Traveller stories: Walking in Kakadu

Breathtaking swimming holes abound in Kakadu National Park | Peter Walton
Breathtaking swimming holes abound in Kakadu National Park | Peter Walton

Although we’re collected from various hotels around Darwin early in the morning of Day 1 of our 6-day Kakadu Explorer, it’s not until mid-morning – during the traditional welcome by the indigenous Wulna Aboriginal elders – that I wake up fully and excitement builds about the adventure ahead.

As each of my trekking buddies bows their head to be sprayed with water, I feel like we’re experiencing something special together.

As we get off the sealed roads travelling east in our specially modified 4WD van along the old Jim Jim Road, we pass wetlands, such as Red Lily Billabong. The anticipation builds as we arrive in the midst of Australia's largest land national park, about to see some of what makes Kakadu a World Heritage-listed international attraction.

I’m impressed with my travelling buddies as, one by one, we prove our canvas tent covers on our pre-setup tents to allow a clear view of what promises to be star-studded skies. Even a dreaded cane toad hiding in the deep shade of one of the tents fails to bring on even a mild panic attack amongst our happy camper community.

The afternoon's sunset cruise on the nearby Yellow Water billabong is the perfect way for us to see the wealth of wildlife all around us. We see brumbies, wallabies, salt water crocodiles (big ones!) and thousands of birds. There are magpie geese, brolgas, cormorants, pelicans and jabiru, Australia's largest flying bird. Our expert wildlife guide managed to convey his rapture in the surrounds, infecting us all with his enthusiasm.

Home to our cosy campfire and a dinner of fresh, wild-caught, local barramundi on the BBQ, the biggest dilemma of the day looms – do we get to bed early to rest up for the long trek tomorrow or stay by the fire to watch for even more shooting stars?

Most of us opt for the early night and we feel strangely alert and awake when the birds wake us much earlier than the traffic does in whatever city we've come from.

After a relaxed breakfast, we drive to Nourlangie massif. This is where we begin our walk across the crest of the plateau. The walk reveals a diversity of habitats, from cool monsoon vine forests to rugged stone country. It gives us a view of what the landscape was like in ancient times. The escarpment we see today is the less eroded part of the original range.

It's an active day – and hot – though no-one's bothered by it, we all look for some shade when we stop to hear about the rock art and what it signifies.

As the day continues, the stunning waterfalls and gorges of Kakadu are welcomed by group with enthusiasm. Barramundi Falls is reached by walking through the monsoon forest, which opens out to deep plunge pool lined with blonde quartzite cliffs.

I can't help thinking that the Gunlom plunge pools on top of the escarpment are better than any exclusive resort's infinity pool anywhere in the world. It's a stunning series of rock pools and waterfalls with views over some of the most amazing scenery in the Northern Territory.

I skip showers on the last two days because I was in so much water that another water fix would have been redundant! It's a sure sign that I'm adjusting to life away from the city.

I go to bed earlier than I do at home, get plenty of exercise and eat fresh, delicious food that I don't have to shop for or cook. All the while, I'm surrounded by a fun, interesting bunch of people in the surrounds of a world-class natural attraction.

Experience Kakadu by Bike
Join the Kakadu Supported Cycle Tour, a 5-day immersive experience of all of the Top End's highlights. Explore the backroads of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks by bike, enjoy wildlife cruises, and hear about local culture from Indigenous guides. Find out more >
Australia, Top End, Northern Territory, Kakadu, Bushwalking, trekking, hiking, Aboriginal culture

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