Birds, birds and more birds

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Humpty Doo

Less than an hour’s drive from Darwin, Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is a bird-lover’s delight – it’s home to about 200 species. Grab your binoculars and wander through the wetland sanctuary to spot the blue-winged kookaburra, or the diminutive comb-crested jacana – often referred to as the Jesus bird for its ability to seemingly walk on water.

Keep an eye out for the majestic jabiru, one of the world’s tallest flying birds.


Also look out for: Magpie geese, white-bellied sea eagles, ibis and waterlilies.
Length: From 2.2km to 3.6km return.
Difficulty: Easy.
When to go: Anytime, but the dawn chorus is superb.

Australian golden orb-weaver spider

Shady Creek Walk, Litchfield National Park
For those looking to conquer their fear of creepy-crawlies, the Shady Creek Walk in Litchfield National Park, 115 kilometres south of Darwin, will bring you up close to one of the largest arachnids in Australia: the golden orb-weaver spider.
Their dazzling yellow silk webs can be easily spotted throughout the walk, and any panic sweats can be cooled down with a dip in the spectacular Florence Falls, where the walk concludes.

Also look out for: Green ant nests, magnetic termite mounds.
Length: 2km loop, starting at Florence Falls picnic area.
Difficulty: Easy.
When to go: May to September.

Crocodiles

Mardugal Billabong Walk, Kakadu National Park
It’s possible to be awed by both freshwater and estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles in Kakadu. While a boat cruise through the Yellow Water wetlands is one way to observe these ancient reptiles in their natural habitat, the short Mardugal Billabong Walk offers a more immersive experience.
Take in spindly black wattle and paperbark trees as the trail winds its way to a picnic spot overlooking the billabong.

Also look out for: Forest kingfishers, nesting sea eagles, pelicans, whistling kites and Mertens’ water monitors.
Length: 1km return walk (30 minutes).
Difficulty: Easy.
When to go: May to September.

Gouldian finch

Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park

Showcasing everything from dramatic sandstone gorges and cascading waterfalls to secluded rockpools and deserted beaches, Nitmiluk National Park boasts a range of walks for all abilities.

At 62 kilometres, the one-way Jatbula Trail climbs over the Arnhem Land escarpment, offering lucky walkers the chance to spot the small but brilliantly bold Gouldian finch. This endangered bird, once found by the millions, is spectacularly splashed with a bright green back, yellow belly and purple breast.

Also look out for: Goannas, wallabies, rainbow lorikeets, corellas, bowerbirds and blue-winged kookaburras.
Length: 62km (5-7 days).
Difficulty: Difficult.
When to go: June to August.

Little red flying fox

Elsey National Park  

Casting a dark shadow over the evening sky, the little red flying fox congregates in enormous, boisterous colonies. They are often considered pests, when in fact their role in helping to maintain Australia’s biodiversity is critical.

Get a glimpse of these creatures at Elsey National Park, south of Mataranka, where you can bathe in two stunning swimming holes surrounded by palm forests, with 34°C turquoise-coloured spring water bubbling from below.

There’s also a variety of walking tracks, ranging from the easy Bitter Springs 20-minute loop, to the 16-kilometre Riverside Walk for the committed.

Also look out for: Turtles, fish, kingfishers, white-breasted sea eagles and wallabies.
Length: From 500m to 16km.
Difficulty: Easy.
When to go: May to September.

 

Mertens’ water monitor

Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

It can be a shock to discover you’re sharing a waterhole with a metre-long lizard, but the Mertens’ water monitor is as shy as they come. Often found basking in the sunshine next to a billabong, this proficient swimmer feeds on fish, frogs and small mammals.

The impressive Ormiston Gorge is the place to spot one. The chasm is a haven for wildlife and there are numerous walking tracks, including the Ghost Gum Lookout Walk (20 minutes), with its brilliant gorge views, and the excellent, circuitous three-hour Pound Walk.

Also look out for: Dingoes, fish, goannas, geckos, pythons and birdlife.
Length: From 2.4km (Ghost Gum Walk) to 9km (Pound Walk).
Difficulty: Moderate.
When to go: May to September.

This feature was created by Australian Traveller and supported by Tourism NT