Mention Australia’s Northern Territory and you’ll often conjure images of sizzling, hot deserts and vast empty land. Indeed, the Red Centre is a desert painted in a vermillion color and sprinkled with cacti and peculiar rock formations. But head further north and you’ll be surprised to find a completely different world.
The Top End, as it’s called, is a smattering of lush green tropical rainforests and magnificent gorges. Wetlands and ancient gorges dominate the landscape while snaking within them are spectacular waterfalls, pristine rock pools and Aboriginal art. Located closer to the equator than the other ends of Australia, this tropical part of Australia truly defies all stereotypes.
To explore this region, we headed into the Kakadu National Park on a three-day hiking adventure. As Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu spans across hundreds of square kilometers (the size of Slovenia) and three days were barely enough to scrape the surface.
But in this short time period, we explored the many sides of Kakadu: from cruising on Adelaide River, to trekking miles in Arnhem Land, swimming in beautiful rock pools and finding 2000 million-year-old rocks with Aboriginal art revealing stories of the past. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of our Kakadu Adventure.
Saltwater Crocodiles in Adelaide River
We started the trip with a boat cruise along the Adelaide River for a glimpse of the famous star of the show. We watched as the crocodiles leaped and jumped just inches away from our boat. Other than crocs, there was a myriad of wildlife – from eagles to magpie and kingfishers.
Aboriginal Art at Ubirr Lookout
The park is jointly managed by Parks Australia and the traditional owners. The Bininj in the north and Mungguy in the south have lived in Kakadu for the last 50, 000 years and naturally, they have have left their marks here. At Ubirr lookout, we found several Aboriginal rock art sites that told 20,000-year-old stories: of the existence of the Tasmanian tiger and many other ancient species.
Motorcar Creek Falls
Formed phenomenally by tectonic plate movements, the Motorcar Creek was created thousands of years ago. It only gets filled with water in the wet season. (November to March) As for its name, you’ll have to come and hear it for yourself to understand why.
Gubana Pools and the Castle
The highlight of the hiking tour was the challenging hike up steep and rugged boulders enroute to viewpoint, the Castle. Most hikers only get to the pools but we pushed past our limit to reach the peak for a panorama of the area.
At the end of the hike, back at the foot of the Castle, we dipped right into the fresh Gubana pools – which were a cooling respite from the sizzling heat.