Kakadu National Park is one of the few real wild places in Australia of large size - especially when combined with the Arnhem Land region to the east. Certainly there are other wild places but Kakadu has its own unique place in Australian wilderness. Many people do not appreciate the sheer beauty and presence of Kakadu and for most this is probably because they want the experience without the effort. To really appreciate Kakadu the visitor needs to move away from the
sealed roads and easily accessible tourist locations - and what better way is there to do this than to actually walk in among it all. Perhaps this page will inspire this among many, even if it is only to venture a couple of kilometres on one of the many established walks in this World Heritage Area.
ABOVE: An Introduction to Kakadu National Park
Perhaps the real value of Kakadu's lost appeal to mass tourism is that it is now a place of wilderness that will remain so, with little in the way of human desecration. I know a number of people who were very disappointed with Kakadu - yet they didn't bother to move away from their cars! There lies the root of their disappointment.
Kakado National Park is a World Heritage listed area located some 150km south-east of the Northern Territory's capital, Darwin. The national park covers an amazing 20 000 square kilometres of near pristine wilderness in Australia's Top End. Here you will find not just incredible landscapes and wildlife, but also evidence of Australia's oldest human inhabitants, with many Aboriginal art galleries (said to be some 5 000 individual sites) and shelter sites. The Aboriginal
'Gagudju' people have inhabited Kakadu for many thousands of years.
Entrance to the park is off the Stuart Highway, via either the Kakadu Highway or the Arnhem Highway. The latest is that entrance fees have been removed.
With any visit to the park you should always take sunscreen, water and tropical strength insect repellant. Not only will this make a visit more pleasant, but it will also protect you from serious health issues while in the park, including dehydration, sunburn, Ross River disease and Murray Valley Encephalitis, etc). Be wary also of the Saltwater Crocodiles and Dingoes.
Kakadu National Park is a place that's worth visiting on more than one occasion, and then at different times of the year. It is a place of great seasonable change. Most people probably visit during the dry season, from April to October (especially from July), for it is then when almost all roads are available for use. Though some of the parks features are cut off by flood waters during the wet, sights that are unknown during the dry can be experienced then. Actually, there are more
than two seasons in Kakadu. The Aboriginal people were able to identify some six seasons, with each offering something new for the visitor to experience.
I have been to Kakadu at a time when there was plenty of water (May), but the wildlife was thin on the ground. In the dry the great water falls loose their appeal, yet bird life is abundant in the dwindling wetland areas. In the build up to the wet there are the spectacular lightening displays. As I said, there is always a reason to visit - if you are prepared to actually explore and spend some time in wilderness.
Kakadu National Park Headquarters is located at the Bowali Centre. The centre provides all the maps and leaflets required for visiting the attractions of the park, as well as a variety of souvenirs and refreshments. The centre is well worth a visit. It's not far from Jabiru on the Kakadu Highway.
Jabiru is the township located in the middle of the national park. All supplies needed for an extended stay at Kakadu are available here. Also located at Jabiru is the crocodile shaped Gagudju Crocodile Hotel. Scenic flights are also available from Jabiru.
Yellow Water is perhaps the best way to become quickly acquainted with Kakadu's wetland environments. Here you are able to take a cruise around the wetlands, where you will be able to see the birdlife and the park's most dangerous inhabitant, the Saltwater Crocodile. Yellow Water is on the South Alligator River.
There is also a boardwalk here, allowing a view of the wetlands and birds.
Not far from Yellow Water is the Gagudju Cooinda Lodge, providing motel, caravan and camping areas. The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre is also located here.
Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are located in the heart of the park, being accessible only in the dry season by 4WD. These waterfalls are the most well-known of the park's many waterfalls. Organised tours do go to the falls.
Jim Jim Falls is probably the best known of these waterfalls, plummeting some 200m from the Arnhem escarpment to the Jim Jim creek below. Camping is allowable here, with toilets and BBQs provided. However, a 4WD is required to reach the area.
A 10km 4WD sandy track from Jim Jim falls takes you to Twin Falls. To get to the falls from the end of the track is a 1km journey through the water (via an air mattress or the like).
Located in the south of the park, Gunlom Falls is some 37km off the Kakadu Highway. A 4WD is not necessary for this trip, though care is certainly recommended at some spots along the road. Here there is a camping and picnic spot at the base of the falls, which is truly a spectacular site.
There is a walk that goes to the top of the falls, which is very much worth the climb, with views over the surrounding area and access to smaller falls above the main fall.
The Ubirr rock area is one of the true highlights of Kakadu. It is found about 3km north of Border Store on the edge of Arnhem Land. At Ubirr there are tremendous views of the plains, wetland areas and rock formations, as well as access to amazing Aboriginal rock art. Not far from Ubirr there are further opportunities to walk around some amazing landscape features and wetland areas, close to the Arnhem area.
The walk at Ubirr Circuit is only 1km long and is wheelchair accessible. There is the art work, but also the views after a very short climb to the top of the escarpment.
The Bardedjilidji Sandstone Walk is an easy 2.5km walk around some amazing sandstone landforms. It is found not far from the Border Store, on the edge of Arnhem Land. There are some Aboriginal art sites here also.
The photos are all hosted at Flickr and can be viewed via the slideshow below. Alternatively, clicking on the centre of the slideshow will take you to the album at Flickr, which will of course allow you to view far better images.