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Kakadu National Park

Photo © richardn

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Northern Territory Kakadu National Park

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Introduction

Kakadu National Park, Australia

Kakadu National Park, Australia

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Kakadu National Park is a vast park the size of Israel in the Northern Territory, Australia, east of Darwin. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Kakadu National Park supports a huge variety of flora and fauna, many species of which are rare or endemic. Historically, Kakadu National Park was the home of Aboriginal people, and much of the current NP is Aboriginal land. The area is also rich in Aboriginal rock art, with over 5,000 sites found.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Bowali Visitor Centre situated just outside of Jabiru, has a wealth of information on the Park's ecology and Aboriginal culture and has an excellent gallery and souvenir shop. Located in Jabiru, the Centre's long lineal design was inspired by an Aboriginal rock shelter.
  • The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre Located in Cooinda -The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre's architecture represents the story of World Heritage-listed Kakadu as told by the traditional owners. The circular design of the centre symbolises a warradjan, the pig-nosed turtle
  • Ubirr is one of Kakadu National Park’s two most famous Aboriginal rock art galleries. The galleries can be viewed by following an easy one kilometre circular walking track. During the dry season Park Rangers give free scheduled talks about the ancient rock art. A moderately steep 250 metre climb takes you to a rocky outlook with views across the floodplains. Enjoying a spectacular tropical sunset from the top of Ubirr is not to be missed. During the tropical summer months access is restricted, check with the Bowali Visitor Centre for the latest information.
  • Nourlangie Rock - The walls of the Nourlangie Rock Art Site have served as a shelter and canvas for thousands of years providing windows to a rich spiritual tradition. Paintings such as Namarrgon, lightning man, explore the relationship of the people to their country and beliefs.
  • Nanguluwur art site, near Nourlangie Rock, is a small Aboriginal rock art gallery. Many rock art styles are represented from hand stencils, dynamic figures in large headdresses carrying spears and boomerangs, Namandi spirits and mythical figures.
  • Yellow Water, a stunning "billabong" (which is actually an arm of the East Alligator River) brimming with native flora and fauna. Its one of Kakadu National Park’s best known landmarks. Located near the small settlement of Cooinda, Yellow Water is home to crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and other wildlife. The billabong, which floods to join other waterways during the tropical season, also attracts millions of migratory birds each year, including jacana, egrets, jabiru, sea eagles, magpie geese and many other native species. Daily boat tours can be booked via Cooinda Lodge. For a real treat, the dawn trip is the best for bird watching and seeing the sun come up. Make sure you bring mosquito repellent.
  • Twin Falls is set in the Arnhem Land escarpment. Access to the falls is via the Twin Falls Gorge Boat Shuttle Service that will ferry you to the base of the falls. Note that the walk to the boat shuttle, although easy, is very exposed and hot. Post-boat shuttle, the walk continues and in some parts may present a challenge to those with a fear of heights. Carry sufficient drinking water.
  • Koolpin Gorge - available only through 4WD tours with a permit, but well worth it.
  • Bardedjilidji Walk, Ubirr, Kakadu National Park, Jabiru (Via Oenpelli Road), ☎ +61 8 8938 1120. Through layered sandstone outliers, woodlands and wetlands alongside the East Alligator River, this is one of Kakadu's most interesting short walks which starts at a small carpark 500 metres from the upstream boat ramp on the East Alligator River. You can complete it by yourself (map with information sheet available) or join the guided walk departing the shelter on Mondays. Allow 2 hours for this easy to moderate 2.5-kilometre walk. Please enquire with the Bowali Visitor Centre for accessibility as it is subject to weather conditions (flooding) and for the availability of guides. Free entry.
  • Gunlom Plunge Pool, Kakadu Highway, Jabiru (200 kilometres south of Jabiru), ☎ +61 8 8938 1120. Located on Waterfall Creek in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, is the combination of 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 southern-most parts of Kakadu National Park while you enjoy a relaxing soak in the crystal clear pools. Free entry.
  • Gubara, Kakadu National Park, Jabiru (Via Nourlangie Rock Road), ☎ +61 8 8938 1120. A six kilometre return walk past sandstone cliffs to shady monsoon forest pools. Gubara is found nine kilometres in on the first road to the right after the Nourlangie carpark. It is a pleasant place to spend the heat of the day where the grade is moderate and you should allow four hours to complete. You'll be delighted by the multitudes of butterflies surrounding the pools and can enjoy a refreshing dip after the walk. Free entry.
  • Walking is a great way to experience Kakadu. There are many walks throughout the park, including a wide variety of short and easy day walks as well as some longer, more challenging full day walks for those who are fit. Check seasonal access. A permit is required for anyone wishing to do an overnight bushwalk. Advance planning is essential, as is the ability to navigate using a topographic map and a compass. The routes are unmarked, and extend through remote and rugged country with variable climatic conditions.
  • A small, private cruise on the Corroboree or Yellow Water Billabongs is the best way to get a very close, safe and eco-friendly look at the biggest crocodiles in the world. Most tours include an activity like this. Shady Camp, near Corroboree, is home to one of the biggest crocodiles in the park at 6 meters in length.
  • Jim Jim Falls - Whether the falls are raging with water or the merest trickle, this majestic waterfall is a sight to behold at the end of a challenging four-wheel drive track in the southern escarpment country of Kakadu National Park. Set in the red ochre of the Arnhem Land escarpment, and boasting white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, it is worth the 900 metre walk across rocks to appreciate this special area. Jim Jim Falls has graced many calendars, books and television programs and is a must see for all visitors to Kakadu National Park. Note that the walk in to the Falls is not suitable for those with mobility or health/fitness issues - small chidren would struggle to balance and rock ramble. Take sufficient drinking water and swimming gear for a rewarding cool off.

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Opening Hours

The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not all areas though can be visited during all days, as the main thing to remember is the fact that the rainy season might spoil some plans you have. There is always something to do though and boat trips are a good alternative to walking trails during that season. There are a few restrictions to the 24-hour-open-policy:

  • Bowali Visitor Centre: Open 8.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.
  • Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre: Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.
  • Ubirr Rock: Open 8.30am - sunset from 1 April - 30 November; 2.00pm - sunset from 1 December - 31 March.
  • Nourlangie Rock: Open dawn - dusk daily.

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Cost

There is now an entry fee for Kakadu National Park - $25 per person over 16 years of age. The entry pass is valid for 14 days.

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Weather

Throughout the year, Kakadu’s landscapes undergo spectacular changes. Bininj/Mungguy recognise six different seasons, as well as subtle variations that signpost the transition from one season to another. This knowledge of nature is fundamental to the culture of Kakadu and its people. Bininj/Mungguy have lived with the changing landscape for tens of thousands of years, adapting and using the land for food, shelter and general well−being.

  • Yegge - Cool weather time, May to June. The wetlands are carpeted with water lilies. Drying winds and flowering Darwin woolly butt tell Bininj/Mungguy to patchwork burn the woodlands to encourage new growth.
  • Wurrgeng - Early dry season, June to August Most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out. Magpie geese, fat and heavy after weeks of abundant food crowd the shrinking billabongs.
  • Gurrung - Hot dry season, August to October Hunting time for file snakes and long-necked turtles. White-breasted wood swallows arrive as thunderclouds build, signalling the return of Gunumeleng.
  • Gunumeleng - Pre-monsoon, October to December Streams begin to run, water birds spread out as surface water and new growth becomes widespread. Barramundi move from the waterholes downstream to the estuaries to breed.
  • Gudjewg - Monsoon, December to March. The heat and humidity generate an explosion of plant and animal life. Spear grass grows to over two metres tall and creates a silvery-green hue throughout the woodlands.
  • Banggerreng - Harvest time, April. Clear skies prevail, the vast expanses of floodwater recede and streams start to run clear. Most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young.

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Getting There

By Car

If you're coming from Darwin, the most direct route is via the Arnhem Highway, which leads straight into the northern part of the park. Alternatively, it is also possible to drive into the park along the Kakadu Highway, which intersects with the Stuart Highway at Pine Creek. This is a more convenient option if you're coming from Katherine or other towns further south in the Northern Territory.
Both entrance roads are sealed and you can do a total loop visiting places along the way. Note that some parts might be cut off during the rainy season though (November - March/April).
You can find the latest road conditions at the park's website.

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Getting Around

Most of the main sights and activities can be reached by good tarmac roads, which are all-weather roads. Some areas might have limited access though during the wet season (Nov-March/April). This includes popular walking trails which become inaccessible during this season. The road to Ubirr (Ubirr Rock opening times, see above) for example is often the last road which opens up somewhere during April.
You can find the latest road conditions at the park's website.

There are fuel facilities at Kakadu Resort (at South Alligator), Jabiru, Cooinda and Wirnwirnmila Mary River Road House. Fuel up as many times as possible.

Scenic Flights in either small, fixed wing aircraft or helicopter are available. Air strips are located at Jaibiru and Cooinda.

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Eat

Jabiru has a supermarket where you will find all the basic necessities. There are also a few nice little restaurants and cafes. Basic food is available at the sporadic rest stops and museums throughout the park.

The lodge at Cooinda serves food until about 9pm and drinks later (whenever things slow down, it seems). The food is really good and includes dishes like the wild goose and kangaroo pie, but neither it or the drinks are cheap.

Kakadu Bakery (close to Lakeview as well as Kakadu Lodge) serves pastries, sandwiches and pizza at reasonable prices.

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Drink

It is vital that you carry plenty of water with you at all times, especially during the dry season. Some of the upper rock pools are safe to drink from, but lower level rivers are not.

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Sleep

There is a wide range of accommodation options in the park, from campsites to relatively luxurious hotels.

Budget

Camping sites throughout the park include those at Jabiru, Cooinda and South Alligator, which all have commercial camping areas and are in close proximity to most of the important natural attractions in these areas.
There are also some free sites, but with less facilities. At many of the larger camping sites you can also rent simple rooms. These mainly fall into the mid-range accommodation though.

Mid-Range

Upscale

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Contributors

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This is version 7. Last edited at 8:30 on Aug 11, 17 by Utrecht. 14 articles link to this page.

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