Kakadu, Ancient Wilderness
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.
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 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.
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
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 WildernessClick 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
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?
Ayal Aboriginal Tours
- Ayal Aboriginal Tours of Kakadu
Experience the natural and cultural wonders of Kakadu National Park with Aboriginal owned and operated Ayal Aboriginal Tours Kakadu. Explore with knowledgeable local Aboriginal guide Victor Cooper. Victor is a former park ranger and traditional owne
Ancient Rock Art - Visible at Nourlangie and Nanguluwur
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.
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