Things to Do in Kakadu
It’s hard to grasp exactly what you’re looking at when you see the rock drawings at Ubirr. Here, etched before you on ancient rock that springs from the red dirt Earth, are drawings placed here by Aborigines nearly 20,000 years ago. How the drawings have managed to survive for so long is a fascinating geologic story, but it's one that pales in comparison to the stories told by the drawings themselves.
Located in what’s known as the East Alligator Region of Kakadu National Park, Ubirr is a UNESCO World Heritage site that borders on desert magic. In addition to collections of ancient rock art, the site offers sweeping, panoramic views of the surrounding flood plains and fields, and includes a sacred “Rainbow Serpent” painting in one of the three different galleries. According to local Aboriginal legend, the serpent was involved in the very creation of Earth surrounding the site, and is regarded as one of the world’s oldest figures of early creation.
Kakadu National Park has a feeling and a beauty unlike anywhere else on earth. With its sandstone escarpments looming up from the plain, its secret waterholes and lily-strewn waterways, its teeming birdlife and ancient rock art, it's a place that will get a hold on something old in your soul.
It's Australia's largest national park, clocking in at a mindboggling 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres). In that vast space shelters a staggering multiplicity of fauna, including dingos, wallabies and saltwater crocodiles. There's plants and animals here that are found nowhere else in the world, and a number of endangered species.
Make sure to take a cruise along one of the numerous park rivers - cruising along the Alligator River will allow to discover amazing birds and see crocs up close safely. Yellow Water near Cooina is a good starting point for sunrise cruises, usually the best time of the day for wildlife viewing.
Nourlangie, also known as Burrunggui, is an escarpment in Kakadu National Park filled with over 20,000 years' worth of Aboriginal history, making it a site of extreme cultural importance. Burrunggui, an Aborigine word, refers to the higher parts of the rocks, while the word Anbangbang references the lower parts. The rock art and archaeological details here illustrate the social and environmental history of the Top End area.
There are many ways to experience the heritage of Nourlangie, including following the mile-long circuit trail that winds through what was once a home for the Aboriginal people during wet seasons. Indoors, the Anbangbang Gallery showcases the art of an Aboriginal artist who repainted his works in 1964 to restore much of their original vibrancy. Those who visit Nourlangie during the months of June through September can hear stories of the area's cultural significance from rangers in the area.
The vast Mary River Wetlands, located in Australia’s Northern Territory, are home to massive saltwater crocodiles, abundant bird life and massive barramundi (Asian sea bass).
The Arnhem Highway crosses five floodplains, which are prime habitat for brolgas, egrets, black-necked storks, sea eagles and magpie geese, between Darwin and Jabiru. Yet, most visitors find it more enjoyable to experience the Mary River Wetlands from the water. Airboat rides explore the Mary River floodplains and lush monsoon forests, offering a rare chance to spot the area’s abundant bird life, introduced water buffalo and native monitors and wallabies in the plentiful paperbark forests. Adelaide River cruise hosts dangle bait to draw saltwater crocodiles into view and high out of the water. For self-guided visitors, it is also possible to view these powerful reptiles from a viewing platform at Shady Camp.