After Litchfield, Kakadu National Park was the second park one on our visit list close to Darwin. After another 300 km of driving we reached the visitor center of the national park at around noon.
About Kakadu National Park
The lands on which the National Park lies has been the home of the indigenous people for tens of thousands of years. There is a lot of history there incl. many art sites with ancient rock paintings. The land is separated into the lowlands, which is the area that is flooded every year during the wet season, and the highlands that are located inland and are at around 200m above the lowlands. Many clans (i.e. tribes) used to retreat to these highlands whenever the lowlands got flooded.
Apart from the history, the wildlife in Kakadu National Park is also very interesting. In addition to the parrots with the same name as the park, there are large numbers of freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, giant water buffaloes, birds, fish, and the usual smaller animals.
There are many sites in Kakadu National Park where there are ancient paintings from the Aborigines. Every painting tells a story, however, only the persons who painted the symbols know the story behind them, e.g. if they caught a large fish, they would draw it on the rock in real size. Therefore over the years the meaning of many of the paintings can only be guessed, and some are completely unknown. An interesting fact is also that not all paintings are that old, as some show men with rifles, which could only have been drawn after the invasion of Australia in the 19th century.
Sunset from Nadab Lookout
On the first evening we climbed one of the rocks that stands out from the lowlands to view the sunset. At the same location there were also rock paintings. The view over the vast lowlands was impressive.
Crocodile Safari at Yellow Waters
Not cheap, but very impressive was the early morning safari at Yellow Waters, a part of the lowlands that also has water during the dry season. And as the water is very concentrated during the dry seasons, we could see plenty of wildlife. Without having counted them, I guess we saw at least 30 crocodiles on the 2h tour, some of them were hunting and we could watch them feasting on catfish. In addition, we saw many birds incl. an eagle, some wallabies, a snake, and also some of the very impressive water buffaloes that live in this region. It was definitely worth getting up at 4:40 in the morning to participate in this cruise. We were told that during the day, due to the heat most animals hide and therefore the boat tour not nearly as exciting.
Noon-Hike in Nourlangie in Baking Heat
Just like the day before, temperatures were baking hot again that day. Temperatures were at around 40°C. Not very comfortable conditions for long hikes outside, but at Nourlangie we decided to go on a 30 minute hike to see some more impressive rock shelters and paintings of the Aborigines. A hot but worthwhile experience.
Bird Swamp at Mamukala
Our last stop at Kakadu National Park was Mamukala, a swamp that was full of birds. From the observation deck it was possible to watch hundreds if not thousands of birds in the swamp, and also some curious wallabies.
An Expensive Weekend at Kakadu National Park
While admission to Litchfield was free, we got acquainted with Australia’s way of milking their tourists. Admission to the National park was around USD 35 per person (as a comparison: The much more impressive Yellowstone N.P. costs USD 30, but per vehicle, not per person). At Kakadu National Park, included in the ticket price are guided ranger tours. Unfortunately, only Monday – Friday, so we did not get any guided tour. Accommodation in the park was also quite pricey, as was the 2h boat tour on Sunday morning. In total we spent almost USD 400 for about 30 hours in the park, excluding car and fuel expenses.