HALF THE SIZE of Switzerland, just a short drive from Darwin, Kakadu National Park has been home to Aboriginal people for 65,000 years. The oldest remaining rock painting is 20,000 years old.
10,000 crocodiles inhabit the waterways. One-third of Australia’s bird species can be found here. 2,000 different types of plants, from mangroves, to monsoon rainforest, waterlily-covered billabongs, 3 metre tall speargrass, and open woodland, nourished by 1.5 metres of annual rainfall, which floods half the park. Despite all this, only around 200,000 people visit each year. Be one of them. Swim, walk, twitch, boat or fish. Better yet, just sit and look.
20,000sq km. Australia's largest land national park. It's huge. It's awesome, literally.
Billabongs, rivers, and wetlands teeming with bird life.
Bizarre sandstone outcrops popping up on flat plains.
The oldest culture on the planet gifted us the oldest rock art.
Waterfalls and waterholes.
Views as vast and endless as time itself.
Once in your life, at least, take a look at Kakadu.
In the far east of the park, crocodiles lurk at Cahill's Crossing, the gateway to Arnhem Land.
65kms west, about half way from the gate to Cahill's is Mamukula Wetland, with waterbirds as thick as the reeds.
188kms in the other directions to the southern Mary River gate, takes you through a world of landscapes.
There's about 60,000 years of human habitation in Kakadu. Of the 12 languages once spoken, 3 remain: Gun-djeihmi, Kun-winjku and Jawoyn.
Bininj/Mungguy recognise up to six different seasons: Yegge (Cool), Banggerreng (Harvest), Gudjewg (Monsoon), Wurrgeng, (Early dry), Gurrung (Hot dry) and Gunumeleng (Pre-monsoon). We visited in gurrung, and it was!
As we entered from the Darwin direction, Mamukala was our first stop, where the sheer number of birds blew our tiny minds.
Even if you're not a bird-nerd, this is an incredible sight.
Very NT, fishing The East Alligator River at Cahill's Crossing. Merl campground nearby also serves as a base for Ubirr.
The Manngarre Walk is right nearby as well. Bats by the thousands.
Walking up to Ubirr takes you past some of the most incredible rock painting in the park.
As well as people, fishing, hunting and animals are commonly depicted.
Some pieces defy explanation. See the shadow cast by the ledge, in the middle of the frame?
How did this painting get placed there? This is the thylacine, Tasmanian Tiger piece, an animal which went extinct on the mainland at least 2,00 years ago.
Caves and ledges provided shelter for the indigenous people, who also came to Ubirr for ceremony.
Because of its sacred status, there is an alcohol ban on Ubirr.
If you need a drink to enjoy Ubirr, seek help. Arnhem Land in one direction, the range which cuts its way to Katherine in another.
Cockatoos, correllas, various pigeons and birds of prey fly around the trees, while on the waters below, millions of magpie geese and other species gather.
Also in the East Alligator region is the Bardedjilidji walk, which might take an hour.
Layered sandstone formations sprout along the route like lost cities.
Some of the outcrops are mere bumps, others grander things where trees grab on and grow.
70km south from Cahill's is another of the most important and beautiful parts of Kakadu, Nourlangie (Burrungkuy).
Nourlangie correctly refers to the rock, Burrungkuy to the surrounding area.
Nourlangie contains some of the park's most important images, some of which are not allowed to be photographed.
Another impossibly high painting. How was it done?
Equally impressive are the savannah views on the walks.
Several camp sites serve the Burrungkuy area, some 2WD, some 4WD.
Twin Falls is definetly 4WD only though- I visited on one of those tank-like tours in 1992.
Lastly in this region, Bubba wetland or Bubba walk, a large billabong girt by forests.
With Nourlangie as an impressive backdrop, the 2.5km circuit walk is not just for twitchers.
Down the same access road as Nourlangie is Anbangbang Billabong.
OK, I am kind of bias, but, just enjoy the bushwalking.
Another backdrop is Nawurlandja, which has a lookout walk from here.
And the billabong is punctuated by water lillies
The billabong is surrounded by forests.
Rainbow bee-eaters amongst the trees.
Or you could just enjoy the views. Don't rush Kakadu.
Forests of small trees grow from the floodlands, which burn in the dry season, possibly explaining why we lost the track.
Ngurrungurrudjba, easier known as Yellow Waters are part of the South Alligator Floodplains.
Walking may be limited due to flooding. Boat trips are an option.
The area's Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre is also worth your time.
Even on the short areas open to us at the time, the birds were out, the views pretty cool.
A few fellas like this were out walking on the lilly pads.
Camping and lodges nearby are the departure points for boat trips.
A short 60km away is one of the best swimming spots in Kakadu, Maguk, aka Barramundi Gorge.
Deep and wide, calm and cool. Foot-holds around the ledges help get to the fall.
Red winged parrot at Maguk, which is officially 4WD only, but our hatch handled it just fine.
Kambolgie is the last camp in the Pine Creek direction, with some fine walks and views like Yurmikmik nearby.
A corrugated dirt road took us in, and if these clouds had burst, we may well have been stuck! All up, we had just 3 nights in Kakadu, but we took in quite a lot.