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Kakadu and Arnhem Land

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Kakadu" comes from the Aboriginal floodplain language Gaagudju, one of the languages spoken in the north of the park at the beginning of last century. The language is no longer regularly spoken, but descendents of the group still live in Kakadu.

Kakadu National Park has a wet and a dry season. The wet, between October and April, means many attractions are impossible to reach, so the period between May and September is best for visitors. They are rewarded with history, wildlife, adventure, remoteness and the romance of the bush within one of the world's most spectacular backdrops.

Billy Can Tours has been operating in the Territory since 1987 and specialises in small group camping safaris. Its itineraries, delivered by passionate guides, take in Kakadu and Litchfield national parks, the Katherine Gorge and Arnhem Land.

Arnhem Land covers 97,000 square kilometres in the north-eastern corner of the Territory. Until the mid-1950s it was under the direct rule of Darwin, but is now controlled by the Northern Land Council on behalf of its Aboriginal inhabitants.

The vast area extends from Port Roper on the Gulf of Carpentaria around the coast to the East Alligator River where it adjoins Kakadu National Park. Major centres are Jabiru on the park's border and Maningrida on the Liverpool River mouth.

Billy Can Tours travel with no more than seven passengers in an air-conditioned 4WD and each night you camp under the starriest skies imaginable. On the five-day tour taken by the Getaway team, nights one and two were at a Billy Can fully-established campsite. Set in a private area, showers and toilets are just a short walk away. Nights three and four were spent at Davidson's Arnhem Land Safaris base camp. They have twin-share airy tents with beds and power. The camp has a briefing room, library, kitchen and dining areas.

Our crew headed to Barramundi Gorge and stopped for a swim in an ancient sandstone gorge. After lunch, the tour headed to Nourlangie Rock, where there is magnificent Aboriginal rock art. That's where you camp overnight after a dinner round the fire.

There's an early start after breakfast. The tour heads to country restricted to 4WD vehicles. Twin Falls is the first stop and after lunch there's a short hike through rainforest to the crystal waters of Jim Jim Falls. Then comes dinner and a restful sleep.

A sunrise cruise is taken to see native birdlife and saltwater crocodiles. Then it's breakfast, more colourful rock art and Ubirr Rock — the world's oldest art gallery. After a picnic lunch, you drive across East Alligator River into Arnhem Land and the tiny town of Oenpelli. It's at the entrance to Davidson's Mt Borradaile Safari Camp.

Mt Borradaile and its surrounds are honeycombed with caves and shelters, used by Aboriginal people for over 20,000 years. The area is rich and diverse — you will learn about bush tucker and culture, birdwatching, photography and Aboriginal art. Or just enjoy the silence.

Day five, grab your binoculars and go bird spotting. There are over 275 species of birds and colourful insects in the area. Take a dip in a swimming hole before heading back to Darwin.


Three hours from Darwin in the Northern Territory.


Billy Can Tours' five-day Kakadu Arnhem Land 4WD safari departs from Darwin and costs $2695 for adults and $2156 for children. Accommodation, meals and transfers are included.

Prices quoted are correct on September 14, 2006.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Billy Can Tours
Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land
Northern Territory 0801
Ph: 1800 813 484
Fax: (08) 8984 2926

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789

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