Kakadu National Park, New Territories, Australia

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Fri 10 Oct 2008 07:06

We had two days to “do” Kakadu. This was an impossible task, given that it is the second largest National Park in Australia. It is in fact the size of Belgium! So a fair chunk of our time was spent in the 4WD bus covering very large distances between walks. Or more correctly, major hikes! The scenery here is on a grand scale.  To say it is stupendous sounds trite. But it is!


One thing our guide Leah was quick to point out was that whilst the German for Cockatoo is “Kakadu”…that is not why it s called Kakadu. Yes,….there are loads of these beautiful white birds with their trade mark head feathers and nut cracking beak. But, it  is, we were told, a complete coincidence.  The real reason was because the first white people to come here misheard the pronunciation by the Aboriginal tribe, (now extinct), that occupied the area.


Aborigines have lived here for tens of thousands of years, but it is only in the relatively recent past that the Australian Government has come to recognise the rights of the indigenous people and so has given back much of Kakadu to the care and control of the Aboriginal people. Some 500 live here full time. The park itself has 70 full time ranges, 28 of whom are Aboriginal.  In aboriginal culture the individual owns nothing. All land and possessions are owned by them all. Whilst they do now live in houses, drive cars and watch TV. They still have a strong culture, customs and ways of doing things…..quite different to the white man. The only part of Kakadu that they do not own is the Uranium deposits. That funnily enough is controlled by the Australian government. There is active mining within the park, and the town of Jabiru consists mainly of miners and their associated support services….and some tourist centres. Like our camp site for the second night in the “bush”.


Some of the wild life in the park is not native. For example the wild horses. There are estimated to be 20,000 of them. They originally came from the white mans farms on the land. When the farms closed down, the horses were turned loose. They have gone on to be so successful in the wild that there now has to be an annual cull.






Asian Buffalo were also brought in. This was primarily for their skins, which are very thick. 2 or 3 inches apparently, and incredibly strong.  There skins were used for making all manner of belts, especially for the mining industry, The belts used in conveyor belts were made from their skins. These too (the Buffalo that is),  were turned loose and have breed successfully. However these are very large, migratory beasts, and they do great damage to the terrain within the park. So these too are now ruthlessly culled to keep the numbers down to a manageable size.


Some of the scenery is very picturesque in an “outback” style………..



    This is adjacent to a river crossing!!


We spent a chunk of time hiking around JimJim Falls. These are wild and rough areas. Mainly granite and sand stone.  At the end of each hike was a water fall or water feature, where we could strip off and take a gentle swim in the cool waters to ease the aching legs and just cool down. In some areas the Rangers had installed croc traps to ensure the swimming was safe.



The colour of the light on the rocks combined with the water made for some interesting photo opportunities.  In fact I took several hundred pictures doing our visit to the Northern Territories, so I have had to be totally ruthless in what I have selected for the blog. Not an easy task I can tell you.




After our visit to the Nourlangie Rock area, which is just spell binding with its 2,500 million year old sand stone escarpment. It was time to visit the site of the Aboriginal Cave Art. The locals used to take refuge in these caves during the wet season, to protect them from cyclones and the generally dreadful weather that this area  of Australia enjoys for around 4 months of the year, December thru’ March. So to pass the time the natives, that is exclusively the men, depicted folk lore with rock art. These are very famous and relate to important structures and rules for the aboriginal society.  Some of these drawings and paintings are estimated to be over 20,000 years old. This was the high light of the trip for me. Essentially, each picture cum drawing spells out a moral code for the young people in the tribe to learn from.






One of the lighter moments of the tour happened during one of our swimming breaks at Maguk waterfall and plunge pool. Several of us were just chatting away after a nice swim, when this frog came leaping through the middle of our group….at a frenetic pace. We soon discovered why………….A yellow tree snake was after his lunch! Leah grabbed it by the tail and then gently ran her other hand down the full length of his body, from tail to head. This calmed the snake down (but not Jennie). WE then had the opportunity to have a close look at this colourful and none poisonous snake.  Before it was returned to the wild…away from the frog!




Our final stop before lunch on the last day and our return to Darwin was the site of a number of large Termite mounds.




This one pictured above is 7.5 metres high and is at least 75 years old. ( The mound that is…….) The species of termite that inhabit these amazing structures tunnel beneath the ground into the nearby pasture land and then cut of chunks of grass and cart them back to the mound. These are then converted in to Cellulose and digested by the termites,. What you see in the picture above is, not to put too finer point on it. A heap of termite shit.  But it is waterproof, fire proof and most of the time Soldier Ant proof. The soldier ant being the Termites deadliest enemy. If they gain access to the mound, then all the termites are eaten by the ants, There is a second species in this park. These occupy the trees. It is said some 75% of all the tress in Kakadu are hollow, due to the efforts of these industrious creatures.



After our return to Darwin we had two frantic days in which to reprovision the boat, go to a farewell party, check out with Customs and get our Indonesian Visas and get the boat ready for the 500nm journey across the Timor Sea to Kupang.


The journey to Kupang was a rather tedious three day affair. No wind at all so we motored the whole way in stifling heat and humidity. The arrival in Indonesia was much more interesting….but more anon. We anchored off Kupang Town steps on the early morning of 5th October. Right opposite the steps where Captain Bligh came ashore in 1789 after the famous mutiny on the Bounty, and his 3,600nm epic journey, in an open rowing boat. All the way from Tonga, where his crew had set him adrift.      10:09:47S 123:34:51E