Visiting Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia is an experience that should be on everybody’s bucket list. I explain why Kakadu is back on my bucket list even though I’ve already visited it twice.
Those of you who recall my post about bucket lists will remember that while I have a ‘list’ as such, it’s by no means chiselled in stone. Heck, it’s not even written down on paper. It’s a nebulous cloud of ideas in the recesses of my brain, with items added almost daily, and places and experiences constantly prioritised and re-prioritised as the circumstances dictate.
But I’ve recently realised that my particular brand of bucket list is not a ‘strike-it-off’ one. Just because I’ve been somewhere or done something already, doesn’t rule it out for re-inclusion on the bucket list.
I came to that realisation while I was perusing the Gagudju Dreaming (Kakadu Tourism) website and decided that I really, really want to go back to Kakadu again.
Located in the far north of Australia, and covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu National Park was listed by World Heritage for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu is managed jointly by its Aboriginal traditional owners and the Director of National Parks. The name Kakadu is an interpretation of the word ‘Gagudju’, which is one of the Aboriginal languages that is spoken in the park area.
Gagudju Dreaming is the indigenous-owned collection of Kakadu wetland cruises, 4WD Kakadu tours, cultural experiences and Kakadu accommodation. Their website is the place to start when you’re researching a visit to Kakadu (and for booking accommodation and tours).
I’ve visited Kakadu twice – once many years ago, in what we generally describe as being the dry season, and once more recently in the wet. (Although, as you will find out when you visit the very informative Warradjan Cultural Centre, the Indigenous people describe the climate of Kakadu as having six distinct seasons.)
I was struck by how different the experience was each time. Yes, it rained quite a bit when we were there at the end of the monsoon season, but it also meant that the wetlands were filled to the brim and teeming with wildlife. We went on a Yellow Water Cruise and sailed right through the carpark where we had parked our car on our previous visit. All we could see of it was the very top of the parking signs.
And in the dry, more of the roads were open and we were able to travel further and see some of the waterfalls and areas that are inaccessible by road in the wet.
On our most recent visit to Kakadu, we stayed in the Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, which is an indigenous-owned hotel in the township of Jabiru and is (somewhat quirkily) constructed in the shape of Kakadu’s most famous inhabitant, the saltwater crocodile. Its shape is best viewed from the air, but the photo below is of the crocodile’s head.
Of course, visitors are keen to see that famous croc in real-life too. Kakadu is home to two species of crocodile: the freshwater crocodile and the estuarine, or saltwater, crocodile. The saltwater crocs are the big ones (they can be up to six metres long) and (despite their name) they can live in freshwater and are found in billabongs and waterways as far inland as the base of the Kakadu escarpment. We spotted many crocodiles on our Yellow Water Cruise.
Kakadu is also home to over 10,000 species of insects…plus a huge variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 33 species found in the Park are currently endangered.
The Park holds one of the world’s greatest concentrations of rock art sites with approximately 5000 art sites recorded and a further 10,000 sites thought to exist. We did several hikes to seek out rock art. Our favourite was the Nangulwur Gallery, which is an easy 3.5 km round-trip walk from the carpark.
All of the above, makes at least one trip to Kakadu unmissable in my opinion…but it’s not why it has re-entered my bucket list.
The reason it’s back on the list, is that while looking at the Gagudju Dreaming website, I came across a reference to Ubirr in the East Alligator region of Kakadu, and I remembered our day there on our first visit to Kakadu.
On that first trip, after we had viewed the incredible rock art galleries at Ubirr, we climbed the moderately steep final 250 metres to the rocky lookout. At the top, we encountered the most spectacular view over the landscape of the Nardab floodplain.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe in a higher power, or just in the greatness of the universe…when you stand at the top of Ubirr Rock, it is a spiritual experience.
Sadly, we couldn’t return to Ubirr on our second visit, as the road was cut off by floodwaters.
I dug out the old photo albums, and found a photo from that first trip. In this case, the scanned, rapidly discolouring photo (below) doesn’t even come close to doing this memorable moment justice, but it does spark the memories. And now, I’m keen to return and repeat this incredible experience.
Back onto the bucket list it goes…
- The distance to drive from Darwin to Kakadu is approximately 300 kms, which takes around 3.5 to 4 hours.
- The official website for the Kakadu region is Gagudju Dreaming (Kakadu Tourism), which includes information about accommodation, the Warradjan Cultural Centre, tours and activities, 2, 3 and 4 day itinerary suggestions (both wet and dry season), and driving directions.
- The phone number is: +61 1800 500 401
Is Kakadu on your bucket list?
Disclosure: Feet on Foreign Lands partnered with Gagudju Dreaming on this post. As always, all opinions, thoughts and observations are entirely my own.
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