Where we fall short
IF you haven’t seen Jim Jim Falls at full roar at the height of the Wet Season, you don’t know what you are missing.
The torrent of water and the shower of mist surging from atop the 150m high sandstone escarpment is easily the Northern Territory’s best tourism secret – and sadly it seems that park officials and politicians want to keep it that way.
In a world where insurance risk overlays everything we do, the saltwater crocodiles, the tumult of flooded roads and now it seems our hot temperatures mean Jim Jim Falls and neighbouring Twin Falls are shut from public view for all but a few weeks of the year at the end of the Dry.
If you look at the Kakadu National Park infrastructure that exists to showcase these world heritage-listed waterfalls, you have to wonder why anyone would visit.
To access Jim Jim Falls, it’s a 135km 4WD-only round trip once you leave the bitumen and head east off Kakadu Highway, 43km south of Bowali Visitors Centre.
If you have a hire car forget it – they won’t insure you.
Once you have traversed this rough and at times rocky track, it’s a 2km hike to the base of the falls that can take two hours return.
If time is on your side, you can spend six hours return scrambling up the escarpment via the Barrk Malam Walk for an out-of-thisworld view of the towering escarpment and surrounding floodplains, and a dip in a rock pool at the top.
You can just sense the disappointment of tourists when they arrive at the only time of the year that the falls is open, to find it merely dribbling over the cascade, or worse still, not running at all.
The same experience exists at Twin Falls. You can catch a boat ride apparently, or take the 6km walk to the top if park authorities deem it safe to be open, but whatever you do, don’t swim – you know the reason why.
How ironic when you arrive at one of nature’s most remarkable plunge pools, that the only cascade in view is of human perspiration?
I find it absurd that in 2018 we have the engineering solutions and technology but lack the political fortitude to seriously open up these falls to visitors by spending serious money.
Safe swimming enclosures that can be built in creeks and selected rock pools, and wheelchair-accessible visitor viewing platforms which open up the vista should be infrastructure priorities, whatever the cost.
So too should be a bitumen road to the main car parks, as well as a bridge or weir over Jim Jim Creek.
Jabiru airport needs upgrading and a tourist lodge located within cooee of Jim Jim, built high enough to catch the breeze, would complete the transformation.
The Territory economy is becalmed by a lack of significant projects and short-term planning. Restoring Kakadu’s crown as the showpiece of Territory tourism would go a long way to providing a longer term stimulus that could last generations while filling the void NT tourism marketing desperately needs.
Mirarr traditional owners Nida Mangarnbarr, Simon Mudjandi and Yvonne Margarula after yesterday’s