millions of litres of water, which thunder through rivers and floodplains before receding, Kakadu is a fishing hotspot.

    The secret is the ‘run-off’, a sweet spot on the calendar (mid-March to end of April) straight after the wet, when water drains back out of the floodplains into the rivers, and barramundi (alongside other fish) collect in certain areas accordingly, including Yellow Water, South and East Alligator River, Sandy Billabong, and Two- and Four-Mile Holes. Being a national park, fishing requires a licence, but if you’re not licensed (or don’t want the hassle of hiring your own boat and 4WD), you can join a local fishing tour, or charter your own boat. Most operators run out of Darwin, but there are a couple of Kakadu specialists located within the park:

    Kakadu Fishing tours

    Based out of Jabiru, Kakadu Fishing Tours runs a charter service that can go anywhere you like. From $230 per person for a half-day, including refreshments.

    Cooinda Lodge

    Based in Cooinda, virtually on top of iconic Yellow Water, Cooinda Lodge only offers fishing tours through the famous billabong. $150 per person including all fishing gear and cold drinks: see kakadutourism.com

    Bamurru Lodge

    While not in Kakadu National Park, Bamurru Lodge it is located just nearby and turns exclusively into a dedicated barramundi fishing lodge during the run-off.

     

    More: The ‘every single thing you need to know about holidaying in Kakadu‘ guide

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    — Kakadu —

    Top 3 Kakadu self-drive road trip itineraries

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 20, 2015

    Read up on our how to self-drive around Kakadu? Well, you’re ready to try one of our dream road trip itineraries then…

    Three Days…

    Day 1:
    • Drive Darwin to Jabiru
    • Head to Bowali Visitor Centre
    • Enjoy sunset at Ubirr
    • Camp at Merl campground (Luxe option: Crocodile Hotel, Jabiru)

    Day 2:
    • Take a two-hour Guluyambi Cultural Cruise up the East Alligator River
    • See the amazing art at Nourlangie Rock
    • Do a sunset cruise on Yellow Water Billabong
    • Camp at Mardugal campground (Luxe option: Cooinda Lodge)

    Day 3:
    • Spend the morning luxuriating at Gunlom Plunge Pool
    • Drive back to Darwin

    Five Days…

    Follow the three-day itinerary, plus:

    + Stay an extra two nights at Mardugal campground or Cooinda Lodge
    + Spend the afternoon of Day 3 at Sandy Billabong (take a chair and watch the birds descend at sunset)
    + Spend Day 4 at Jim Jim Falls before heading back to Darwin on Day 5

    Eight Days…

    Follow the five-day itinerary, plus:

    + Stay an extra night at Jabiru and do the Bardedjilidji Walk along the Alligator River
    + Stay an extra two nights at Mardugal campground or Cooinda Lodge and walk out to Gubara Pools
    + Do a full-day Animal Tracks Tour before heading back to Darwin on Day 8

     

    More: Everything else about Kakadu

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    — Kakadu —

    Which Kakadu boat cruise to choose?

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 18, 2015

    To really get to know Kakadu’s wetlands you really have to get out there… here are the pick of the cruise tours in the national park.

    Yellow Water Cruises

    This iconic Kakadu tour operates year-round out of Cooinda, which means the landscape is ever-changing, depending on the season. With several large vessels carrying a lot of passengers, you won’t find it an intimate experience but the wetlands are duly spectacular, the nature on display unfailingly spectacular and the driver knowledgeable. Take the tour at dawn or dusk when the wildlife is more active. Two hours for $90–$99; see gagudju-dreaming.com

    Guluyambi cultural cruise

    From a small dock not far from Ubirr, you will venture to the Arnhem Land side of the East Alligator River on this small covered boat cruise. This Aboriginal reserve is otherwise inaccessible to tourists, unless you have a permit. Expect to see some impressively large crocodiles, sandy beaches, ancient rock art and a spear-throwing demonstration. Guide Robert Namarnyilk is an acclaimed Aboriginal artist who has sold his paintings internationally. Tour takes 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs $76; see kakaduculturaltours.com.au

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory and Parks Australia.

    The Kakadu Guide: Everything you ever wanted to know

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    — Kakadu —

    The best Kakadu photography tours – run by locals

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 14, 2015

    There are plenty of photography tour operators in Kakadu, but we particularly like these two because they’re run by locals.

    Paul Arnold Photography Tours

    If you’re looking for a photography day trip, consider jumping on a boat tour guided by Paul Arnold, who’s known about town as one of the state’s most renowned landscape photographers. His tour – which meanders Yellow Water in a smaller boat – is a totally unique opportunity, as Paul is the only operator permitted to offer the tour, and it’s a great way to combine your interests with this Kakadu icon. A two-hour sunset trip costs $200; see paularnold.com.au/blog

    Tracy Ryan photography tours

    Aside from bespoke photography tours, and ‘regular’ photography group tours held over the course of several days, Tracy also offers a one-off: aerial photography tours. Group tours from about $4000 per person for five days including an aerial flight; aerial tours from $995 per person for a full day; see tracyryanphotography.com

    More: Kakadu: How, when and where

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    — Kakadu —

    The luxury of Kakadu: Wildman Wilderness Lodge

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Luxury accommodation option Wildman Wilderness Lodge is out near the wilds of Kakadu but it has more creature comforts than you can poke a stick at, complete with a rock-star entrance… 

    Wildman Wilderness Lodge is just a three-hour drive from Darwin, but once you’re ensconced in the scrub and rusty soil of the Mary River floodplains to the east of Kakadu National Park, you might feel a lot further away than that.

    The safari tents – comfortable, canvas-walled, mesh-windowed huts with timber floors – go a long way toward making one feel comfortable though; each one is impressive with two bedrooms and its own bathroom, and a balcony with an expansive view over the plains. (Wildman also offers stylish ‘habitats’, or luxury cabins, which come with the added bonus of air-conditioning but we actually prefer the tents; they make you feel closer to the wilderness.)

    If you’re keen to start exploring, you could set out on a complimentary culture walk, where your guide will speak of the wetlands, its creatures and local history, though the simplest of strolls around the property is a wildlife tour in itself, where dwarf green tree frogs dot the shrubs, and water buffalo watch from the trees.

    Like its sister experience at Bamurru, however, the best way to take it all in at Wildman is on an airboat safari. Zoom about the Mary River floodplains in a small boat powered by a huge fan propeller: flocks of magpie geese wheel above, crocs wade past, lily flowers sway, and your guide explains it all in detail.

    Afterwards, you can retreat to the air-conditioned sanctuary of the bar for a cooling drink but the outside deck, complete with infinity pool is the place to be as the sun sets. A drink or two here and you’ll be ready for your three-course dinner in the neighbouring restaurant, with an ever-changing menu that always includes local produce (try the fresh barramundi) and traditional elements of bush food and preparation.

    Back in your safari tent, as the breeze flows through the open windows, you’ll hear the creaks and gentle splashes of the wetlands, which come alive in the evening under a sequinned blanket of stars.

    You’ll sleep well tonight, which is a good thing, too, because tomorrow you’ll be up early for a leisurely cruise of Home Billabong, gliding around the floodplains in the glowing morning light.
    Like Bamurru, Wildman’s floodplain experiences are outside of the great Kakadu National Park, but they are outstanding experiences (award-winning, too).

    Not that you should miss out on Kakadu. The lodge offers full-day tours to the park’s various thrills, and though it is Kakadu’s natural wonders that are the real stars, they are only improved with the additions of luxury 4WDs, gourmet picnics and your informative, personal guide.

    For now, though, as you relax in your plushly turned-down bed, enjoy the softly scented breeze drifting through your windows, and the sounds of nature’s music. Tonight you’ll dream of hovering dragonflies, soaring jabirus and bright green lily pads.

    Details: Wildman Wilderness Lodge

    Getting there: Wildman Wilderness Lodge is a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Darwin, to the west of Kakadu, in the Mary River National Park. If you don’t fancy the drive, both resorts offer a rock-star option: arrival by helicopter or small plane. wildmanwildernesslodge.com.au

    Staying there: Rates start at $559 per couple, per night for a safari tent and $699 per night for a ‘habitat’. Its packages include dinner, breakfast and non-alcoholic beverages. Lunch, alcohol and activities are additional.

    Wet season: closes from December–March.

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Kakadu Guide: Everything you ever wanted and needed to know about Kakadu

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    — Kakadu —

    How to: The Kakadu self-drive road trip

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    There’s no shortage of great tours on offer in Kakadu, but a do-it-yourself driving adventure holiday is pretty hard to beat, says Lee Atkinson

    It’s birdy hour in Kakadu: that magic time of day at the tail-end of the dry season, when the daylight folds around a setting sun rendered red, orange and pink by smoke haze. The landscape glows in the tangerine light and what seems like a million birds materialise from nowhere to fill the sky with their shrill calls and booming honks as they swoop and soar above the shrinking wetlands, floating down to wade through the shallows, seemingly oblivious to the semi-submerged snouts of super-sized saltwater crocodiles lurking nearby.

    We’ve got exclusive front-row seats to this spectacular sound and light show at Sandy Billabong – we’ve carted our fold-up chairs across the track from the campground and set them up as close to the water’s edge as we dare and, armed with a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers, we’ve settled back to watch one of the greatest wildlife shows on the planet. There’s no one else around and the entire thing has cost us (if you don’t include the refreshments) the princely sum of $5 each. Or at least that’s what it costs to camp: the sunset show is free.

    Kakadu is one of those places that has an almost mythical place in the imagination of most Australian travellers. It’s wild, beautiful and seriously out there, in a Bear Grylls type of way. But, what most people don’t realise is that despite its rather fearsome reputation, it’s surprisingly easy to get around, year-round, even in a normal car. There are two ways you can do Kakadu: on the bitumen or in the dirt.

    The sealed road

    Getting to Kakadu is easy. From the south it’s 150 kilometres from Katherine, via the Stuart and Kakadu highways. Most people come from Darwin though (that’s the closest airport), which is also around 150 kilometres from the edge of the park, via the Arnhem Highway. Both roads are sealed, open all year, and in fairly good condition, although you do need to keep an eye out for wandering cattle, buffalo and kangaroos.

    Once you’re in the park a sealed all-weather road runs right through the centre of the wilderness, roughly forming a triangle from the two highways with the township of Jabiru – 254 kilometres from Darwin, 211 kilometres from Pine Creek – at the apex. All of the must–see attractions, such as Ubirr and Nourlangie with their magnificent rock art galleries, tour hub Cooinda and the wildlife-filled Yellow Water Billabong are easily accessible from this main road, as are the popular accommodation options and most of the parks that cater for caravans. The jaw-dropping cliff-top plunge pool at the top of Gunlom Falls is on a gravel road, which is a bit rough and rocky but fine for most 2WDs in the dry, as are many of the camping areas.

    You could see all of these in a stock-standard sedan, but you’d probably be more comfortable in a small SUV if you are planning to drive on the dirt or head out to Gunlom.

    The dirt track alternatives

    You don’t need a 4WD to see the best of Kakadu, although if you do have one there are a few special spots where high-range comes in handy. A 4WD will get you out to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls (although you still have to walk the last kilometre or so), Sandy Billabong, the more remote waterholes and some of the bush camping areas. You’ll also need a 4WD on the Old Jim Jim Road, which is a great shortcut from Cooinda to the Arnhem Highway. Many of the unsealed roads that are fine for 2WD in the dry season, like Gunlom Falls, are 4WD-only in the wet. The tracks aren’t particularly difficult, but some can be rocky and slow and the river crossings can be a bit tricky in the wet.

    Camping

    There are more than 25 designated campgrounds in Kakadu, ranging from commercial caravan parks to remote bush camping sites with no facilities at all, as well as bush campgrounds that have toilets and hot showers. Hiring a campervan is a great option if you have flown to Darwin: most come with basic camping gear.

    Roadtripping tips

    • Avoid driving in the dark: your chances
    of colliding with a critter are very high, and most car hire insurance policies do not cover you for the damage.
    • Many hire car companies will not allow their cars on dirt roads – even SUVs – so check the fine print.
    • The visitor centres frequently run out of maps, so download one from parksaustralia.gov.au. The free ‘Visit Kakadu’ app (iTunes and android) is also useful, but the maps are easier to read on a tablet than a phone.
    • You’ll need a snorkel fitted to your vehicle if driving on 4WD tracks in the wet season.
    • Fuel is available at Jabiru, Cooinda and Pine Creek. No fuel is available at Goymarr Roadhouse.

     

    The Details: Kakadu Road Trip

    Accommodation: The famous saltie-shaped inn, Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, is right in the middle of Jabiru and is very comfortable with all mod-cons (from $159). Sister property Gagudju Lodge Cooinda has comfortable family-friendly, motel-style units set in resort gardens with pool (from $139).

    Caravanning: Powered caravan sites are available at Aurora Kakadu Resort (on the way from Darwin), Kakadu Lodge and Lakeview Park (near Jabiru), and Gagudju Lodge Cooinda.

    Camping: There are basic campgrounds at West Alligator Head, Malabanjbanjdju and Burdulba (near Jabiru); Merl (near Ubirr); Djarradjin and Sandy Billabong (near Nourlangie); Mardugal and Jim Jim Billabong (Cooinda); Garnamarr (en route to Jim Jim Falls); Gunlom, Maguk, Gungural and Kambolgie (Mary River region). All have composting toilets; Merl, Djarradjin, Mardugal, Garnamarr and Gunlom have showers. $5 per adult, per night; those with showers $10. All other camping areas are true bush camping, which means no facilities (bring a shovel), but they are free. Some have alcohol restrictions. Park-run campsites have no booking system: first in get the best spots!

    Eating there: Both aforementioned hotels have licensed restaurants, and there is a bakery and café in Jabiru. The Corner Store near Cahill’s Crossing does Thai takeaway. If you’re camping, you’ll need to stock up on food and drink in Darwin or Katherine before you hit the road. Jabiru has a small supermarket for essentials, but no takeaway alcohol is available. You’ll also need to carry your own drinking water if staying outside the commercial caravan parks.

    In the wet: Can go: The Arnhem and Kakadu highways remain open, as do the roads to Nourlangie, Ubirr and Cooinda, although they may close after big storms. Check the road report at Kakadu roadreport.wordpress.com … Can’t go: The roads to Jim Jim and Twin Falls are closed. The best way to see these is on a scenic flight. Old Jim Jim Road, Gunlom, Maguk and Sandy Billabong are also out of action. Many minor unsealed roads are closed; those that remain open are 4WD-only and some bush campgrounds are closed. Check the road report for details.

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Beautiful Kakadu Guide: What else do you need to know about Kakadu?

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    — Kakadu —

    Kakadu Walks: The where, when and who

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Kakadu National Park is a mini-world that’s better explored on foot than on wheels, and better swum inside than feared from the water’s edge, according to Jennifer Pinkerton.

    I’m lost inside a technicolour canvas. Really lost. And I can’t recall having popped LSD. Before me lies a charcoaled ground. It’s carpeted in burnt sticks and logs. Ahead, fluorescent green regrowth bursts from branches, caramel-toned kangaroo paw drapes at elbow-height and refracted purple light cuts angles in the air. I’ve been bopped with the beauty gun – as is wont to happen in Kakadu. I gasp, freeze, delight, linger. Until eventually, I lose sight of my walking group.

    “Cooooeee!” I call, channelling a slightly bedraggled and far more ocker Alice in Wonderland. I search for a clearing beyond this enchanted slice of bush. Ten strung-out minutes tick by. I fret, stress and maybe catastrophise a little. Finally, relief slides into view. Emerging from a thicket of eucalypts, a walker appears in perky pink shorts. It’s Michele, one of our hosts from touring outfit World Expeditions. “Day Two and you’ve already earned the nickname Little Miss Walkabout!” she shouts merrily. My cheeks turn the shade of Michele’s shorts and I gallop over to her, vowing to keep my eyes on the prize for the remainder of the trip.

    Along with nine other hikers, I’ve voyaged to Kakadu to explore the bounties of the world’s largest terrestrial national park on foot. Over five days, we’ll tread 45 kilometres and spend four nights under the stars, sleeping in semi-permanent tents. I’ve visited Kakadu before, but with my own wheels in tow – as is the case for most travellers who venture to this neck of the Top End. In an instant, walking slows the pace to a comfortable and steady heartbeat.

    Instead of spinning along Kakadu Highway to park the car, strolling a few hundred metres and going camera crazy at A) a lookout, or B) a swimming spot, the act of walking morphs time into something rather liquid. I’m experiencing a new level of absorption with my surrounds. There’s space to stop, exhale and notice the little things – which, granted, can land you trouble if you trade in high levels of vagueness.

    Meditative contemplation is permitted; however, when we reach the highest point of today’s trail, the 12-kilometre Barkk Sandstone Walk at Nourlangie Rock. While the trek begins in a shady chain of rock art galleries, their floors stamped with salmon-coloured leaves, the trail quickly lifts to a steep ascent. After passing bouquets of pandanus, we emerge at a giant rock shelf.

    The rugged stone country around us is ringed with behemoth boulders and cube-shaped towers of grit. The latter resemble Mayan ruins – a sight that continues as we traverse the escarpment, then descend into lusher terrain. Before we do, though, the group silently drinks in this breath-seizing view, each walker claiming their own peaceful place to perch and ponder.

    Lunch with ancient art

    Over a lunch-time salad platter, which we roll into wraps, guide Dan Rose points out tucked-away rock art. Images of waterbirds, turtles and snakes hint that this area was once close to the sea.

    “These paintings are an encyclopaedia of all the dramatic changes Kakadu’s been through, culturally and environmentally,” he says. We let the ancient art distract us for a while, before our thoughts turn to the journey ahead, which tonight will continue in the form of a two-hour cruise on Yellow Water Billabong.

    The next morning we wake under nets of dappled light to a chorus of singing birds. Today we’ll venture further south to waterhole territory. First stop: Maguk. After scrambling over boulders to reach the water’s edge, our group erupts into a squealing frenzy. We sound like a litter of piglets, part thrilled, part spooked. “How do we know this is croc-free?” a voice shrieks. Dan cancels out concerns by wading into the sparkling lagoon. One by one, the rest of us follow. Though before plunging in, some cling to dry land for what seems like a shameful misuse of minutes.

    While Maguk’s teal swimming hole, with its towering backdrop of black stone and neat guard of pandanus trees, is hard to beat, this evening’s itinerary throws up paradisiacal rivals. As the sunlight starts to fade, we arrive at Gunlom. Here, a waterfall travels through a copper escarpment, plunging 100 metres to a waterhole below.

    To reach the network of infinity pools perched at the top, you have to work for it. So, with an hour of light remaining, five of us puff a path to the peak. Then, as the sky fades and the rocks blush in the twilight, four begin the descent. “Sure you’ll be right?” one companion asks, before venturing out of sight. “Yep, yep,” I reply, eager to nab some alone-time.

    Floating in a pool nearest to the cliff edge, I luxuriate in the thought that Gunlom trumps any hotel pool I’ve visited. Buxom clouds reflect their shapes in the water’s surface and, beyond, an endless quilt of trees shift from green to gold in the dying sun. All this lingering will, of course, cost me further cred with the group. “Heeeeeeeere she is!” sings Dan when, eventually, I skulk back to camp.

    Head motor car falls

    A new morning dawns in which to prove my bush savvy. We’re trekking the 14-kilometre Yurmikmik Circuit past Motor Car Falls, which draw their name from a mid-century mishap. A poor bloke, a tin-miner named Paul Allmich, was the first to try to cross this area on wheels, but his Chevrolet tyres sunk deep into the mud, bogging his truck.

    We’ll walk the same track followed by his ill-fated Chevy, looping out to Kurrundie Falls, then returning via Motor Car Falls. Upon our arrival at the latter, we unfurl atop a rock to lunch, lounge and peer at the water’s residents – long-armed freshwater shrimp and short-necked turtles.

    “Ah look!” cries Michele. From stage left, a lacewing butterfly sashays in our direction. It weaves through her legs. Then, like a rising sheet, a cloud of fellow butterflies ascends from a nearby rock. They’ve been feeding on surface minerals. “This is magic,” one walker whispers.

    Once more, I feel the beauty gun’s target on my forehead. I gasp, freeze, delight, linger. Until, eventually, I lose sight of all that exists beyond park borders. Walkabouts are OK, I figure, as long as they’re confined to the mind.

    Some of the group take the opportunity to cool off in the inviting waterhole. Dan, first into the water of course, somewhat breaks the tranquil moment I’m enjoying by splashing water in my direction, startling me with seemingly ice-cool spray. I’m yanked back to Earth.

    But considering that grounds me right here in Kakadu, it’s not such a bad place to be. I’m happily fixed inside this tropical terrarium – a mini-world that’s sunning my face, pooling at my feet and dancing in the dry-season breeze.

     

    Kakadu hike operators:

    World Expeditions offer six-day trips just like this one, inclusive of all meals and semi-permanent tent accommodation. From $2195 per person.

    Willis’s Walkabouts run trips of varying lengths that explore the back country and are led by Kakadu die-hard Russell Willis, who’s been trekking the park since 1974. From $895 per person.

    Gecko Canoeing run six-day walks in southern Kakadu, starting at Koolpin Gorge and ending at Twin Falls. From $1795 per person.

    Park Trek run nine-day walking tours that cover Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Park. Accommodation is provided in resorts, cabin and units. From $3050 per person.

    Australian Wilderness Adventures leads nine-day walks whereby travellers carry their own gear, plus a portion of the group’s food. From $2595 per person.

    Auswalk tours stay at lodge or homestead rooms with ensuites. They explore Kakadu, Katherine Gorge, Litchfield and Mataranka thermal pools over nine days. From $3495 per person.

    The free guided walk

    One of the best things about Kakadu is that its most popular walking trails are staffed by park rangers who, during the dry season, give guided tours for free. The tours are part of Kakadu’s interpretive program, which includes guided walks, slideshows in certain campgrounds, art site talks, and cultural demonstrations like pandanus weaving and indigenous painting techniques. The program schedule is changed each dry season, and you can be sure that, at the very least, there will be guided walks at Kakadu’s two most popular rock art sites (Nourlangie and Ubirr). You can find updates to the program at Parks Australia or by phoning Bowali Visitor Centre (08 8938 1120).

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Beautiful Kakadu Guide: What else do you need to know about Kakadu?

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    Bamurru Plains Lodge: Luxury accommodation Kakadu style

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Airboats, chilled towels and champagne – Bamurru Plains Lodge is just one of two luxury accommodation options on the outskirts of Kakadu you may want to seriously consider.

    The airboat skims the shallows, parting a floating carpet of pink water lilies and providing an exhilarating look around the Mary River Wetlands, just west of Kakadu National Park.

    If you get the feeling you are being watched, you are right – there are thousands of magpie geese, plumed whistling ducks, egrets, ibis and jabiru on high and the odd crocodile spying from under those lilies. Wild brumbies graze on a green pick in the shade and we spot a bush pig in a hurry.

    The airboat tour is just one of the activities at Bamurru Plains, an eco-sensitive luxury bush camp on Swim Creek Station, where nature takes centre stage in this wild and wonderful landscape.

    A new bird hide is ready for this season so guests can spot some of the 236 species that take to the skies. Spot the Croc cruises on the nearby Sampan Creek, where big fellas sunbake on the banks, bird-watching tours and guided walks all provide many surprises.

    The 4WD tours seek out water buffalo and brumbies, and end with sundowners and a toast to spectacular sunsets. There are also extended tours to Kakadu and Arnhem Land, and great fishing in season – banish any thoughts of the one that got away.

    Step into the main lodge and there’s a long timber dining table, a lounge area where you can flop, and a library of reference books that reveal everything about the Top End.

    Guests can help themselves to the open bar with wines, beer and spirits, and watch Indonesian chef Made Mustika work his magic producing outback cuisine with a sophisticated edge.

    Outdoors there is a deck complete with fire pit, open-air pavilions with comfy couches for lazing on, and an infinity pool that is perfect for watching wildlife at play on the floodplains.

    Dusty buffalo and their raucous offspring wander by the 10 safari-style bungalows while inquisitive wallabies chill out under shady trees – but they keep their distance.

    The chic rustic lodgings that blend into the landscape have floor-to-ceiling fine mesh walls on three sides, so you don’t miss anything. The décor is all timber, corrugated iron and a buffalo horn
    or two, and there’s an ensuite with a powerful shower.

    You won’t find a television, CD player, mini bar or even mobile phone reception here; instead, sink into a comfortable bed with eco-cotton sheets and a choice of three pillows and focus on nature’s stage show.

    As for music, the bush provides an early morning wake-up call with a chorus of thousands of magpie geese, and frogs break into a croaky serenade at night.

    Be warned: the landscape has an uncanny knack of seducing all who stay with many planning return trips. The chilled towels and bubbles don’t go astray either.

     

    Details: Bamurru Plains Lodge

    Getting there: Bamurru is a three-hour drive east from Darwin, to the north-west of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River floodplains (but not in the national park).

    Staying there: Rates start at $550 per person, per night, twin-share in a safari bungalow with all meals and beverages included, including alcohol. Activities additional.

    In the wet: Bamurru Plains Lodge closes from 1 November to 1 February. From 2 February until the end of April, Bamurru becomes a dedicated barramundi fishing lodge. Three-night packages start from $2350 per person, inclusive of all meals and beverages including alcohol, and all fishing gear.

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Beautiful Kakadu Guide: What else do you need to know about Kakadu?

     

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    Kakadu’s best scenic flights

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    You might think most of Kakadu’s action is on the ground, or out on (or under) the water, but you get a whole new perspective of the floodplains and escarpments from the air, especially in the wet. If you’re a photographer, a helicopter flight offers the ultimate in flexibility.

    • Albatross Helicopters offers a 60-minute flight that includes Jim Jim and Twin Falls for $650 per person.
    • Kakadu Air has a similar flight for the same price but also one-hour, fixed-wing aircraft tours for $250 per person.
    • Scenic Flight Company offers a range of flights including a one-hour fixed-wing aircraft tour for $230.

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Beautiful Kakadu Guide: Get and stay there in style

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    Kakadu FAQs: How, where & the wet season conundrum

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Wet season or dry season? Kids or no kids? Walk or drive?  If our Beautiful Kakadu Guide doesn’t answer you queries, then these frequently asked questions will. 

    Walking Kakadu: is it suitable for old knees?

    Well, yes – and no. You’ll be stoked with the accessibility of popular sites likes Nourlangie and Ubirr – they’re short, easygoing walks, with Ubirr even partially wheelchair/pram-accessible (not bad for a remote wilderness park that’s a third of the size of Tasmania). Cruises, such as the Yellow Water and Guluyambi are likewise great options – road access to these boat ramps is 2WD so you can pull up, sit back and enjoy.

    Not all sites are easy going. Hiking to the top of waterfalls such as Jim Jim Falls can be moderately challenging, thanks to the steep inclines. You can pre-plan your itinerary by heading to parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu, which has info on each site’s accessibility. See: Kakadu by foot

    What about for kids?

    Kakadu is brilliant for kids, but there are a couple of things you’ll need to keep in mind. Firstly, walking paths tend to be well-cleared and sometimes boardwalked but there are usually no barriers, so a close eye will be needed for little ones near waterholes where crocs may lurk. Very little legs will probably only make it to easily accessible sites like Nourlangie and Ubirr and your best bet just might involve a cruise or two. You should also check out the free cultural activities available seasonally through Bowali Visitors Centre.

    Let’s talk about crocodiles.

    In the Territory, you soon learn that living with crocs is like living with stingers in, say, Cairns – have respect and awareness, and you’ll be fine. At Kakadu, according to Parks Australia, that means you should always assume there are crocodiles in any body of water you see. However, there are areas that are designated safe to swim in. As those areas can change, however, your best bet is to check with local park rangers or at a visitors’ centre, before you jump in.

    Best visitors’ centres?

    The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Cooinda (gagudjudreaming.com) presents Aboriginal culture the way the local Aboriginal community want it displayed and you’ll find it’s engaging, challenging and fascinating. Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours is further afield and operating out of Adelaide River. Completely Aboriginal-owned and operated, it offers you a two-hour immersion in culture and nature including finding bush tucker and making baskets and bags as well as the art of playing the clapstick and didgeridoo. (Thursday–Monday from April to November) (pudakul.com.au). The Bowali Visitor Centre in Jabiru is a pleasant, cool place with a small library and display area and a most helpful information desk. There’s even a coffee shop.

    Do I really need a 4WD?

    Like many other national parks, general access around Kakadu is by regular sealed roads and walking tracks, so a 4WD isn’t strictly necessary. Be warned, though, that a couple of the park’s most spectacular sites, such as Jim Jim Falls, are only accessible by 4WD. The good news is that Kakadu is a brilliant place for first-time four-wheel drivers, particularly in the dry when well-travelled tracks mean you won’t entirely be heading off into the wilderness alone. If you’re not that keen on driving, you can also take a 4WD tour.

    Is there mobile reception?

    Not outside the main areas of Jabiru, Cooinda and the Bowali Visitors Centre – but there is wi-fi in the Jabiru town library and many hotels. Remember to tell someone where you are going each day, especially if you happen to be travelling alone (which we don’t recommend).

    How long should I spend here?

    Kakadu is about one third the size of Tasmania. Some ‘do’ Kakadu in a daytrip from Darwin; others spend two weeks here and still don’t see as much as they’d like. We reckon any length of time from three days onwards will help you feel like you’ve ‘done’ the park properly.

    Visiting Kakadu in the Wet Season?

    Honestly? We’d argue that seeing Kakadu in the Wet is almost better than in the dry. This park is home to Australia’s ‘true’ wet season, where heat and humidity generate an explosion of colours and life. Dramatic thunderstorms, lightning and flooding allow spear grass to grow to over two metres tall, flushing the woodlands with a silvery-green hue; magpie geese nest in the sedgelands; native rats, snakes and goannas seek refuge in the trees, and waterfalls gush with huge force. A third of the park becomes floodplains you can explore by boat. The end result is one of Earth’s great marvels… even better, it’s crowd-free.

    Yes, but I’m not a huge fan of spending my holidays in the rain.

    Then we’ve got good news – you won’t. A typical day during wet season is typical of anywhere in the tropics: mornings are lovely and clear, and then storm clouds will build until around 4pm, when warm, fat raindrops will be unleashed, fast and furious, for a good hour or two. Occasionally, there might be a week or two where light rain will set in due to a tropical low sitting off the coast, but there can also be weeks at a time with no rain. The main thing you’ll have to deal with is humidity. Locals plan their lives around weather reporting on the Bureau of Meteorology website (bom.gov.au) and recommend you plan your activities the same way. You can also download the BOM app from app stores.

    So what is there to do in the Wet at Kakadu?

    Drive through it: You can still road-trip through the park: the Arnhem and Kakadu highways remain open, as do the roads to Nourlangie, Ubirr and Cooinda, although they may occasionally close after big storms. The roads to Jim Jim and Twin Falls, however, will be closed – best way to see these is on a scenic flight. Old Jim Jim Road, Gunlom, Maguk and Sandy Billabong are also out of action. Many minor unsealed roads are closed; those that remain open are 4WD-only and some bush campgrounds are closed – you’ll find details at kakaduroadreport.wordpress.com.

    Cruise the floodplains: The iconic Yellow Water cruise still operates during the Wet; if anything, we think the experience is better this time of year. Guluyambi cruise operators are also open, but they move from their dry season home on the East Alligator River to the flooded Magela Wetlands. Crossing the Magela also gives you access to the normally popular Ubirr rock art site even when road access is closed – consider it your backstage pass to the art.

    Go fishing: Generally, the ultimate time to go fishing is actually at the end of the Wet (mid-March to April), when waters start to recede and fish collect in certain areas, though there are some areas where the fishing is better towards the middle of the season. See top fishing spots.

    Take a heli-flight: Actually, all three operators listed on p19 offer joy-flights around the park during the Wet, as does North Australian Helicopters (northaustralianhelicopters.com.au). As you’d expect, seeing the waterfalls from above, operating at full force, is something else.

    See rock art: Popular rock art site Nourlangie is not only accessible during the Wet but was, in the past, a home base for indigenous people during the wet months. You can also take the moderate six-kilometre walk to nearby Gubara Pools for a lovely, cooling swim. That walk also includes a turn-off to lesser-known rock art site Nanguluwur – bonus! Visit Mamukala Wetlands: Mamukala is generally open year-round and is home to a bird hide, from which you can watch egrets, darters, herons and forest kingfishers undisturbed across the pandanus, paperbark tree and lily pad-strewn waters. There is more to see and do than this, mind you: head to parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/do/itineraries.html

    What should I pack?

    Aside from the obvious, such as hat, sunscreen, mozzie repellent and good walking shoes? Extra camera batteries. Also, if like us you’re prone to losing sunglasses and dropping brand new phones, we’d suggest picking up a waterproof disposable camera. Finally, you’ll want a big, reusable water bottle – it’s recommended you drink four litres a day here, with a minimum of two litres to carry on a walk. You can refill at most managed campsites, hotels and major sights.

    What kind of accommodation is available?

    There are so many more choices than we have room for here: designated bush camping sites, camping grounds and caravan parks, motel-style lodges, resorts, wilderness retreats… Head to Parks Australia for more info. Note that some camping sites require a permit and others ban alcohol.

     

    For more information: 

    Tourism Northern Territory

    The Beautiful Kakadu Guide

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    A question of seasons: When to go to Kakadu

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Although the year can be roughly divided into two seasons, the dry (May–October) and the wet (November–April), the six seasons, used by Kakadu’s indigenous people for millennia, will give you a much better idea of what to expect and when:

    Gudjewg: January to March, 24–34ºC

    Monsoon season. Expect blue skies each morning, late afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity levels, when waterfalls thunder, greenery explodes and a third of the park becomes floodplains. You can still cruise, fly and drive to many of the park’s attractions; special wet seasons cruises operate at this time of year, too.

    Banggerreng: April, 23–34ºC

    Storm season. Expect the last of ‘knock-em-down’ rains among clearing skies. Landscapes remain lush, while receding waters – also known as the ‘run-off’ – cause fish to congregate in certain areas, making this a fantastic time of year to join one of Kakadu’s fishing tours.

    Yegge: May to June, 21-33ºC

    Cooler but still humid season. A lovely time to visit, when storms have finished and wetlands are carpeted with water lilies (make sure you take a cruise). Cooler breezes bring morning mists and respite from humidity. Previously flooded roads open up, offering access to different areas of the park.

    Wurrgeng: Mid June to mid August, 17–30ºC

    ‘Cold’ season. As waterways and floodplains have dried up, some wet season cruises are unavailable, but more open roads mean more access via car instead. Meanwhile magpie geese, fat and heavy from weeks of feasting, flock to billabongs, resulting in fantastic bird-watching.

    Gurrung: Late August to September, 23–37ºC

    Hot dry season. Heat returns and clouds start to gather, but humidity keeps its distance. Billabongs remain crowded with birds (including those magpie geese), ensuring great birdwatching; the majority of the park remains accessible by road.

    Gunumeleng: October to December, 24–37ºC

    Pre-monsoon season. Gunumeleng can last from a few weeks to several months, with dazzling lightning shows that hint at storms to come. Almost all roads are still accessible at this time of year, but watch for early rains.

     

    For more information: Tourism Northern Territory

    The Kakadu Guide: Everything you ever wanted and needed to know about Kakadu

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    Kakadu’s best 4WD tours

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 8, 2015

    Considering a four-wheel-drive to of majestic Kakadu National Park? Look no further, here are our pick of the 4WD bunch…

    Spirit of Kakadu Adventure Tour

    For a full day of activity (almost 10 hours) take this indigenous-owned excursion that operates year-round (departing from Cooinda Lodge). In the dry season you’ll head for Jim Jim and Twin Falls, which plunge off the escarpment, making them two of the most spectacular sights in Kakadu (though you’ll discover early on why you need a 4WD vehicle to get there). There’s a maximum of 16 passengers and the cost is $205 (gagudju-dreaming.com). We’d also recommend indigenous-owned tour operator Arnhemlander, as well as Top End Explorer Tours and Lords Safaris.

    Animal Tracks Safari

    In the dry season (May–October) you can take a seven-hour wildlife safari and fascinating Aboriginal cultural tour in an open 4WD each afternoon (departing from Cooinda). We can’t recommend this enough: you’ll find and hunt the ingredients for your dinner, then cook them to eat while watching the sun set over a billabong alive with bird life. Animal Tracks has exclusive access to some areas of wetlands and woodlands, with a maximum of 18 guests along with the expert Aboriginal guide. The cost is $205. animaltracks.com.au

    Overnight/multi-day 4WD tours

    There are plenty of 4WD tour companies that take a little longer to enjoy Kakadu, or combine it with other wonders around the area such as the Cobourg Peninsula and Arnhem Land.

    Kakadu 4WD Safaris has a range of tours, including a two-day, wet-season adventure, which focus on the small group experience and venture off the beaten track. From $395.

    Brookes Australia calls its Kakadu multi-day tours ‘civilised adventure’; every night is spent ensconsed in a hotel if you’re not interested in that camping palaver. From $2221.

    Venture North offers a five-day natural wonder-a-thon that takes in billabongs, swims, walks and art in Kakadu as well as the Cobourg Peninsula and Arnhem Land. From $2990.

    Sugarbag Safaris is a small, local outfit run by encyclopaedic Brolga Award-winning guide Hamish. His five-day Kakadu, Katherine and Litchfield tour includes a wildlife cruise and camping under the stars in a custom swag. From $910.

     

    More information: 

    Tourism Northern Territory and Parks Australia.

    The Kakadu GuideA beautiful guide to a beautiful place

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    100 Greatest Holidays of Australia: #4 see Kakadu

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 1, 2014

    Score: 8.92

    Back in 2006, when we published the world-first list of 100 Things To Do In Australia Before You Die, Kakadu was #1. Eight years later, we’re happy to say that it’s still as magical as it was, even if the Kimberley has seduced us all since then. Just as we said back then, there are really two ways you need to see it: in the wet (December to March), when the incredible colours (and even more incredible weather) make for an empirical overload; and in the dry, when you can swim the waterholes (like this one, known as the top pool of Gunlom Falls), walk the walks and sleep under the stars sans fear of a tent flood. More info: Kakadu

    “Kakadu has a sense of quiet spirituality about it. Dotted with Aboriginal artworks, sweeping plains and soaring escarpments, it’s dramatic, huge and endlessly fascinating.” – Jen Pinkerton

     

    Book this adventure with our sponsor Broome and Kimberleys Holidays

     

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    Your Shot winner: ‘reflections on Kakadu’

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MARCH 24, 2014

    I took this shot in August at sunrise, just a few minutes before stepping on board a cruise on Yellow Water Billabong in the Kakadu National Park. I knew I would see many animal species during the cruise and I was also aware that there were plenty of crocodiles in the water… however, at this moment, I was only contemplating the calm of the misty scene. I really wanted to capture the contrast between the landscape and the wildlife that was about to wake up soon! The colours were spectacular and I loved the perfect reflection.”

    Delphine Denans, Sydney, NSW

    Calling all Australian Travellers! Think you’ve got a winning photo? Send your best Australian travel image to photo@australiantraveller.com For your image to be considered, it must be sent in high-res (300dpi at a minimum of 10cm wide). Please also include your contact details and a short description of the photo. For this incredible winning image AT reader Delphine Denans has won a Tamron SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) macro lens (model number A001), valued at $1249. This wide-aperture lens features low-dispersion glass for reduced chromatic aberration, and internal focusing.

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    Kakadu like you have never seen it before

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • FEBRUARY 21, 2014

    Northern Territory photographer Tracy Ryan has a knack of capturing the majesty of Kakadu, in all its seasons and moods. Here are her top photography spots in the 20,000 square kilometre national park.

    Kakadu’s ancient wetlands, escarpment, outliers, woodlands, and monsoon rainforests – home to our earliest Australians for more than 50,000 years – are a photographic and cultural adventure.

    The national park recognises the local indigenous calendar of six seasons, where throughout the year the landscapes undergo spectacular changes. The favourite time of year for photography enthusiasts to visit the park is ‘Wurreng’, in June and July (height of the dry season and its coolest time of year). Yet, all year round, in all of the seasons, there is always somewhere spectacular to photograph.

    Here are my favourite spots and the best time to photograph them. Enjoy!

    1. South Alligator Region: Mamukala Wetlands (Sunrise)

    Make sure you get here early to photograph sunrise while waterbirds fly in for their first meal of the day. With the sun rising in a perfect spot opposite the well-covered observation platform, you will definitely be able to get that perfect shot. The sun rises very fast in the Top End, so make sure you arrive before first light. Oh, and, cover up; the mosquitoes are huge, plentiful and are there for a morning meal as well.

    Tips: Carry a tripod to keep your camera steady, set your ISO very high and use no flash. Also, a polarising filter can help to create vivid colours.

    2. Nourlangie Region: Nawurlandja Lookout (Mid Morning)

    Nawurlandja Lookout is a sensational spot, very easy to access yet still quite a secret. Not many people venture past the well known spot at Nourlangie – it’s only about a 500m walk up a slope. The well signposted spot affords spectacular, expansive views, taking in Anbangbang Billabong, Nourlangie and an escarpment in the distance. On a clear day, you can see forever!

    Tips: Use a good wide angle lens and a polarising filter to help create vivid blues and greens. Even with a ‘point and shoot’ camera on automatic you’ll get a sensational shot.

    3. Nourlangie Region: Anbangbang Billabong (Early Afternoon to Late Afternoon)

    If you can get into Anbangbang Billabong (check access) it is well worth visiting after Nawurlandja Lookout. In Wurreng, it is more likely that you will be able to access the circular walk around the billabong. If not, access is open along the entrance and down near the picnic areas. Head towards the end, look back, and you will see Nourlangie forming a spectacular backdrop to the billabong, which teems with birdlife and lilies. Beware of crocodiles! As the day progresses, the colours here change dramatically; the later you stay the more spectacular.

    Tips: A wide angle lens and tripod are recommended.

    4. Jim Jim Falls & Twin Falls Region (Midday & Later)

    Spectacular Jim Jim Falls is accessible only by 4WD (check access) and takes two hours one way, with soft sand prevalent in the last 10km of the track. Then there is a 2km return walk to the falls through monsoon rainforest and over boulders (make sure you are fit, wear good shoes and take plenty of water!), taking you to a deep plunge pool where silica sand rests on the bottom, leftover from the ancient inland sea that once covered much of inland Australia. Ensure you allow a day for this trip if you want to take your time to get some good shots. Crocodiles have been sighted in this area, so heed the information at the start of the walk. You will be able to capture amazing shots all along this walk, but the best opportunities are not too far from the carpark, where you can capture the immensity of this ancient landscape and reflections in the water of the towering gorge.

    Tips: Use a high ISO in low light, but a standard lens will suffice.

    5. Yellow Water Region: Kakadu Animal Tracks Safari (Sunset)

    To capture the most spectacular sunset shots in Kakadu, head to my favourite place, Goose Camp – only accessible on a half day, Kakadu Animal Tracks Safari. This safari has access to wildlife-rich wetlands and tropical savannah woodland and includes an unforgettable, awe-inspiring bird gathering spectacle, where magpie geese, ducks, pelicans, kites, black-necked stork and brolga can be seen feeding and settling down for the night. Buffalo and crocodile may also feature.

    Tips: Make sure you take your long lenses if you want to capture intimate shots of the birdlife and a wide angle lens for sunset shots. Under exposure and a high ISO will make colours more vivid.

    Tracy Ryan is an award-winning landscape and nature photographer from Darwin and a Kakadu National Park tour guide. Since 2005, she has been travelling and guiding throughout Australia. Tracy is hosting ‘Kakadu National Park: Photography Adventure’, which runs from July 14 to 18. Early bird pricing until 28 February, 2014 – nine places available. See Tracy Ryan Photography for more information. 

     

    MORE: Into travel photography? You soon will be…

    — Kakadu —

    100 Incredible Travel Secrets #83 Jarrangbarnmi (or Koolpin Gorge), NT

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 3, 2013

    Sandstone secret in Kakadu

    Jarrangbarnmi (or Koolpin Gorge), Kakadu National Park, NT

    Jarrangbarnmi (or Koolpin Gorge), is as rugged as it is remote in Kakadu National Park.

    Located in a culturally-sensitive area, only 40 people can access it at any one time, making it a key destination to learn about the local Jawoyn culture.

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    100 Best Views In Australia #40 Gunlom Falls top pool, NT

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • APRIL 1, 2012

    Where is it?

    Waterfall Creek in Kakadu National Park, 315km south-east of Darwin 

    How to see it for yourself?
    Gunlom Falls are accessible by 4WD vehicles along the Gunlom Track, near the southern entrance to Kakadu National Park. Drive carefully as the track is unsealed, subject to flooding and sandy in areas. It is impassable in the wet season but open between May and October. Once there, visitors can swim at the base of the falls or take the walking track to the top where there are more swimming holes – and where this view was taken. The walking track is steep, uneven and suitable for people with a medium level of fitness. Remember to take plenty of water for the trek.

    Why I love it

    “It’s the magical combination of a waterfall and serene plunge pool, with shady gums cooling the picnic areas. A steep climb to the top of the waterfall provides sweeping views of the southernmost parts of Kakadu National Park while you enjoy a relaxing dip in the crystal- learpools.” – Nelson Hall, Tourism NT

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    — Kakadu —

    100 Best Views In Australia #61 Ubirr Sunset, NT

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • APRIL 1, 2012

    Where is it?

    Kakadu National Park, NT

    How to see it for yourself?

    Drive 117km east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway. From the Ubirr Arts Centre, walk 1km to view Indigenous rock art and access the lookout via signed paths.

    Why I love it

    “I’ll never forget my first sunset at Ubirr. I’d spent the afternoon enjoying the rock art, then made my way to the stone escarpment. It was beautiful looking out over the Nadab floodplain and surrounding stone country as the sun sank below the horizon. Wisps of bushfire smoke played with the pink and purple hues of the sunset.” – Nelson Hall, Tourism NT

    Image by Tourism NT 

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    — Kakadu —

    100 Best Views In Australia #77 Gindjala (Goose Camp), NT

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • APRIL 1, 2012

    Where is it?

    300km east of Darwin in Kakadu National Park, Gagudju Lodge Cooinda (near Yellow Waters)

    How to see it for yourself?
    See flocks of magpie geese taking off on a tour with Kakadu Animal Tracks Safaris, costing from $205 for adults and $135 for children. Safaris leave from Gagudju Lodge Cooinda.

    Why I love it

    “This is one of the largest annual bird gatherings in the world. The best bit is the deafening roar as the sky fills with tens of thousands of wetland birds evading a hungry crocodile, sea eagle or dingo. It is the sight that every Kakadu visitor hopes to see.” – Rachael Arnold, Kakadu Animal Tracks Safari

    Image by Rachael Arnold

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