Park full of life aplenty

Sp­ida Everitt finds a top range of thrills in this in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised gem in the rugged North­ern Ter­ri­tory

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - STRANGE SIGHTS -

E HIRED a six-berth camper­van in Dar­win, so there was plenty of room for our fam­ily of four, and set off for Kakadu.

In Kakadu, I de­cided that we should all go crocodile hunt­ing – at night. It sounded like a de­cent idea at the time. So out we headed in what I would call a glo­ri­fied tin­nie.

The guide was in­for­ma­tive and hos­pitable, but he did for­get to men­tion that at cer­tain times of the year, the fly­ing fish be­come ac­tive. As I sat in the bow of the boat help­ing out with the torches, a fly­ing fish leapt into the front of the boat and on to my leg. I screamed, ap­par­ently, “like a baby”.

As the trip con­tin­ued, we man­aged to spot crocs with the torch and watched them scurry into the wa­ter. They are fas­ci­nat­ing, terrifying crea­tures, and safety on the boat is a pri­or­ity.

Cov­er­ing about 20,000sq km, Kakadu is one of very few places that is World Her­itage listed for na­ture and cul­ture. It is home to 69 species of mam­mal, more than 120 species of rep­tile and over 10,000 species of in­sects.

We based our­selves in the Jabiru Town­ship at the Aurora Re­sorts, Kakadu Lodge Hol­i­day Park. It has a great swimming pool and plenty of room for the kids to run around.

The first port of call for many go­ing to Kakadu is the Bowali Vis­i­tor Cen­tre (open 8am-5pm ev­ery day). This cen­tre con­tains an enor­mous amount of in­for­ma­tion about Kakadu’s nat­u­ral her­itage in­clud­ing plants, an­i­mals, cul­tural his­tory and park man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion.

It is a vi­tal stop for the lat­est on road con­di­tions and wet sea­son ac­cess.

Within the vast land­scapes of Kakadu, there are six main flood­plains and mon­soon forests. They oc­cur in small, iso­lated patches. Fruit-eat­ing birds and fly­ing foxes link the plants in th­ese iso­lated pock­ets by dis­pers­ing pollen and seeds as they move around. The hills and bro­ken ridge lines in the south of Kakadu are the re­sult of mil­lions of years of ero­sion, cre­at­ing a di­ver­sity of habi­tats and the pres­ence of plants and an­i­mals that do not oc­cur any­where else.

Almost 500sq km of coastal and es­tu­ar­ine ar­eas, most lined with man­grove forests, form im­por­tant nurs­eries for many fish in­clud­ing bar­ra­mundi. The wet­lands are recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally as be­ing sig­nif­i­cant for mi­gra­tory birds.

Wood­lands make up nearly 80 per cent of Kakadu. Con­sist­ing mostly of eu­ca­lypts and tall grasses, they may seem life­less at first look. How­ever, the wood­lands support a greater va­ri­ety of plants and an­i­mals than any other habi­tat in Kakadu.

Through­out the year, Kakadu’s land­scapes un­dergo spec­tac­u­lar changes. The Bin­inj/Mung­guy peo­ple recog­nise up to six dif­fer­ent sea­sons, as well as sub­tle vari­a­tions that sign­post the tran­si­tion from one sea­son to another.

greataus­tralian­doorstep.com

RICH WET­LANDS: (clock­wise from main) Aeri­als of wet­lands around Kakadu Na­tional Park; a jabiru in the Kakadu wet­lands; a salt­wa­ter crocodile in the East Al­li­ga­tor River; and young lo­cals at the Mah­bilil Fes­ti­val. Jabiru pic­ture: Tourism NT

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