Park full of life aplenty
Spida Everitt finds a top range of thrills in this internationally recognised gem in the rugged Northern Territory
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.
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