Kakadu NP is more than 20’000 km^2 in size, which is about half the size of Switzerland. And because of its immense size and the many possible activities we present you our top picks:
Swim at the Gunlom Falls
It is a 37km drive on a dirtroad to the Gunlom Falls and when your car is not made for those conditions you feel like a vodka-martini that had been shaken for 1.5 hours. But you get rewarded with a natural infinity pool with a stunning view over the Kakadu NP:
Tony is for sure not an offroader but he was brave and mastered the full distance to those magnificent falls including a little bit of water he had to cross. But right when we arrived at the campsite there was fire. In accordance with the aboriginal tradition the rangers were burning the undergrowth, so that in case of a natural fire there wouldn’t be enough fuel for the fire to burn too hot and to destroy the plants but to give them a chance to recover. We don’t mind traditions that have proven to work but for us the smell was unbearable.
Luckily the falls itself were smoke free. We enjoyed a refreshing swim in the lower pool before we hiked up to the top where, similar to the Edith falls, a whole waterpark was awaiting us. There was a warm waterfall to swim to, rocks to slide over and the above-mentioned infinity pool where we stayed until the sun was down. It was probably one of the most impressive places we have ever been to.
Educate yourself at the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
The Aboriginal people living in the north of Kakadu NP are called Bininj and the ones in the south Mungguy. They have been there for about 65’000 years which makes them the oldest living culture on earth. They all share a deep spiritual connection to their country and they express this in many different ways that can be best understood when visiting this cultural center.
Search for Saltwater Crocodiles on a Yellow Water Cruise
The Yellow Water cruise close to Cooinda is an amazing experience. Not only do you see many of those giant and notorious salt water crocodiles, you also get the chance to see wild horses, wild cattle, lots of birds and plants but you also learn so much about the flora and fauna that you feel like a biologist afterwards.
We weren’t sure at first if we should take the tour, as it seemed rather expensive to us for a 2.5h tour, but we didn’t regret our decision for a second. It was an amazing cruise with a great captain and guide who showed us more wildlife and gave us more info than we would have ever expected. He showed us everything from the notorious salty to the smallest bird with the biggest feet. We saw wild horses running and wild cattle feeding and on top of all that our captain was a fantastic entertainer.
Get filled with wonder from the rock art at Nourlangie and Ubirr
Rock art fulfilled many purposes. It was a way of telling stories, of educating younger tribe members and as part of spiritual rituals. And because the act of painting is generally more important than the painting itself, there are often many different layers painted on top of each other.
In addition to impressive rock art there is a lookout on both sites. The Gunwarddehwarde Lookout in Nourlangie is nice, but the Nadab Lookout in Ubirr is minblowing. The view you get over parts of the wetlands, the mangrove forest and the floodplains is probably the best in the entire park.
Because of a mix up with the dates by me we missed the guided ranger walk at the rock art but thanks to excellent descriptions at the sites itself we managed to gain an understanding by ourself. We also gained an understanding of the mosquitos. While thanks to the smoke there weren’t any at the Gunlom falls, yellow river was full of them. And thanks to some fellow campers we didn’t make the mistake to camp in Ubirr where the harassment of Mosquitos must have be on a totally different level.
Observe the waterbirds at the Mamukala Wetlands
About one third of Australia’s birds can be found in Kakadu NP and the Mamukala Wetlands is one of the best places to see some of them. Especially in late August it must be astonishing to see thousands of mappie geese digging for water chestnuts.
As we were there in mid-June there wasn’t as much bird action happening, but we were lucky to spot a goanna in the grass and a last agile wallaby was disappearing in the bushes. It was a last hot day that ended our fantastic Kakadu NP experience.