Kakadu Unleashed

Trip Start Aug 16, 2004
Trip End Aug 13, 2005

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Just come back from a 3 day tour of Kakadu National Park. This trip is a must see for anyone staying in Darwin or nearby.

We were quite lucky because there were only 5 of us in the group, 2 American girls and a Japanese girl as well as ourselves. I always think that these types of tour depend very much on the tour guide, and ours, Andy, was brilliant. He had a lot of information about the area and showed us animals and plants that we would have never seen on our own.

The first day, before we got to Kakadu, we went for a boat cruise on the Mary River Wetlands, looking for crocodiles. At this time of year, it is hard to find them because it is so hot, so they spend most of their time in the water.

We saw many different types of birds, and also a water buffalo. We were almost giving up hope of a croc spotting but then we saw four, but only briefly as they would just pop their heads up and then sink back down again. However, we were lucky because as we were making our way back on the boat we saw one of them in amongst the water lilies, and we swung the boat around for a much closer look. The croc wasn't very happy though as the boat was right above its tail, so it hissed at us. Needless to say we were out of there very quickly.

Once we got to Kakadu, we went to Ubirr to view some Aboriginal rock paintings. There are two groups of paintings - some that are simple, and some that are much more detailed. The detailed ones are 2000 years old or less because this is when the water levels in Australia rose, so that there was more food and water for the Aboriginals. This meant that they had more time to dedicate to the paintings. Before the flooding, the land was very dry and barren, so a lot of time was spent hunting - thus the paintings were much more simple.

We saw a painting of a handprint - this would have been done by mixing the paint in your mouth and then spitting it at your hand to create the outline. Obviously, followed by a quick wash of the mouth!

We set up camp at the Jim Jim billabong campsite. Pleasantly surprised that there were toilets, and we didn't have to dig our own. After a nice BBQ, we went on a little night expedition, looking for wildlife, with Andy and Niall - another tour guide from a different group. We saw a cane toad - these are a pest in Australia. They were brought over in the 1930s to control the cane beetle, which eats all the sugar cane. However, the toads only live on the ground, and the beetles can climb the sugar cane so it had very little impact. The main problem with them now is that they emit poison from their glands so anything that tries to kill them, also dies!

We also saw a file snake. This is a freshwater snake. The two guides were like Steve Urwin - just picking up all these creatures. The file snake isn't poisonous though. It's called a file snakes, because its skin feels rough and like a file.

To finish off our wildlife viewing, we saw another snake (I can't remember the name) - sandy in colour, also not poisonous. There were some little tree frogs nearby, so Andy dangled the frog by the snake and it pounced on it and ate it. Marvellous (although not for the frog!)

The 2nd day we did a lot of hiking, rock climbing and swimming. First we hiked to the top of the twin falls and had a little swim. Then we hiked back down and went on a boat to the bottom of the waterfall. Couldn't swim in there as there were estuarine crocodiles as well as freshwater ones. The freshwater crocs don't regard humans as a food source, so generally leave us alone as long as we leave them alone. They are also only found in Oz. Estuarine or saltwater crocs are much more aggressive and regard us as food.

After lunch we went to Jim Jim falls. We didn't hike to the top because during the dry season the waterfall is dry, so not much point really. We did however swim in the plunge pool at the bottom of where the waterfall would normally be. There was one freshwater crocodile in the pool, but didn't see it until we had all finished swimming and then it swam across the pool! I managed to slip on the rocks whilst getting into the pool and end up with a few grazes!

The 3rd day was a bit more relaxing. We went to Barramundi Gorge to have a swim in the rock pools there. We had a lot of fun jumping off the rocks and into the water. There was also a pool that we jumped in but to get out we had to swim underwater through a tunnel. It was a bit scary but managed not to drown so that was good! Unfortunately, one of the American girls gashed her toe, and we think her little toe is also broken. She slipped on some rocks whilst trying to climb further up to a different pool. She seems fine though, but will probably need stitches!

We then went to the bottom of the gorge and swam in the big pool there. Again there was a croc in the water, but we didn't see it this time. Gives you an adrenalin rush to think that at any time a croc could appear!

After lunch it was time to head back to Darwin. We did have an impromptu stop when Andy spotted a frilled neck lizard. He even went and caught it for us so we could take some photos! Everyone was exhausted and slept the rest of the way back but enjoyed the trip a lot

The only bad points were the annoying flies and the mosquitos. I didn't think I'd been bitten but on getting back to Darwin, I have discovered about 20 bites! Definitely worth it though!
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