After Uluru, we flew to Darwin for the next part of our NT adventure. About an hour and a half outside of Darwin is the Litchfield National Park. It’s the ugly duckling of Top End parks. More people know about and go to Kakadu than Litchfield. This is both awesome and a shame. Awesome because it meant we had the park mostly to ourselves. A shame because the park is spectacular and deserves more recommendations than it gets.
Litchfield is know for a variety of things but the most impressive are the rock pools and termite mounds. Yes, termite mounds. Magnetic termites build their mounds oriented north/south to minimize sun exposure., while cathedral termites build massive mounds, growing up to 3-5 meters in height.
The rock holes are wonderful for swimming in. It’s the dry season and technically winter but the water is pretty warm and flowing. We dipped our toes in and it was surprisingly comfortable. We moved on to another splash pool and looked at a couple of spectacular waterfalls. During the wet season, water levels can rise almost a meter. If you can imagine that much extra water flowing through the water, you’ll get a sense how dramatic these falls can be.
Another interesting feature of Litchfield is the cycads. These plants have been around since there were dinosaurs, and have changed little since then. This group looked like it had recently survived a fire, and they were a fabulous golden yellow.
Speaking of fire, on our way over to Kakadu, we ran into an unexpected surprise. Wildfires are a major problem in Australia and particularly in the NT. The state often uses controlled burns to reduce the impact. It’s unclear what we drove through, but the smoke and flames were right next to the road. Bush fires like this smoulder through the undergrowth, but usually don’t reach the canopy of the trees. There are several species of plants around that actually won’t germinate without the heat of a fire.
We also stopped in at the Territory Wildlife Park. It’s the Top End’s equivalent to Alice’s Desert Park. The park is well laid out and enjoyable. The highlight was watching a buzzard breaking open a (fake) emu egg. After that, we made the drive into Kakadu for a day of exploration and avoiding crocs.
More pics here and we’ll post more of our adventures soon.