Well today we arrived at the beautiful Kakadu national park which is due East of Darwin a few hours. I had be told many times before by previous visitors that Kakadu is just unreal - but even with this in mind I was still blown away.
It is one of 3 world heritage listed sites in Australia - the other two being The Great Barrier reef and Uluru; and is unique for being the only world heritage site in the world that has a complete river system in it (The South Alligator river - from source to sea!). The park has two unique criteria for the world heritage listing:
The first being its cultural significance for the local aboriginal people. The park was handed back to its aboriginal owners in 1985 who then promptly leased it back to the federal government for listing as a national park. The elders were then elected jointly to administer the park as rangers! The park has been home to the local aboriginals for 60,000 years and nowhere is it more evident that the aboriginal people are the worlds' oldest surviving culture.
The second criteria is for being of utmost importance to unique wildlife. Indeed over half of Australias waterbirds find their home here. The S. Alligator river is choc full of Salt water crocodiles. And there are thousands of species of reptile, insect and mammals endemic to the area!
With this in mind as we arrived in the park we headed straight to Ubirr rock. This area was used as a refuge for the local aboriginal tribe and also as a meeting ground. As such and in accordance with their culture they produced some of the oldest rock art in the world. Our tour covered the meanings of the some of these pictures - however aboriginal culture obscures the true meanings of their art from outsiders as they believe the knowing of the story can only be with their own people. Still a great visit none-the-less!
In the afternoon we headed to our resort which was actually inside the park. It was an incredible sight pulling up and finding the resort grounds are home to some 50,000, very noisy - sulphur crested cockatoos and about 5000 Magpie geese. An added bonus was a small mob of Agile wallabies that allowed Vanessa and me to get up and personal and take a few pics!
That night Contiki had planned a homemade punch night. Although we had started to meet some really nice people on the bus I was too excited to head out and do some night time snake spotting. Amazingly enough Vanessa agreed (snakes are not really her thing!). The resort staff and locals seemed quite bemused at me traipsing around with a flash light but after a few minutes I had found what I was looking for - a snake. A beautiful 2m red banded tree snake! What a find!! Later that night I would find some cool green tree frogs too (diplomatically in the opposite end of the resort to the tree snake!)
The next day we were up nice and early and headed of to another Aboriginal rock art sight called - Nourlangie rock. This sight is unique as it is artwork from a tribe that no longer exists and shows some unique Midi spirits (the spirits who taught aboriginals to draw). Also here is one of the best examples of Namarrgon (the lightening man) and his supposed home in a nearby hill!
That afternoon we went down to Yellow river for a boat cruise. This cruise would prove to be the highlight of my trip. It started out pretty well spotting some Jabirus, Brolgas, Cormorants and then out of no where (one of my favorite birds) a White Bellied Sea Eagle. Then as I was snapping away at the eagle we got our first croc sighting. A big male about 4-5m long cruising next to the boat. I instantly shifted focus and started snapping some great pics of this BIG croc when something amazing happened. He snapped his head and caught out of the water a big 1m Barramundi. To witness a big male croc hunting is a rare sight indeed - but the real treat was in my continuous snapping I managed to get a 'National Geographic' picture of the barramundi in his mouth just before swallowing. It was a once in a lifetime pic. We cruised for another hour and got to see plenty more crocs and birds but it was that first one that blew my mind. After the cruise we got back to the resort and hit the pool. We got to bed pretty early as the next day called for an early morning departure to get down to Katherine Gorge (500km away!)