Exploring the NT: Kakadu and Darwin

From Litchfield we drove to Kakadu. The park is huge, with the main town/center being ~120km inside the park. So much of the park is flood plain that it’s amazing to guess that the roads are open year round.

We decided to stay in a crocodile shaped hotel. Yep, that’s a thing that exists and you can stay in it too!

Our morning was booked up by a river cruise. Unlike a tacky “jungle boat” cruise, we saw wildlife everywhere. Of course the crocodiles were the main attractions. Getting to see them as up close as is safe, we got to see how they glide through the water. They make no noise or ripples, and they barely move anything besides their tail. It was an impressive and majestic sight. I also don’t want to get any where near one.

Besides the crocodiles, we saw birds. Lots of birds. Big ones. Small ones. Drab ones. Bright ones. We got some good views of the Jabiru, or Black Necked Stork; it’s the unofficial mascot of the park and a spectacular bird. We also saw multiple eagles, ducks, geese, and spoonbill. A few fish came around the boat but nothing large.

During the dry season, the flood plain is a verdant wetland. We saw evidence of wild horses, pigs, and water buffalo while we were out. On our second day in the park we got to watch a buffalo run across the flood plain. Having never seen one in real life, it was an amazing animal to watch move through the grass.

We would have more things to write about on our first day, but the car broke down. We spent a couple of hours stranded about 50k from our hotel, but luckily within cell phone range. The hotel was amazing and sent someone to pick up Ashley and our guests while the rental company sent a tow truck. We spent the rest of that day hanging around the hotel (and writing posts).

The next day we went north to a site known for its aboriginal art. The paintings are very different from the those at Ulruru and around Alice. The colors were more vibrant but still predominantly ochre, red, and yellow. The drawings were also more detailed. We ran into a ranger doing a tour.  He was one of the traditional owners of the area and could trace his ancestry to individuals who had painted the wall.  He explained the significance of many of the pieces and, oddly, how to cook a pig nose turtle.  From there, we hiked up to a look out that had a breathtaking view of the flood plan.  The greenness of the plain is shocking to someone who lives in the desert.

Once we had our fill of majestic views, we returned to Darwin. Along the way we stopped at billabong for a quick hike. It’s hard to estimate the size, but it was either a large pond or a small lake. Apparently billabong doesn’t imply size. The expanse was covered in lily pads. A few were flowering but most had died back for the winter.

Once in Darwin, we ambled through the evening air to Doctors Gully to feed the fishes. The former refuge of a salvage merchant, folks come to this fish sanctuary to get an up close experience with diamond mackerel, milk fish , and the occasional bat fish. We had a great time feeding and petting the fish. Yep, the fish come so close you can pet them. Some, like the bat fish, might even nibble on your fingers.

From there, a tasty dinner was had and then we bid our friends adieu and returned to Alice. It was a fantastic adventure. The parks highlight the amazing diversity that exists in the NT.  Pictures of Kakadu and Darwin, and we’ll see y’all again soon!