Kakadu National Park, part three, Northern Territory

Jabiru, East Alligator and South Alligator regions

The drive from Cooinda to Jabiru was one of our shortest trips, a mere 48km, however we did chuckle as not long after we left Cooinda we passed a sign saying Jabiru 48km, then after travelling a further 5 km we passed another sign stating, Jabiru 51km………. welcome to the NT!!!

After the stories we had been hearing about the mossie population up at Merl campground up near Ubirr, the crazy itchiness of the 50 mossie bites I had acquired on my legs and the fact that we had run out of our you beaut mossie repellent, we changed our plans and decided to base ourselves at Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park in Jabiru, once again getting all the bells and whistles of a caravan park for only an extra $8. Then at the end of the day with the heat bearing down on us we could swim in the resort pool, which just happened to have the bar next to it…….

After we arrived and encountered one of the nicest, friendliest and helpful park managers, we did a quick set up and then headed over to the Bowali Visitor Centre, where we joined in on the traditional painting and cultural activities. After an hour and a half of activities we retreated to the coolness of the interactive display in the centre, walking through and reading about the wildlife and history of the region. This display was more a national parks focus, teaching us more about the wildlife and ranger activity within Kakadu, compared to the Aboriginal cultural display down near Cooinda, so once again we spent a while working our way around. We ended up finishing in the wonderfully air conditioned theatre room, where we surprisingly ended up sitting and watching 1 1/2 episodes of an ABC 6 part documentary all about Kakadu, the ranger program and the joint partnership between the traditional owners and the federal national parks department. It even explained how they got the park ready for tourists and how they transported the steel floating walkways into Twin Falls by helicopter, something Nik and I had asked each other as we were walking across them a few days ago!!! Whilst I had only faint memories, Nik distinctly remembered watching about 3 episodes of this documentary series on the ABC quite a few years ago, especially about the rangers training the endangered Quoll species not to eat the dreaded cane toad. As we sat in the info centre and enjoyed the documentary that much, we decided to try and get a copy of it whilst in Darwin and watch the whole 6 episodes again (cue groans from the kids….hehe). Later that night back at the caravan park there was a very fun and interesting wildlife talk from Christian, one of the national parks rangers, covering every aspect of the different regions and highlighting the unique biodiversity of Kakadu and its importance for the abundance of wildlife that call Kakadu home.

Traditional painting at the Visitors centre.

After the info centre we went for a drive into the shopping centre in Jabiru to pick up some fresh fruit and veges before scurvy set in, stocked up on a few of the kids magazines at the newsagency, then went to the Northern Lands Council to apply and pay for our day permit across Cahills Crossing and into Arnhem Land. The permit cost about $30 for Nik and I and was very specific in allowing us only to drive to Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) community to visit the Injalak Art Centre, we were instructed to NOT stop along the road, we were NOT allowed to enter any side streets in the community and were NOT to go any other route other than what was on the map. However, the next day, before we headed over into Arnhem Land, we spent a good hour sitting at Cahills Crossing at high tide watching the Ginga (salties) swimming downstream of the crossing, opportunistically catching all the fish that the high tide pushed down the river. Cahills Crossing is another infamous crossing, renowned for its Ginga population and high tides which make the crossing often uncrossable, still that doesn’t stop a lot of stupid people who have attempted to cross at high tide and therefore been rescued and earned their spot on the photo wall of shame back at the Northern Land Council offices back in Jabiru. We oohhed and aahhed as we counted at least 15 ginga’s waiting at the crossing, however god knows how many more were underneath……

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Lunch time at Cahills cafe!!!
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Crocestrian crossing!!!!
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Rather large alpha male ginga, succesfully catching fish for lunch……
Mmmm, gutsy move.
A car crossing over from Arnhem Land.
The crocs just waiting below the lookout, 2 minutes before I took this a parent had let their child stand on the rock in the centre of the photo, sure he was 2 metres above the water, but all it would take was for the kid to fall and there would be no saving him. Once again pure stupidity!!!
And he was one of the smaller ones…..

Our personal crossing of Cahills was a much more subdued affair, with the water only being slightly more than a puddle over the causeway, therefore thankfully we didn’t qualify for the hall of shame. From Cahills we drove to Injalak Art Centre, at times driving very slowly as we took photos of the amazing billabongs and surrounding stone country, apparently one of the reasons you are not allowed to stop is that the area is very concentrated with areas of cultural significance, so with that in mind we followed the rules and didn’t stop, even though at times we perhaps only just moving at walking speed, but we never stopped….

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The drive into Arnhem Land.
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Beautiful billabongs along the way, with smoke from a burn off in the distance.
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Lots of rocky outcrops.
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Beautiful Arnhem Land.

We spent a bit of time at Injalak, having a really good look at all the paintings and weaved baskets inside, they also do panels and lengths of materials out the back in the screen printing area. All the art and products were beautiful, expensive but beautiful nontheless. Unfortunately when we were inside nothing really took our fancy, so after a while we went out the back to watch the women doing the basket weaving, using the leaves of the pandanus palm. Its amazing how the different roots, leaves and seeds can be crushed and boiled down to create the purple, brown, yellow and black dyes that they use to dye the dried pandanus leaves and then start to weave the basket. We then went and had a look at the screen printing workshop and then watched as a few of the men were painting. One young bloke was painting a picture that caught my eye, it had a brown and orange background and he had painted about 6 turtles on it (turtles are very important to the Aborginal people of Kakadu and Arnhem Land). We watched him for another few minutes, he had such a steady hand as he was painting very fine lines and patterns onto the turtles, it was quite mesmerising to watch, he even had the girls and Nik entranced. I then decided to head back into the store and ask if I could buy the painting he was doing, so I left Nik to take a photo of the painting and also the artist, Tyrone. Thankfully they were very accomodating, saying sure but lets let him finish it first!!! LOL, after giving them my details, they said they will call me in a few days, where I can pay over the phone and they will ship it to us in Darwin, fantastic service. In their brochure they said they also have a stall at the Mindil Market and online, but those prices were at retail prices, whereas buying onsite you only pay wholesale prices. The whole set up is quite professional with at least 2 non indigenous people in the sales department, very arty people too. Obviously they get asked a lot of questions about how its all run, as they have a FAQ brochure explaining why non indigenous people work in the gallery (the indigenous people from the community often find so many white tourists intimidating and therefore won’t work in the gallery) and how much of the sale price goes to the artist (50% of the wholesale price), then all the profits, after overheads are paid, gets put back into the community. Have a look at www.injalak.com

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The local ladies weaving baskets that are then sold at the arts centre.
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Our nearly finished art work that we purchased.
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Our artwork and its very talented artist, Tyrone.

Later on that afternoon we then headed to Ubirr, where we walked around and had a look at the numerous amounts of rock art, we even spotted a painting of a Tasmanian Tiger…….. just makes you shake your head in amazement. After we spent a while looking at the art we climbed up to the Nadab floodplain lookout where we had an intimate sunset sitting with about 150 other people……. thankfully, the lookout was big enough so that we didn’t feel like everyone was on top of each other. From memory this lookout was also the spot, where in the movie, Crocodile Dundee (not sure if it was 1 or 2), Mick Dundee stood up there and was swinging around a thing that made the whirring sound…….. not sure if I’m right on that one though, so thats another 2 films we will have to watch when we get to Darwin, just need to make sure they are appropriate viewing for the kids too……

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Photo bomb at Ubirr.
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The sunset over the floodplains of Ubirr.
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Family shot at Ubirr.
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On our last day in Kakadu Nik went and played 9 holes at the golf course then we went for a drive across and down to Red Lily, Bucket and Alligator Billabongs, along the old Jim Jim Road. This drive had been recommended by Christian the ranger from the wildlife talk and slideshow. It was a beautiful drive in, however it was really heating up so we didn’t stay too long at each spot. It was quite funny how still and quiet the billabongs were, however later on at the croc talk run by ranger Christian, he informed us that those billabongs were highly satuarated with many gingas…………… lucky, I found that out after we had been, otherwise no one would have been allowed out of the car!!! Especially at Red Lilly, as the bank and ‘picnic area’ was relatively flat and easy ground for a croc to move about on, and believe it or not we found people camping here with their swags within about 4 metres from the water……

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Alligator Billabong, so peaceful, however full of ginga’s….
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Red Lilly Billabong.
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Red Lilly Billabong, lots of bubbles were seen coming to the surface…..

After spending 11 days in Kakadu National Park, we felt that we had plenty of time to see most of the sights along with a few quiet days in between, something that is needed considering the amount of hard yakka walks and humid heat. As a family, we enjoyed Kakadu, obviously the girls and Nik enjoyed all the swimming in gorgeous waterholes a lot!! We had decided to not do any schoolwork whilst here, so that we could emerse ourselves in the walks and cultural destinations, stories and history. We attended as many ranger led talks as possible and spent alot of time in the Cultural centres and info centres reading all of the information regarding the area, including its management of animals, landscape and occupancy. Personally, I LOVED Kakadu, for its ‘feel’, culture, beauty, biodiversity and affordability for everyone. I felt that we didn’t need to spend ridiculous amounts of money to do cruises or cultual tours or talks in order to experience what Kakadu is. The cultural and info centres are well set up and the numerous ranger talks are free to attend, all available thanks to the $100 family parks pass. Aside from this intial outlay the most we then spent whilst in the park was $25 on ice creams, money very well spent according to the girls. We were all very pleased that we visited Kakadu, its no wonder that it is heritage listed, there are so many facets to the park and Arnhem Land to its east that it is a place that we could keep coming back to and keep finding and learning new things about it. Fingers crossed, we are able to come back and visit during the wet season, to sit on Ubirr (only accessible by boat during the wet) and watch the storms roll in would be the ultimate!!!

However, the girls were itching to move on, after not seeing a decent sized shopping centre since we left Perth way back in March, they were more then keen to spend their pocket money, that had been burning holes in their pockets. They also had a long awaited reunion with some travelling mates that we were meeting at out next destination and adventure on our OZLAP………

3 thoughts on “Kakadu National Park, part three, Northern Territory

  1. I wonder if the gingas at Red Lily think that people sleeping in swags near the water are the ginga equivalent of a Chiko Roll? 🙂

    Keep on having fun!

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