Sunday, September 22, 2013

Australia 2013 | Kakadu National Park & Yellow Water Cruise #NTAustraliaSG

Kakadu National Park was the first national park we visited in Northern Territory, Australia. About 3 hours drive away from Darwin city centre, Kakadu National Park is pretty huge. It covers an area of 19,804 km2, which is nearly half the size of Switzerland!

Kakadu National Park represents nature on a grand scale and contains vast floodplains, meandering river systems, teeming billabongs, towering escarpments and majestic waterfalls. Wildlife abounds from millions of migratory birds to the mighty saltwater crocodiles. It has a dual World Heritage listing for both its natural beauty and its preservation of the unique Aboriginal culture. Like many of the other national parks in Australia, it is owned and jointly run by the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people of Kakadu are known as Binunj {pronounced bin-ing} / Mungguy {pronounced Moong-gooy}

Aboriginal people have called Kakadu home for some 50,000 years and this is reflected in the significant rock art sites of Nourlangie and Ubirr. Today, Aboriginal culture and traditions are alive and well preserved in the Park, where a permanent Aboriginal population continues to live according to their law.

The secret to discovering Kakadu is to take your time. With time comes stories, secrets and sights never imagined. It is impossible to discover the full beauty of the park in a fleeting visit and recommended stay is actually 3-5 days. However, as with most travel, time is of the essence and we spent just 2 days covering the major attractions - Nourlangie Rock, Yellow Water Cruise, Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Ubirr Rock.   

Nourlangie features a 1.5km circular walk that takes you past ancient Aboriginal shelters and several beautiful rock art sites, the most impressive of all is the Anbangbang {pronounced arn-barng-barng} Gallery. Hand-painted images of the Rainbow Serpent {a Creation Ancestor in Aboriginal culture}, mischievous Mimi spirits and other mythical Aboriginal creatures line the rock walls to serve as a lesson or a warning to the young or to those passing through the area. Some of these paintings are andjaman {sacred & dangerous} and can only be seen by the Aboriginal seniors; others can be seen by all people.

The climb up to Gun-warddehwardde Lookout is pretty steep, and would likely be very tedious for the small ones. I can so imagine Lil Pumpkin saying "carry me! carry me!" 15 minutes into the climb :P It does provide an impressive view of overlooking the rest of Kakadu though. The whole walk around Nourlangie Rock took us about 2 hours. 

After Nourlangie, we stayed over at Gagudju Lodge Cooinda which has comfortable chalet-like rooms, tent sites, powered van sites, bistro, restaurant, pool, mini-mart {sells souvenirs, stamps, baby food etc.} and internet cafe. This accommodation offered short, easy access to the Yellow Water Cruise, which we had to wake up early in the morning for the next day. Reservations are recommended as this is a popular accommodation site in Kakadu.
Just before sunrise the next day, we made our way to Yellow Water, which is part of the South Alligator River floodplain to take a 2 hours cruise. The Yellow Water Cruise operates throughout the year with excellent guides {I'm so amazed at their ability to spot the various animals!} and provides a marvellous opportunity to see the varied wildlife e.g. crocodiles, whistling ducks, kingfishers, magpie geese of Kakadu's wetlands. As you can see from the first picture, the colours and natural beauty that greeted us was just breathtaking and so surreal. 

My compact camera and iPhone couldn't capture the scenery nicely, but it was a blessing as Leo pointed out since I could just sit back and truly enjoy the ride without worrying about capturing the perfect shot. Moments like these are meant to be experienced with your eyes and soul, not through the camera lens. You can have a look at's video to understand the magnificence of what we saw though.
We headed back to Gagudju Lodge Cooinda for a buffet breakfast, then visited the Warradjan Aboriginal Culture Centre. The circular design of this centre represents a warradjan {warr-ar-jarn, pig-nosed turtle} and the large display of Aboriginal artifacts is developed by the Binij / Mungguy and provides detailed information about them. Great care was taken collecting and constructing display features such as the goose hunting platform, dilly bags, pandanus baskets and paintings. Out of respect, you can't take photographs inside the centre.

Our last stop in Kakadu was at Ubirr Rock, which allowed us to discover more spectacular rock art and superb views into Arnhemland. I found the trekking here to be less tiring than at Nourlangie Rock and it only took us about 30 minutes to get to the top of a rocky lookout. A scene from the "Crocodile Dundee" film was also shot here!! :)  

We had our guide, Luke, from Adventure Tours with us the whole time to explain all the history of Kakadu and rock art meanings. I suggest joining a tour {you can book beforehand from one of the many agencies in Darwin city} when visiting Kakadu as well to gain better insight into its diverse natural life and culture.

If you plan on going by yourself, drop by the Bowali Visitor Centre first where information staff are available to help you plan your visit. During the dry season, visitors can also join rangers for free activities such as art site walks and talks throughout Kakadu.

Kakadu National Park
Kakadu Hwy, Jabiru NT 0886, Australia
Open daily.
Park Pass: A$25 per person, valid for 14 days. Under 16 years and NT residents are free.

  • Do not swim  in Kakadu due to the risk of saltwater crocodiles which can attack and kill people. The only public place recommended for swimming there is the Jabiru swimming pool.
  • Wear loose clothing, comfortable walking shoes, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Stay on public roads and marked walking tracks.
  • Do not feed or disturb wildlife.
  • Pets aren't allowed in Kakadu.
  • Aboriginals appreciate privacy so don't take their photographs without their permission. 
  • Take note of where the emergency phones are located.

* Disclosure: My Ultimate Australia Outback Adventure trip was sponsored by Tourism NT, thanks to No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.



An Apel a Day said...

It looks so fun and interesting to go there.

Your tips can pretty much be applied to anywhere you go.

Debs G said...

Love it! I've never been to this part of Oz before and it looks awesome. Camping in a National Park must have been such a great experience.

Unknown said...

You look like you had such a great time! Awesome.

Unknown said...

I really loved the Yellow Water Cruise. I hope to make it back one day for the Night Sky Cruise and perhaps to camp in those tents :)

Corsage@A Dollop Of Me said...

This whole adventure sounds so different and unique from regular holidays! Fantastic that you got to experience all that nature!