Crocodiles and Kangaroos in Kakadu

The lush diversity of the upper reaches of the Northern Territory is no better encapsulated than in the vast 20 000 square kilometres of Kakadu National Park.

The landscapes in this magnificent World Heritage Area vary from thick tropical rainforest and swampy wetlands to flat savannah woodland and everything in between, which provides holiday makers with some breath taking scenery.

In fact a holiday to Kakadu will provide you with a lot more than just scenery. Birds and wildlife thrive here- flocks of migratory waders make it their temporary home, and its most famous resident is the gnarly old crocodile.

Significantly, it is also rich in Aboriginal heritage and has been home to the Bininji/Mungguy people for over 50 000 years, a fact that is represented in the fascinating rock art at various locations in the park.

Kakadu is divided into seven different regions- the South Alligator, Jabiru, East Alligator, Nourlangie, Yellow water, Mary River and Jim Jim- and each one has its own defining characteristics.

Most people's first stop in the park is at Jabiru, a small town with all the amenities you need to prepare for your holiday. The Bowali Visitor Centre is just five minutes out of town, and offers advice and ideas on where to go and what to see in the park, and also what accommodation options would suit your family or your group.

There is also an airport here, so if you fancy the thrilling experience of seeing Kakadu from the air then this is the spot for you! Its important to bear in mind that in the wet season many parts of Kakadu are inaccessible.

It's vital, especially if you are in a two wheel drive, that you check beforehand whether it is safe to visit your intended location.

If you are driving from Darwin to Kakadu then you will pass through the South Alligator area. Kakadu obtained its World Heritage status largely because of its importance as a wetland area, and the Mamukala Wetlands in this area are some of the most stunning in the park.

An observation platform allows you to view the native birlife and the hordes of migratory magpie geese from a safe vantage point. There are a number of walking tracks, varying in length from one to three kilometres that can be taken through the wetlands, although keep your eye out for crocodiles!

A boat ramp on the South Alligator river has a picnic area and fish cleaning facilities that cater to fishermen keen to try their hand at taking on the infamous barramundi.

The most photographed and famous region in Kakadu is the Yellow Water Area, home to the spectacular Yellow Water Wetlands. Cruises will take you out on the water, amongst the lilypads and close to the crocodiles that everyone wants to see.

These are a peaceful way to get close to the environment, but alternatively you can see the wetlands from the extensive system of boardwalks built with your safety and convenience in mind.

The Warradjan Cultural Centre is also situated here, and anyone with an interest in Aboriginal ulture will enjoy the exhibits and displays of artwork and traditional dancing there.

You can further indulge yourself in amazing displays of Aboriginal culture in the East Alligator Area, which is home to the best rock art in the park. The Ubirr Rock Art Site is the place to go for this, where the centuries old artwork is complemented by a myriad of bushwalks that provide spectacular views over the Nardab floodplain.

Watching the sunset over the wide expanse of the plain is a special experience not to be missed!

If you are in the Darwin region there are very few excuses not to make it to Kakadu. Its only a 250 kilometre drive to the park along good roads, and there are numerous tour operators or travel agents in Darwin where you can organise your holiday from.

Accommodation options are endless- if you wish to rough it and camp on your own terms, there are bush style camping grounds (although remember to take your own water to some of them).

Equally if you wish to luxuriate in four or five star accommodation then there are plenty of places to stay in too.

So why not give it a go- Kakadu is a classic Australian experience you will never forget!

Gavin Wyatt

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