Kakadu – world of water and rock

Kakadu National Park is known for its water and rocks: incredible floods and waterfalls, rivers, pools and waterholes. There are beautiful places of rock and Indigenous art. Vistas that go on forever. Kakadu is listed as a World Heritage site, and is the largest national park in Australia, at nearly half the size of the country of Switzerland!

Nourlangie/Burrungi rock art

After our wonderful trip through the Kimberley, we decided to take another, shorter tour with Kimberley Wild.

Kakadu is most spectacular during the wet and flooding season, but of course all the floods make it very difficult to access. Although we didn’t see the most awesome of the floods and waterfalls, we did see some of what makes this area so special.

“My people all dead, we only got few left, that’s all, not many. We getting too old…”

“Young people, I don’t know if they can hang on to this story, but now you know this story, might be you can hang on to this story, to this earth.”

Bill Neidjie, Kakadu man.

Litchfield National Park

We set off from Darwin, and travelled first to Litchfield National Park, where we enjoyed some hiking, and of course refreshing swims in the year-round waterholes of Buley Rockhole.  Along the way, we were excited to see the famous magnetic termite mounds, which are a marvel of termite architecture, often up to 2 metres tall. These mounds are thin, and aligned north-south, to minimise exposure to the sun.

Magnetic termite mound, NT
Magnetic termite mounds, NT

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It’s great that so many hikes in this area end in a refreshing dip, but there are some places you really don’t want to swim, as there are more than 10,000 saltwater crocodiles that call the Kakadu area home! We saw a couple of them, and their slides into the water, on an evening bird-watching cruise of the Mary River.

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We also enjoyed seeing the “Jesus bird” walking on water!

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The next day we headed into Kakadu National Park. We spent some time trying to spot crocs at Cahill’s Crossing, which is the river crossing into Arnhem Land. Cahill’s Crossing is often in the news as a location where unwary fishermen are snatched by salties, but today we didn’t see any.

Cahills Crossing, famous for crocs! Kakadu National Park

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After checking into our campsite, we went to see the beautiful rock art at Ubirr. The art here is one of the reasons for the World Heritage status of Kakadu National Park. Art for the Indigenous peoples is an expression of cultural identity. Often the act of painting is more significant than the painting itself, so some older artwork is sometimes covered by newer works.

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Art is still important to the local people, with artists continuing to paint on bark, canvas, fabric and paper.

We stayed on until sunset, climbing through the rocks and escarpments, and enjoying the magnificent views from so high up. We also watched Australian TV presenter Ernie Dingo filming part of his series.

Ernie Dingo filming at Ubirr rock art. Kakadu

The next day, we had the opportunity to take a scenic flight over Kakadu, the Arnhem Land escarpment, flood plains and billabongs, which is a really good way to appreciate its vastness.  (Once I’ve solved my technical difficulties, there will be some video of this flight!)

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There is another major Aboriginal rock art site at the site that used to be called Nourlangie Rock. Burrunggui and Anbangbang are the correct names, as used by the traditional owners. Again, more magnificent rocks, and beautiful rock art.

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There are six different seasons known to the local Indigenous peoples:

Six seasons

Top Didj

On our way back to Darwin, we stopped for a few hours at Top Didj, where we met Manuel, a local Indigenous elder. Manuel told us a little about his life and culture, and guided us while we attempted to make our own traditional-style paintings. We learned how brushes are made from reeds, and learned the technique to painting perfectly straight lines!

Manuel at Top Didj Indigenous Cultural Centre.

We also tried to start a fire the traditional way. That is much more difficult than it looks! We had a go at spear-throwing, and admired the Indigenous artwork in the gallery. Unfortunately since we travel light, we couldn’t buy any, and just brought back our own tiny pieces of starter-art.

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Visiting Litchfield and Kakadu, and our previous camping trip through the Kimberley, gave us an opportunity to learn a little more about the diverse and many groups and clans of Indigenous people who have lived in this continent for over 50,000 years. Their way of life is so very different to what we know in the west. Here are a few links if you’d like to read more:

Northern Land Council

East Arnhem Land Regional Council

West Arnhem Land Regional Council

Arnhem Land

We acknowledge the Bininj and Mungguy Indigenous peoples as the traditional custodians of this country.  Click here to learn more about their culture. Learn more here about some of the peoples of North-East Arnhem Land.


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2 thoughts on “Kakadu – world of water and rock”

  1. I love this part of Australia. We spent a few weeks travelling around there, and I could really feel the power of the land. And I love your miniature Aboriginal art. Well done!

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