5 Reasons to Visit Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park - it's half the size of Switzerland!
In 2002 I managed to secure a flight from Brisbane to Darwin for A$1. It was the first birthday of Virgin Airlines entering the Australian market and it was something I had no time to think about, I had 5 minutes to decide before the opportunity would be gone. So of course I bought the ticket, there was nothing to lose and off I went later that week with almost no planning or preparation.
While I am not an expert I would love to show you the places I visited and the photos I managed to get. Unfortunately this was before I had a digital camera so the image are scanned and not as nice as the hard copies.
Kakadu National Park is 20,000 square km of World Heritage. It is one of only 3 sites in the world that are both World Heritage Area and UNESCO sites.
5 reasons to visit Kakadu
- Amazing Rock Art
- Spectacular Waterfalls
- Wondrous Wetlands
- Creepy Crocodiles
- Inspiring Indigenous Culture
Twin Falls Kakadu National Park
When to visit Kakadu National Park
and how long should you stay?
Deciding when to visit Kakadu can be difficult. There are 6 weather seasons at Kakadu and each offers a different set of experiences. I would choose April at the very end of the wet season. The park is still be a lush shade of green and waterfalls are usually flowing. Hopefully flooded roads will be beginning to open up too, although some like the road to Jim Jim Falls, usually opens later in the year.
There is really helpful detailed information on the best time to visit Kakadu on the Outback Australia Travel Guide website
I spent an amazing 8 days in March 2003 exploring Northern Australia or what us Aussies refer to as "The Top End". 3 days in Darwin and 5 days on a small group camping trip in Kakadu. I felt that this was a prefect amount of time for me. I did not do any extended hiking but I did get to see a good range of sites. I think 2 days is probably the minimum.
Download this large map of Kakadu National Park (PDF) to help you plan your visit.
I have prepared a separate page on Visiting Darwin that you might find helpful.
1. Amazing Rock Art at Ubirr - Aboriginal Rock Art Gallery
There are reportedly more than 5000 rock art sites in Kakadu. Ubirr and Burrunguy, formerly known as Nourlangie Rock, are two of the best known and most easily reached sites. I suggest you stop at the visitors centre before heading to the art sites. Having an understanding of how the paintings were made and their significance enhances your time here. A tour with an aboriginal guide is ideal. At the time I visited these were offered for free by the park rangers.
Watch this film - Life before white man arrived in Australia
This film is the first to be made entirely in Aboriginal Language - it showcases the Arnhem Land region of Northern Australia and the landscape is spectacular. The film won a Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard program at the Cannes International Film Festival/
2. Spectacular Waterfalls - Jim Jim & Twin Falls - Plan ahead to see the waterfalls in full glory
Jim Jim Falls are amazing but before you get your hopes up, seeing them with as much water as is pictured above is pretty difficult. They only look like this in the wet season and dry up pretty quickly when the rain stops. The best way to see them is by helicopter joy-flight.
You can drive into the area but to get close to the falls you will need a four wheel drive. You can even camp here in the dry season. Learn more about visiting Jim Jim Falls
Crocodile Hotel - It's a Holiday Inn - a crocodile
My visit to Kakadu was a camping trip but we did stop by the Crocodile Hotel for a great buffet lunch. The hotel offers a swimming pool, one of only 2 safe swimming places in the park.
Treaty by Yothu Yindi - An Aboriginal perspective on Land Rights
3. Wondrous Wetlands - Yellow Waters River is breathtakingly beautiful
Yellow Waters is considered one of the healthiest wetland systems in the world. It is home to over 60 different species of birds as well as crocodiles and buffalo. Parts of the Crocodile Dundee films were shot here. Try to take a sunrise or sunset cruise - if you are a photographer you will find this provides 2 hours of heavenly photography opportunities.
"People need to come here and relax,
sit on the country, feel the spirits
of this country, and go home and feel
the same way."
Natasha NadJi BUNIDj ClAN
ABORIGINAL TRADITIONAL OWNER
Kakadu National Park Visitors Guide
4. Get up close to a Crocodile - Hopefully like my crocodile encounter yours will be a planned occasion!
I was not that interested in crocs before I visited Kakadu but once I got there they were certainly on my mind. While there are safe swimming spots in the park I was too chicken to try them ;-)
I joined a wetlands river cruise where along with the crocs we saw a huge assortment of bird life and some beautiful wildflowers.
Water and first aid are essentials on your camping safari
5. Inspiring Indigenous Culture - Nourlangie Rock
If you have the opportunity to join an Aboriginal guide for a tour make sure you do.
Great resources on Kakadu and Northern Australia - Best online resources for a Kakadu visit
Instead of making this page a mile long I have added links to what I feel are the best websites you can find when planning a visit to Kakadu - Let me know if I have missed any.
- Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia (1874)
Thanks to Project Gutenberg you can read Ludwig Leichhardt's diary of his journey into Northern Australia in full and for free.
- Kakadu Visitors Guide
A 50 page PDF visitors guide for you to plan your trip to Kakadu
- The Six Seasons of Kakadu
Great if you would like to get your head around the weather up here this guide offers suggestions of the best places that can be visited in each of the six seasons.
- Bowali Visitors Centre
Bowali is a must see if you would like to learn more about the art and plant life you will see in the park.
- A pod tour of Kakadu by ABC
This 1 hour podcast on Kakadu is a must listen for visitors and it's free
- Kakadu Culture Camp
This eco certified camp offers interesting tours which are included with your accommodation costs.
- Working holidays in the Northern Territory
Do you have a working holiday visa? Great information here for finding employment in the Northern Territory while you are on holiday
- Lonely Planet Videos on visiting Kakadu and surrounding areas
Great for getting a taste of what to see and do here.