Kakadu & Surrounds, NT
World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a place of rugged escarpments, lush wetlands and cascading waterfalls covering over 19,000 square kilometres. Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, and can be entered either from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway or via Pine Creek on the Kakadu Highway.
At the centre of the Park is the small mining township of Jabiru, which offers a range of services and accommodation and serves as a touring centre for the wetlands of the nearby Mary River National Park, home to millions of birds and plentiful barramundi. Another settlement, Cooinda, also offers accommodation, and is located on the banks of Yellow Water, a billabong teeming with migratory birds, saltwater crocodiles and other wildlife. Cruises on Yellow Water depart daily.
The Nature’s Way tourism drive is a great way to explore the Park. The flora and fauna found in Kakadu National Park is diverse, with pockets of rainforest, paperbarks, pandanus and cycads, and wetlands dotted with lotus lilies. Some of Kakadu’s amazing wildlife includes crocodiles, barramundi, and birds such as magpie geese, brolgas, jabirus and white-bellied sea eagles. Around 1000 different plant species, a quarter of all Australian freshwater fish species, and over one third of Australian bird species can be found in the Park.
Kakadu National Park is managed jointly by Parks Australia, an Australian government body, and the Park’s traditional Aboriginal owners. A number of Aboriginal clans reside within the Park, and have for some 50,000 years. Kakadu is home to one of the largest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art in the world.
Natural galleries of these ancient paintings can be seen at sites like Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock. Other spectacular landmarks include Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls, Maguk/Barramundie Gorge, Jarrangbarnmi/Koolpin Gorge and Gunlom, which means ‘waterfall creek’. Kakadu National Park also contains several established walking tracks and camp grounds.
A visit to Kakadu is best started at the Bowali Cultural Centre near Jabiru or the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre near Cooinda. Each provides visitors a good appreciation of the Park’s traditional owners’ culture and heritage.