5 Reasons Every Hiker Should Visit Kakadu National Park

By: Ze Wandering Frogs

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October 15, 2019 | Adventure Experts

When it comes to visiting Australia, most people head to Sydney, Melbourne, Uluru, or the Great Barrier Reef. Yet one of the highlights of our three-week Down Under hike was Kakadu National Park located east of Darwin in the most northerly part of the Northern Territory. Why, you may wonder? Well, here are the five main reasons why adventurous travelers should visit Kakadu, a unique and lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Learn about Aboriginal Rock Art

 Kakadu National Park rock art

Kakadu has been a spiritual region for the Aborigines for thousands of years, as demonstrated with over 5,000 rock art sites spread across the area. Among the most spectacular are Ubirr, Nourlangie, Nanguluwurr, and Mawurndaddja, which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nourlangie features some of the oldest rock art in the world, whereas Ubirr is the most sacred of all sites. That site includes the Rainbow Serpent and a gallery of breathtakingly detailed paintings.

Many Aborigines still live in the Kakadu region today, mostly Bininj people in the north and Mungguy in the south. They continue to pass on their culture and traditions, generation after generation.

2. Admire the Diverse Landscape

couple looking out at Kakadu National park

In addition to its cultural status, Kakadu has also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area for its six different types of terrain. Floodplains and woodlands around Ubirr. Sandstone plateau around Nourlangie and the impressive Arnhem Land escarpment. Mangroves and swamps along the Alligator River and Yellow Water. Natural pools around Gubara and Gunlom. Tidal flats by the estuaries. The varied habitats make for an ever changing and dramatic scenery.

The vertical waterfalls of the Twin Falls and even more so the 656-feet Jim Jim Falls deserve a special detour. Though driving is possible with a 4WD during the summer months (June to August), the best time to admire the waterfalls in their full glory is during the wet season (November to April) via a sightseeing flight.

3. Watch Unique Australian Wildlife

kangaroos, which are an iconic feature of the Australian wilderness, Kakadu

In addition to kangaroos, which are an iconic feature of the Australian wilderness, Kakadu is also home to fauna only found around estuaries and wetlands. Watch for Wilkins rock wallabies, freshwater as well as saltwater crocodiles, flatback turtles, frilled-neck lizards, and Leichhardt’s grasshoppers known as Aljurr.

Yellow Water cruises are excellent for bird watching, and a chance to see the iconic jabirus wading over water lilies. Observe eagles, cormorants, magpie geese, azure kingfishers, willie wagtails, and purple swamp hens. Large crocodiles usually live in the same area, and the small boat rides allow for a close but safe encounter.

A hike through paperbark forests and monsoon rainforests might lead to a colony of large flying foxes bats. Or go through cicada-filled trees, the high-pitched singing ringing loud and almost deafening.

4. Swim in Waterfalls, Natural Pools & Billabongs

Kakadu boasts numerous natural pools and billabongs (dead rivers filled by rain), among which the famous Gubara and Gunlom pools. Other popular natural pools include Maguk, Boulder Creek, Barrk Marlam, and Motor Car Falls.

Some places are safer than others when it comes to swimming, as crocodiles tend to live in these waterholes. Always check with the park rangers before jumping in.

5. Hike through Monsoon Forests & Rocky Plateaux

During the dry season, several hikes lead deeper into the park. Some of these hikes end by waterfalls, like Gunlom and Maguk—perfect for a refreshing dip. A few hikes like the difficult Murrill Billabong Walk from Gunlom or the highly challenging Barrk Marlam Bushwalk from Jim Jim even head to the top of the waterfalls. In the wet months, the interconnected trails of the Yurmikmik walks include the Yurmikmik Lookout Walk or Kurrundie Falls around the Motor Car Falls area.

Regardless of the seasons, exploring the park on foot is the best way to see it up close, and at your own pace.

Planning to spend a few days around Kakadu National Park will allow experiencing the park at its fullest, exploring the different areas of the park? If time allows, consider adding a visit to the nearby Nitmiluk National Park to explore Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls, and Litchfield National Park to admire the giant 13-feet Cathedral Termite Mounds. Together with Kakadu, a trip that includes these Northern Territory parks is sure to appeal to all outdoor adventure enthusiasts.