Kakadu National Park was for me the highlight of my time in the Northern Territory. Our tour guide John said it was his favourite place in Australia and based on what I've seen I would probably agree. Anyone who has seen Crocodile Dundee 1 or 2 will be familiar with the scenery in Kakadu as this was where the Australia scenes were all filmed. It is a vast expanse of varying landscape covering an area roughly the size of Israel. We of course could only see a small part of it in our time there, and its a shame we didn't have longer. Our first port of call was the Aboriginal cultural centre, which was very similar to the one at Uluru. The tribes here are the oldest in Australia, dating back 65,000 years. The name Kakadu however was not assigned by Aborigines. It was instead given by a white man who mispronounced the language the Aboriginal people were speaking here.
We then journeyed through stormy showers to Nourlangie Rock on the edge of the Arnhem Escarpment. This was our first taste of the ancient Aboriginal rock art which is everywhere around Kakadu. Some of it is thought to be up to 20,000 years old, which makes Stonehenge seem very modern! The drawings depict dreamtime stories, mainly revolving around animals. But there are also drawings illustrating the Aboriginies first contact with white people, and those drawings tend to contain images of rifles. The Aboriginals do not allow tourists to visit all of the rock art sights as some are sacred. Despite this, the Aboriginal people do not view the drawings themselves as sacred, more so the act of drawing. For this reason modern Aboroginies have actually painted over some of the older drawings with their own versions. After seeing the rock art we ascended up part of the rock escarpment, which offered magnificent views over a sea of trees with storms clouds in the background. It was a great end to the day.
The next morning we were up bright and early in order to make the most of our full day in Kakadu. We had a brief stop in the national park visitor's centre before continuing on to Ubirr Rock, which contained even more Aboriginal drawings. You could easily climb up to the top of the rock, which yet again offered amazing views, this time over savannah grasslands. It was from this spot where Crocodile Dundee pointed out where the crocodile got him in the first film. Everybody spent quite a while at the top taking photos and standing in awe of the beauty of the place. We then drove on to our lunch stop at an expensive service station. It did at least have a nice pool for us to cool off in, though I did get a tad sunburned on my shoulders in my half hour spent swimming.
The afternoon was spent on a cruise of the Yellow Waters billabong. This was our chance to get up close to some of the wildlife here in Kakadu, most famous of which is of course the crocodile. We were warned prior to the cruise that the crocs like to stay underwater in the wet season to escape the humidity, and thus we were warned we may not see any. This was thankfully not the case at all though, and over the course of the 1.75 hour cruise we must have seen about six - two of which we got seriously close to as they lay on the riverbank. In addition to crocodiles we also saw an abundance of bird life, including kingfishers, jabiru birds, magpie geese and sea eagles. The wet season is the time the birdlife is most active here and that is one plus of visiting at this time of year. Our last stop was at a billabong (basically Australian for lake) near our accommodation, where we experienced yet more Kakadu wildlife, this time in the shape of huge mosquito's! I got a couple of bites in the short time we were there and they were pretty painful. The mossies had huge needles which they plunge into you. I hope there aren't too many in Asia.
In the evening we had a killer pool tournament in the hotel bar, which was a good way to celebrate our time in Kakadu. Everybody took part, so 17 of us were playing in total and it was a good laugh. The next morning was the usual early start though, as we headed west to Litchfield National Park.