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Kakadu, Ancient Wilderness

Updated on January 14, 2015
Crocodile at Kakadu
Crocodile at Kakadu | Source

The Ancient Australian Wilderness of Kakadu

Kakadu National Park is a living cultural landscape, inhabited continuously by Aboriginal traditional owners for more than 50,000 years. You just won't believe Kakadu until you see it.

There are billabongs filled with whistling ducks, heron and kingfishers. You see peeling melaleuca paperbark forest, pink Wurrmarninj lotus lilies, river pandanus and buffalo grass a metre high.

It's truly a magnificent place, but no words can describe the feeling of awe which Kakadu inspires.

Ripple marks from 1700 million years ago.

Ripple marks of Time

Be prepared for the majestic sandstone escarpment which snakes its way for 500 kilometres through the east and south-east of Kakadu. Along the tracks to the sandy waterholes are Salmon Gums with pinkish trunks and deep burgundy grevillea. Many scattered sandstone boulders show visible signs of ageing: - the ripple marks of time and tide from 1700 million years ago.

Probably the best time to be in Kakadu is during the tail end of the wet season when the floodplains are alive with life. That's April or May.

Kakadu has Six Seasons

Work is done according to the Seasons

Kakadu has seasons of varied extremes. The Aboriginal people of this region divide the year into six distinct seasons. The seasons mark the times that people move camp, and dictate when to gather eggs, to fish, what to hunt and when to burn the bush in places.

The seasons of Kakadu provide a different experience each time that you visit.

Magpie Geese
Magpie Geese
Crocodile in Kakadu
Crocodile in Kakadu

Seasons from October to April

Gunumeleng, Gudjewg and Banggereng

Gunumeleng (October, November, December)

Gunumeleng is the very hot and humid pre-monsoon season. Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and scattered showers bring a tinge of green to the parched earth. Barramundi move out of the waterholes and downstream to the estuaries. It's the time to move camp away from the floodplain.

Gudjewg (January, February)

Gudjewg is the time of violent thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding. Heat and humidity generate an explosion of plant and animal life. Magpie geese nest among the sedgelands and it's egg gathering time.

Banggereng (March)

Banggereng is when most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young. The waters recede and sand streams run clear. Violent storms, locally known as "knock'em down storms" flatten the two metre high spear grass.

Long-Necked Turtle on display
Long-Necked Turtle on display

Seasons from April to September

Yegge, Wurgeng and Gurrung

Yegge (April, May)

Yegge brings early morning mists that hang low over the plains and waterholes. The shallow wetlands and billabongs are carpeted with waterlillies which signal the time to burn the bush in patches to "clean" the country. Early season fires are insurance against destructive fires in the hotter months.

Wurrgeng (June, July)

Wurrgeng is the "cold weather" time with low humidity, days of 30 C (86 F) and nights as low as 17 C (63 F). Creeks cease to flow and floodplains quickly dry out. Magpie geese crowd the diminishing billabongs with a myriad of other waterbirds. Burning continues, dampened by the dew at night.

Gurrung (August, September)

Gurrung is windless and hot, and the land seemingly lies dormant. It is still "goose time," but also a time to hunt file snakes and long necked turtles. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beach of Field Island, where goannas rob the occasional nest. White-breasted woodswallows arrive as thunderheads build again with the return of Gunumeleng.

Ginga, the Saltwater Crocodile - He helped form the Kakadu landscape

Ginga, the Saltwater crocodile
Ginga, the Saltwater crocodile
Ancient Rock Art
Ancient Rock Art

Kakadu Creation Story

In the beginning of creation, Ginga was also a man.

One day as he was sleeping, warmed by a fire made near a billabong, his back caught fire. He dashed into the water. The fire and water formed blister-like lumps on his back. He turned himself into a crocodile and the ragged edge of Ginga's back is today seen emerging from billabongs and nestled on riverbanks.

Ginga, also helped form the Kakadu landscape. He carved his way through rocks to get to the East Alligator River. After finishing his creative act, he turned himself into a rocky ridge, which still shows his lumpy back in a place known as Djirringbal.

Perhaps the broad snout enabled Ginga to so deftly create the landscape. It is this wide snout that distinguishes the larger saltwater crocodile from the freshwater crocodile.

Ginga is at home during monsoon season. In coastal swamps, and as far inland as the billabongs and creeks, Ginga are seen stalking geese stranded by rising waters.

The Natural Beauty of Kakadu - Images of the Wilderness

Click thumbnail to view full-size

If you respect the land, then you will feel the land.

Brian Baruwei - Aboriginal traditional owner.

Traditional Owners - Proud to share their Country

The traditional owners are proud to share their country with visitors.
The traditional owners are proud to share their country with visitors.

Kakadu National Park is managed jointly by its Aboriginal traditional owners and the Director of National Parks. The traditional owners are proud to share their country with visitors.

Why not have an Aboriginal-guided tour?

Dreamtime Tracks in Kakadu
Dreamtime Tracks in Kakadu

Ancient Rock Art - Visible at Nourlangie and Nanguluwur

Ancient Rock Art at Nouriangie
Ancient Rock Art at Nouriangie

Dreamtime Tracks

Mother of the Earth in Kakadu

The Creation Time, or Dreamtime, is the time when the Creation Ancestors were travelling across the landscape. The tracks left by the Ancestors are known as Dreaming tracks.

One of the main Creation Ancestors in the Kakadu area is Warramurrungundji (Mother of the Earth), who travelled to Kakadu with her husband from the islands to the north-east. She sent out spirit children, telling them which languages to speak and teaching them how to hunt and gather food from their land. She created river systems, billabongs, and much of the wildlife in the region.

Her journey completed, she sat down and rested, changing into a large rock, which marks her Dreaming site.

The Great Earth Mother of the Kakadu area is today celebrated in sacred ceremonies to enable all creatures to thrive and to imbue life into humans.

In all cultures throughout the world, the creators are worshipped as all life emanates from them. For 50,000 years this symbolic background has proclaimed the history of the Kakadu area, its wildlife, and people.

Ancient Rock Art at Nanguluwur
Ancient Rock Art at Nanguluwur
Rock Wallaby
Rock Wallaby

Many Styles of Rock Art

The upper part of Nourlangie Rock is known as Burrunggui; the lower areas are known as Anbangbang. The area was formed when two Creation Ancestors in the form of short-eared rock wallabies travelled through from east to west.

They moved past Nourlangie Rock, across Anbangbang billabong, and up into the rocks at Nawurlandja, where they cut two crevices in the rock as they passed. These crevices are visible today and rock wallabies are often seen there in the early morning and at dusk.

Many rock art styles are represented at Nanguluwur. There are hand stencils, dynamic figures in large head-dresses carrying spears and boomerangs, representations of Namandi spirits and mythical figures, including Alkajko, a female spirit with four arms and horn-like protuberances.

Magnificent and Eerie - A spiritual landscape

Kakadu stretches across more than 91,000 square kilometres of the north-east corner of the Northern Territory, with no fences or boundaries.

With stunning landscapes and wildlife, Kakadu is home to the world's oldest living culture.

You need a hat

You need a good, strong hat in Kakadu. You need a hat anywhere in Australia, even down in the southern states, but don't go out anywhere in the Australian tropics with covering your head.

When the sun is beating down, slip off your hat, slop up some cold water and slap it back on.

Dunk it, soak it, flick it, wear it, stack it, crush it and pack it.

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Leave me a comment - Each one is appreciated

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    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      3 years ago from West Virginia

      Wow, I love the artwork! But wouldn't want to live close to crocs.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      3 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      This is such a beautiful and informative page. Now I've read it, I'd love to visit Kakadu. I've just looked it up on Google Maps to see exactly where it is. Definitely on my list of place I must visit if I'm lucky enough to ever visit Australia.

    • Paul Ward profile image


      3 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Good to see this featured again !

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      3 years ago from Covington, LA

      Australia is one of the places that I've always wanted to visit. Kakadu looks so wild and wonderful. Maybe some day...

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh wow I would love to visit Kakadu

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      About 23 years ago, we visited Kakadu and have many wonderful memories of the scenery and wildlife there. You've inspired me to go rummage out our old photo albums for another look.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Just came back and re-read this article, and I still want to go back there one day. Perhaps when my partner retires..... it's beautiful country.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      What an intriguing place. I'd love to visit. Seems like a good one to add to my bucket list. Great hub.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      4 years ago from California

      It would be an incredibly experience to visit Kakadu and see those ancient rock drawings. The landscape looks beautiful and I'm glad that has been preserved.

    • annieangel1 profile image


      4 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      this looks really interesting - I'd love to visit but not too sure about the crocs

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 

      4 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Not sure if I will ever get there in person, but I loved your beautiful description. The earth and all it has to offer is simply amazing!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Have visited once, but it wasn't enough. Will try to get back one day.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been wanting to go here for so long. I'd love to take my children here in the near future.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Simply fascinating! I've been wanting to visit Australia for a while and will have to add this to the itinerary.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this outstanding land :)

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      This is how I visualize Australia in my mind's eye, and I hope to see it in person some day.

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 

      7 years ago

      Coming face to face with Ginga would be quite the experience!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't know if I'll ever make it to Australia, but I'd sure love to visit Kakadu.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My brother lives near Sidney and is begging us to come down. We will one day soon!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 

      7 years ago from Sydney Australia

      great page.. lensrolled to my Darwin page

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      Funny thing - I was the last comment here and already I knew I needed a holiday to Australia. Turns out Jeff has been camping here in a Nov (before we met) and he still talks about it. He says it was magnificent and hot.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      Ok, after reading this I am convinced, it is time for a holiday to Australia. We have been in NZ for over 6 years and still haven't made it across the ditch. Well done. Blessed by a Squidoo angel.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Wow, this place looks just amazing! I look forward to when Steve and I will have an extended period of time to spend in Australia. There are SO many places I've heard about and seen photos of that I'd like to visit. We'll get there eventually, and I'll have to look back through your lenses (and pick your brain) before we do. Thank you so much for adding this to my list of vacation destinations. We probably won't get there next year because of limited vacation time, but I'm glad I have this on the list for a future visit. (And thank you for the blessing as well! Much appreciated. :) )

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Great lens, Love it!5*

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens. My husband said he camped in Kakadu in the late 80's and still remembers the huge flocks of cockatoos ( black and sulfur crested).

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      There's still so much of Australia I haven't seen! Beautiful photos.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love these photos!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      9 years ago from United States

      Fascinating lens! That crocodile made me jump right out of my seat. So, if I buy that hat and wear it while in Australia will the locals laugh at me for trying to look like I belong?

      I love that hat!

    • Lou165 profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      I love the photos, Kakadu is a great place to visit. We lived in Darwin for 18 months and not just Kakadu, but even Lichfield National Park is fantastic. I really want to go back and take my daughter to exprience it.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      9 years ago

      I still haven't made it there yet. It truly is a unique and remarkable place. Love the wonderful pictures and aboriginal history. Great lens.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Amazing History and Wildlife in Kakadu. 5* This is such a beautiful wildness area. Your photos are amazing.We have only visited New South Wales and Victoria. Must see more of Australia in the future. Thanks for sharing a wonderful part of Australia!

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 

      9 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      Eldest son spent a year in Oz, and Kakadu was one of his favourite places-I've still not made it there yet- one day...!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 

      9 years ago

      Truly fascinating! Wonderful pictures and I love the history! Thank you for the tour!


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