GUEST POST: By Karina Smith
I’m sure most people don’t know where the hell is Kakadu National Park nor why you would want to spend a weekend exploring the area. I was asking myself the same questions when my better half suggested that we should visit Kakadu. Given that I have had the lion’s share of our holiday destination choices, I felt it was only fair that he got a turn.
Kakadu is Australia’s largest National Park in the Northern Territory covering over 2000 square kilometers (that’s nearly half the size of Switzerland). Situated south east of Darwin, it’s World Heritage listed for both its environment and it’s living Aboriginal culture. There’s over 10,000 types of animal species and over 2000 different types of plants. That’s a whole lot of fauna, flora and ground to cover in just one trip. So here is my whirlwind recount of why you would want to visit Kakadu in a weekend.
BECAUSE THE ROAD TRIP
Every road trip needs some sweet wheels for an adventure. We picked up a a hot Toyota FJ Cruiser that kind of made me feel like I could possibly handle army life (I couldn’t). The FJ was THE car to adventure in – the kind of car I felt immediately cool in once we jumped inside. Nothing like the open road, a sweet drive and a weekend of adventure. Note: To road trip like we did in a hire car, you need to check the car hire company allows you to drive on unsealed roads in their vehicles (many have rules around this or may charge extra).
Saturday morning and we were up bright and early to get our adventure on! First stop was the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise which took us on a river tour straight through croc country. This was a great way to spend an hour or so – as long as you keep everything inside the boat, because no way in hell will you get ANYTHING out of that water! Note to self: crocodiles are attracted to whites and brights, so wear darks.
After the croc tour, we arrived at Jabiru airport just in time to make our charter flight. We went with AAA charter flights for a 30 minute trip (about AUS$130 each), which was a great way to appreciate the landscape. After driving through the iconic Northern Territory red dust and dirt, getting up into the air and seeing the view from the air was stunning! You could see the Alligator river snaking its way through the lush greenery of Kakadu. And none of the photographs we took were able to take truly do it justice.
We stopped in at the Bowali Visitor Centre which gave us a greater appreciation of the history of the area we were driving through as well as the flora and fauna. Did you know that the Aborigines have passed down knowledge through generations about how to controlled burn down their lands to achieve the right amount of growth? I did not know this. I just thought a lot of stuff was on fire. Just in time before sunset we headed 45 minutes out of Jabiru to the Ubirr Art site, where we experienced some incredible Aboriginal art and history. Definitely worth the trip.
BECAUSE THE SUNSETS
After the Ubirr Art site, we hiked up to the top of the rock to check out the sunset over the plains – this was beyond breathtaking. Again our photo didn’t do the colours any justice. Driving back to the hotel we noticed bushfires (lit intentionally FYI, see above) and jumped out of the car to appreciate the amazingness of these crackling fires. The stars were popping out of the sky at us as we stood there soaking in the awesomeness of Mother Nature. Not a sight we usually see living in the city.
On Sunday morning, our pre-dawn alarm went off at some ungodly hour for our Sunrise Yellow Water cruise. We drove for 45 minutes in the pitch dark, dodging kangaroos, possums (and probably crocodiles) arriving at Cooinda lodge to hop on our tour. The early morning call was definitely worth it (even though it didn’t seem it at the time). We got 2 hours of experiencing nature at its finest. We were treated to wild brumbies grazing near the riverbed, crocodiles lazing about, so many types of rare birds I lost count and copious amounts of beautiful flora. I had an indescribable sense of peace that had the silenced everyone on our boat from the wonder around them.
After brekkie (included, bonus!) we jumped back in the FJ and headed to Maguk (pronounced Ma – gook) which had come highly recommended from a friend. I had originally wanted to visit Gunlom falls, another waterfall in the area so the decision was up for debate. Exploring a waterfall and doing a hike was a massive part of the trip so we wanted to make the right choice.
Maguk was about an hour drive from Cooinda Lodge which included a 14km of four wheel driving. There was then a hike for about 1km (some easy terrain on a boardwalk over mangroves, some harder scrambling over rocks) leading to a natural plunge pool at the base of the beautifully steep gorge. We immediately jumped in and the water was absolutely beautiful. After our first climb and swim, we decided to take the more difficult climb (almost invisible if you don’t know you are looking for it) up to the top of the waterfall. Awaiting us were a series of amazingly serene rock pools – with both jumping rocks and also a series of shallow pools. This shallow pools were perfect to cool off from the sun and work on your tan. These rock pools just kept going and going, snaking deeper into the mountain and genuinely making us feel like we were the only people on the planet. We ended up being very glad we took the recommendation as Maguk was magic (I can now highly recommend this to you!).
Overall I would highly recommend a trip to explore Kakadu if you are looking for some isolation and adventure in equal measure!
– Rydges Darwin airport resort
– Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
– Spectacular Jumping Croc Cruise
– Bowali Visitor Centre
– Jabiru AAA Charter flight
– Ubirr Art Site
– Sunrise Yellow Water Cruise
– Maguk Waterfall
– Back to Darwin
Note: A Kakadu National Park pass is required and costs $25 each.