I spent the last five days in Darwin and the surrounding National Parks in the Northern Territory of Australia. The Northern Territory is Australia’s real “Outback” and home to many natural wonders as well as over 200,000 crocodiles! Aboriginal people hold a spiritual connection to this land; their 40,000 year old story is shared on rocks and canvas, and passed down by the many Aboriginals that inhabit the area today. Crocodiles like to call the Northern Territory home due to the warm temperatures and many billabongs and water holes for them to reside. I learned that crocodiles need be in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius in order to digest their food and gain energy. I also learned that only 1% of 1000 baby crocodiles survive. I gained this new croc knowledge on a boat cruise along the Mary River and Corroboree Billabong. This was the start of my three day tour of Kakadu with the Wilderness Adventure tour group.
I was picked up at 6 am and jumped on board a 4WD for 3 action packed days taking in awesome scenery and exploring Nourlangie Rock, Twin Falls, Jim Jim Falls, Barramundi Gorge. We did lots of hiking, climbing rocks, and swimming in pristine waterholes. The drive was extremely bumpy at times as we drove through shallow rivers, and very rocky dirt roads. The Northern Territory is currently in it’s dry season and it is extremely hot and humid.
The Park itself totals just over 19,000 square km’s and is Australia’s largest National Park. It is an incredibly diverse environment home to many plants, animals, insects, and reptiles. There are 34 different snakes species found in Kakadu, 4 which can kill you, and many more that will make you very sick. I saw so many large spiders too! The scariest creature found in these areas, is by far the Saltwater Crocodile that can grow up to seven meters (22 feet)!
With all these scary creatures nearby, I opted to sleep in a tent the first night as opposed to sleeping in a swag. I slept in a swag when I toured Uluru, and while I loved the experience of sleeping in the open air under the stars, I felt that I didn’t need to do that again! The second night everyone had to sleep in tents as the mozzies (mosquitoes) were SO bad! I wore a mosquito net over my head and left only my hands exposed to the annoying mozzies! I was traveling alone on this trip, so I had to pair up with a stranger to share a tent as there were not extras for anyone to have their own. While I wished there would have been a girl traveling on her own for me to share with, I ended up having to share with a boy which was a bit strange! He turned out to be a nice guy from England and I know he wished he hadn’t had to share with me too as I apparently snored all night?!?!
My favorite part of the tour was swimming in the plunge pool at Jim Jim Falls. In fact, this may be the most beautiful spot I have ever seen in Australia! There was no one around except our small group of 14 and we had the entire waterhole to ourselves! It was amazing to swim right up to the falls and jump off the rocks into the cool fresh water. Apparently the area had just been opened to the public last week as they have to remove all of the crocodiles from the water first. And yes, salt water crocs do inhabit freshwater areas in Northern Australia, as do the less dangerous freshwater crocodiles. I was a bit nervous about swimming in an area that was so recently cleared of crocs, I mean…what if they missed one??? I asked this question and was told about the process of putting floating balls in the water to detect crocs as they will bite into the balls, as well as the traps they set up that entice the crocs with a pigs leg then traps them inside a metal cage. There was a moment when I was completely alone in an area as I had to climb over some rocks and swim around a corner to find no one was there. I thought for sure a croc was going to get me!
Before we all went for a dip in the Barramundi Gorge, we were warned that freshwater crocodiles do still inhabit the waters but they are not aggressive or harmful unless you aggravate them or accidentally step on them. We were told that a croc popped up next to a girl on tour last week. I almost didn’t go into the water, but it was so hot that I couldn’t resist going for a quick swim. I ended up swimming with others all the way to the waterfall and we jumped off rocks and had a blast! No one saw any crocs that day.
We also learned alot about the Aboriginal culture on this tour. We saw many Aboriginal drawings at Nourlangie Rock. We spent time at the Aboriginal Culture center and we stayed at a campsite owned by an Aboriginal family. The woman who ran the site taught us how her people cook buffalo underground, weave baskets, and catch their food. We had a spear throwing contest in which we through fake spears at cardboard cutouts of animals. It was alot of fun and I enjoyed learning more about the Aboriginal Culture.
At the end of the tour I was dropped off at my hostel in Darwin and I met up with Stacy who had just flown into town. The following day Stacy and I went on a day tour together to Litchfield National Park which seemed so unimpressive to me after my Kakadu experience. We did see three waterfalls, Tolmer, Wongi, and Florence. We were only able to swim in the waterhole at Florence waterfall but the plunge pool was packed and was filled with the visiting Malaysian army, a few of which wanted a picture with Stacy. She refused and we decided we weren’t enjoying the swim and I promised Stacy she would love Kakadu experience much better. She is doing the same tour I did starting tomorrow. We also saw a bunch of large termite mounds which are prevalent throughout the region.
We did both really love the “Jumping Croc Cruise” along the Adelaide river. These giant crocs have been trained to jump out of the water to fetch a raw steak off a fishing line. They were so big and so scary!!! I kept having a scary thought of what would happen if I just jumped in the water? I am sure I would have been gone in a second! Crocs are very territorial of their water and most people are killed by crocs when they get too close to the water’s edge.
We met a nice English girl named Rosie on the tour. We asked the tour driver to drop us off at the Darwin Market on the way back as we were told it is the thing to do on a Sunday evening. The market is on the road running next to the beach and we arrived just in time to see our first sunset over water in Australia. It was beautiful and hundreds of people were hanging out along the sand with us. We met a guy from Canada, and the four of us hung out at the market all evening, eating food, shopping, and listening to a very eclectic artist, Em Dee, play four different digeridoos. It was a great last night spent in Australia!
To see photos of Kakadu National Park CLICK HERE!
To see photos of Litchfield National Park and the Jumping Crocs CLICK HERE!