Mary River National Park

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Thu 9 Oct 2008 16:31

This was to be a complete contrast to the tour of Litchfield NP.


The Mary River is one of the longest rivers in Australia, and is some 385 km from its source to where it joins the sea. We were taken for a ride on a “Tinny”. As with all small boats in the Northern Territories, they are designed to be Crocodile proof. With could cause.  There are both Fresh water and Salt water crocs in the River. The Salties can grow up to 6 metres long here and weigh more than  a large family car! They can also swim at 40 kph. Which is faster than most small boats.


Our guide for this river trip was Chris, who had a wealth of knowledge and information about the flora and Fauna in the area and clearly relished his job. One of the gems I was to glean from him was the difference between a Billabong and creek. (Answers on a post card please to ……………)


This is a tidal river and is subject to the dry and wet seasons. In the wet season, the whole area either side of the river, for up to I km either side becomes a flood plain at the height of the season. At the peak of the dry season, these retreat back to the river, and the billabongs always remain with water. A creek dries out. See, simple. Because of this fact, the water we were travelling along, support a plethora of wildlife.



At the waters edge, wild Lilies were growing in abundance. The leaves of this plant are used for two things by the Aboriginoies. Firstly they are sufficiently large and tough to be used as a hat to protect your head from the blistering sun in these parts. Secondly, within the stem there is a white sap. This, when boiled in water and allowed to cool, is a medicine. Drink this and it is apparently an instant cure for diarrhoea and several other problems of the gut.


The flower produces a quite large seed pod. It is the shape of an inverted cone. Around 3 inches in diameter and four inches long.  When the top is peeled off, it reveals a dozen or so egg cup shaped seed holders. These seeds are about the size of Pea nuts. Once the skin is removed they are edible. I am told they taste like pea nuts, only very much sweeter.


The waters edge is just teaming with bird life. There are apparently some 208 species of birds that use the river and surrounding area. The Magpie Geese are a migratory bird and they come hereto breed. Some 3.5 million of them here and in Kakadu NP.



We were also thrilled to see loads of Whistling ducks, because we used to keep them on our lake in our former home in Kent.  So it was wonderful to see so many in the wild.


There were several varieties of Cormorant. One of these was originally a native of China. The snake necked cormorants.



As the name implies, they have very long thin necks. In china, they are trained by local fishermen to catch fish and are fitted with a metal hoop around their necks. This hoop stops them being able to swallow the fish they catch. The hoop is then raised up towards the head by the fishermen and so the bird then offers up the catch! I presume the hoop is removed when the bird has finished its “stint” of fishing for man, so it can feed.


There was veritable feast for the eye here if you are remotely interested in bird life. Pride of place through has to go to the White Chested Sea Eagle. We were lucky enough to see a mating pair of these, roosting in a tree at the waters edge.



These are BIG birds. With a wing span in excess of 2 metres, they can take good sized fish, rodents  and small mammals.


This river is just full of Crocs. The fresh water ones are on the decline here since the hunting of Salt water crocs was outlawed. They get eaten by their larger brothers!



They are with out doubt the most successful hunter on the planet….next to man that is. They can go for a year without eating. They can stay underwater for up to 4 hours without the need to take a breath, simply by slowing down their own heart rate.  They are opportunists with a focus totally on food. One of the reasons there are so many of them here is because there are loads of Wallabies who tend to come to the waters edge to feed on the most succulent vegetation…..thus becoming Croc food.



After a very long day and much excitement we decamped (or is it encamped) to Stewart Point Resort for the night. We had been allocated a so call luxury tent.  It had no privacy what so ever. But at least we had a light and a fan and real beds. WE shared the tent with mosquitoes and tree frogs. The former were dealt with using a smoking coil and the latter were fine. Except when they were on the floor in the dark…………………………


   Home sweat home?


There was a communal kitchen tent. WE all had to “pitch in” with making dinner. But despite the fact I had booked a “no cheese” menu, we discovered that this chicken meal was cooked in Parmesan sauce! Luckily there is a bar and a mini restaurant on this site. We managed to get a table two minutes before they closed the kitchen.  Very tender, tasty, T Bone steak, with lashings of chips! All washed down with an excellent bottle of Woolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon.  It also transpired that the young lady working behind the bar was from the same village in Yorkshire that my mother came from. Her parents live in the same street as my cousin! Here were are in the middle of the Australian outback and………..its is such a frighteningly small world.


The other excitement for that night was the discovery of a very venomous snake in the Gents toilet and shower block. Funny how you can go all night without the need for the loo if there is sufficient incentive!


The next morning we were woken a 0500 to get ready to leave for Kakadu and some very serious hiking.