Australia’s Northern Territory
Travel to Australia’s Northern Territory and you’ll see the true Australia. Visit and you’ll feel the heat and see the true grit of this arid and harsh land. Expedition Australia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the north. I decided to make a stop at Australia’s top end and the Darwin area. My travels would include a three-day tour of the countries largest park, Kakadu National Park. The tour would start with an early pickup from my Darwin hotel, via new comfortable bus. It would take approximately three hours before we entered the park.
Our first stop would be the Yellow Waters Billabong. Here, we took a boat cruise through the waters that promised crocodiles and it didn’t take long before we spotted them. We spotted the first one within five minutes. These would be the salt water crocodiles that are highly aggressive and commonly attack humans. We had no problems finding them. They were everywhere, swimming, basking in the sun or sitting on the banks with their mouths open. Rounding a bend in the waterway, we luckily spotted a large croc feasting on a large two-foot Barramundi, included in the video below. It wasn’t bothered at all as our boat got really close to it.
The waters were also a great place to see birds such as ducks, egrets, and sea eagles. After having lunch, Nourlangie Rock would be our next stop. Nourlangie is a significant sight to the Aborigine with its many paintings. The Aborigine didn’t have a written language so they used these paintings to pass on their history.
The long day was now over and we arrived at my hotel in the late afternoon. This would be home for the duration of the tour, a hotel in the shape of a crocodile, the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel.
The next day would start with another early pick-up but with disappointing news. The itinerary had been changed due to the heat and humidity. The original plan was to visit Jim Jim Falls with a bushwack through the remote valley. With 93 degree weather and high humidity, the tour company decided it was too dangers to hike in this weather so our visits were altered to less strenuous activities. In fact, the only danger would be the hard dirt road that rattled the vehicle and vibrated its way up from my tailebone to my upper back.
The first stop would be Gunlom falls, a location used in the movie “Crocodile Dundee.” This would be a perfect spot to cool of from the heat with a swim in a pool below a waterfall. But, before I made the walk to the pool I noticed a sign that warned of possible salt water crocodiles in the waters. My guide assured me there weren’t any in this area at this time or they would close the waters. The rest of the group was still behind us, getting ready for the swim, so the guide said it was OK for me to continue on my own and we would meet up at a small beach at the edge of the pool. It was the dry season so the waterfall was reduced to a slow trickle but the waters were still crystal clear. The cliffs, tree line, and pool made for an amazing environment. I just completely enjoyed myself, swimming and taking video, for half an hour (see video below). As I moved my GoPro back and forth, I could vaguely hear the guide and I could see him pointing to something behind me. He was speaking to some of the other people in our tour group. I looked behind me to see what they were looking at. There it was, two eyes and the nostril just above the water line. I coolly walked toward the shore and I could clearly here my guide say it was a fresh water croc. As I walked closer to him, now on shore, he said there was nothing to be afraid of since fresh water crocs were not considered dangerous. They’re not known to attack humans unless they are aggravated. I thought better of the situation and never returned to the pool and my group felt the same way so we left to have lunch.
Moline Rock Hole would be our next stop, a location with limited visitors. Tour groups are limited and must apply for entry prior to visiting the pools. The small dirt road to the pools are unmarked and the pools aren’t visible from the highway so the number of visitors are always kept low. Our group of six would be the only visitors until the end when two more people joined us. The plunge pools were cold since they were covered in shade by the surrounding cliffs and trees. My first question to the guide was “are there any crocs in the pools?” He said, “not here, they are at the lower pools.” So I set up my GoPro and I made my way into the water. It was cold at first but was quite a relief from the heat and humidity. I looked back and I was the only person in the water. My group was huddled in the shade, discouraged from entering the waters due to the temperature. Or, were they still bothered by the fact that a croc could have made their way up to these higher pools? I had the pool all to my self, swimming back and forth to the miniature waterfall at the back of this little piece of paradise. After getting my fill of this slice of heaven, it was time to leave and I noticed that the rest of my group had entered the waters near the path where rocks had made a circular formation like a jacuzzi at a backyard pool, without the hot water.
The day was coming to an end but we had one more stop. We would make our way back to the Yellow Waters Billabong, this time it would be in a section that formed a marsh. This was a perfect spot to have afternoon tea and snacks. We were on the bank of the waters, and, yes this was croc territory. We didn’t see any, the water level was low since it was well into the dry season. We did see dozens of bird species in the area and the wallabies grazing in the distance was a treat for us.
The third day in the park started with a visit to the art gallery of Ubirr. When I saw this on the itinerary, I thought it was a tourist trap, a location where we would be overwhelmed with touristy goods. I was completely happy I was wrong. Ubirr is a sight with multiple cliffs filled with Aboriginal art work dating back tens-of-thousands of years. Native history laid out on the cliffs like a picture book.
If you scramble atop one of the cliffs, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent panoramic of the surrounding area. The next stop would take us to the East Alligator River on the guluyambi cruise. The river was misnamed by an American who was paid to map the water ways and mistook the Crocodiles for the American alligator. The river was filled with croc’s. It seemed like there was a croc every ten feet. The cruise is conducted by the Aborigines and they cover the history, culture, and the connection between the local people and mother earth. I love learning about the people from old cultures when I travel so this was a treat. The Aborigine are a kind and respectful people who know their place in the web of life and how important every thing in the world is. I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the culture if I tried to explain it so I suggest you do some research on this remarkable civilization.
The tour had come to an end and after a long ride back to Darwin, I was packing again for my next destination on my Australian Expedition. My time here in the Northern Territory was an eye-opener and definitely a once in a life time experience. Life is about experiences and this one was one to put in the volt.