Pooled re­sources

The Top End of­fers safe swimming spots, from wa­ter­holes to hot springs

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - THERESE SPRUHAN

With Dar­win’s beaches off lim­its for swimming, the city’s three public pools are cool al­ter­na­tives. At Parap, Night­cliff and Ca­sua­r­ina, all three cen­tres have Olympic-sized and chil­dren’s wad­ing pools, kiosks, pic­nic ta­bles, free bar­be­cue fa­cil­i­ties and trop­i­cal gar­den set­tings. Parap Pool, just five min­utes’ drive from the city, also has a div­ing board and small slide in the chil­dren’s pool. On a hot Sun­day af­ter­noon I join the kids leap­ing off the spring­board and swim a few laps in the well-main­tained circa 1960 pool. At Night­cliff Pool, on a head­land by the Ti­mor Sea, we fol­low the lo­cals’ tip and swim at sunset. As I lap up and down, the sky turns pink and casts a glow over the six-lane, 50m pool. More: dar­win.nt.gov.au.

On Dar­win’s wa­ter­front precinct, we grab a boo­gie board and try to ride the swell in the chlo­ri­nated salt­wa­ter Wave Pool. Af­ter a few at­tempts I re­tire to a deckchair un­der a shady um­brella and watch the life­guard ex­pertly surf the man-made waves. It’s a pleas­ant place to re­lax be­tween 10am and 6pm and there’s also a shal­low wad­ing area with foun­tains that’s suit­able for young chil­dren. At the next-door Recre­ation La­goon, filled with salt­wa­ter pumped in from the har­bour, a sea wall and mesh screens keep out marine stingers. We head out to the deeper area where the life­guard says the wa­ter qual­ity is bet­ter, swim around the 400m cir­cuit and then re­lax on the grass among the tall palms and frangi­pani trees. More: wa­ter­front.nt.gov.au.

Just over an hour’s drive south from Dar­win, Litch­field is a swim­mer’s par­adise full of cas­cad­ing creeks and wa­ter­falls tum­bling into fresh­wa­ter rock­pools. The most pop­u­lar spots in the 1500sq km na­tional park are Wangi Falls, Florence Falls and Buley Rock­hole. Af­ter hav­ing ex­clu­sive use of pools at Walker Creek and Tjaetaba Falls, we are a taken aback by a bus­load of tourists wad­ing into the wa­ter­hole be­neath Wangi Falls. But Wangi is so big there’s plenty of space for ev­ery­one and we soon dis­cover there’s a sur­prise in this dou­ble-wa­ter­fall pool.

Af­ter swimming across to the smaller of the two falls we clam­ber about 15m up the rock face and slip into a very deep spa-like pool and look back over the huge ex­panse of wa­ter in lovely Wangi La­goon. The next day when I gaze through my gog­gles in the pool be­neath Florence Falls a school of black bream darts around the smooth rocks and rain­bow fish swim by.

We stand un­der the falls and feel the force of the wa­ter tum­ble over our heads and then rest on a raised rock in the mid­dle of the pool and watch young back­pack­ers climb up to a ledge and jump off. Af­ter a water­side lunch, we fol­low but­ter­flies along the easy Shady Creek trail through rain­for­est and open wood­land un­til we reach Buley Rock­hole, where it’s busy with young peo­ple leap­ing (even though signs say “No jump­ing or div­ing”) into a se­ries of small, deep cas­cad­ing pools.

We walk back along the path to­wards the Florence Falls carpark and fol­low a sign to an un­named pool that we have to our­selves and where a lit­tle wa­ter­fall gives me a firm shoul­der mas­sage. Be­fore we leave Litch­field we drop into Batch­e­lor, the main cen­tre near the na­tional park, and swim laps in the 25m public pool, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s old­est. More: park­sand­wildlife.nt.gov.au; cooma­lie.nt.gov.au.

With Kather­ine Gorge not yet open for swimming when we visit in early June, we take a cruise with Nit­miluk Tours that in­cludes a dip at the base of the Lily Ponds Wa­ter­fall, a short walk up­hill from gorge three. On the way we pass a shal­low pool with pur­ple flow­er­ing waterlilies and then con­tinue ascending for another 200m to reach an idyl­lic spot where the Ja­woyn women would bring their ba­bies to feed and give them skin names. We stand un­der the wa­ter­fall cas­cad­ing from 30m and then float on our backs and look up at the honey-coloured sand­stone rocks sur­round­ing the blue-green pool. More: nit­miluk­tours.com.au.

The next af­ter­noon we drive for an hour to the north end of Nit­miluk Na­tional Park to plunge into the ex­pan­sive area of wa­ter be­neath Edith Falls (or Leliyn in the lo­cal Ja­woyn peo­ple’s lan­guage). We swim out to the sandy is­land in the mid­dle and chat to grey no­mads float­ing on noo­dles around the pan­danus and pa­per­barklined la­goon. We wish we had time to walk up to the top of the falls and do the 8.6km re­turn trip to the Sweet­wa­ter Pool. Then we check out the pic­nic area and camp­ing ground and stop by Edith Kiosk where barramundi burgers are on the menu. More: travel.nt.com.

Next morn­ing we im­merse our­selves in the warmth of Kather­ine Hot Springs, 2km west of town. The wa­ter is crys­tal clear and when I dive un­der, rays of sun­light il­lu­mi­nate the spearmint-coloured springs full of tiny striped fish. It’s so re­lax­ing I drift down to a small wa­ter­fall and slide over the edge into a larger, deeper pool. Lo­cals reckon morn­ing is the best time to plunge in; for a soak in hot­ter wa­ter, head an hour’s drive south to Mataranka and Bit­ter Springs. More: travel.nt.com.

For ex­cel­lent lap swimming there’s also the Kather­ine Aquatic Cen­tre, open seven days from 11am in the dry sea­son. More: ktc.nt.gov.au.

Clock­wise from top, Wangi Falls in Litch­field Na­tional Park; Mataranka Ther­mal Pool in Elsey Na­tional Park; and na­ture’s own in­fin­ity pool at Gun­lom Falls, Kakadu Na­tional Park

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.