Kakadu National Park, just 171km from Darwin, is located within the East and West Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory. It covers a massive 19,804 square kilometres, extending almost 200km from north to south and over 100km from east to west. It is half the size of Switzerland!
Aboriginal people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. (The name is a mispronunciation of 'Gagudju'). The area is renowned for the richness of their culture and over 5000 art sites illustrating Aboriginal culture over thousands of years are recorded. Archaeological findings demonstrate occupation for at least 20,000 years and possibly up to 40,000 years.
The Aboriginal traditional owners of the park are descendants of various clan groups from the Kakadu area and have longstanding affiliations with this country. Their lifestyle has changed in recent years, but traditional customs and beliefs remain very important. About 500 Aboriginal people live in the park, many of them being traditional owners.
The World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park is the gateway to Arnhem Land and has an amazing array of birds and wildlife. Depending on the season you may spot crocodiles, wallabies, dingoes, goanna and many of the myriad of bird species thriving there.
The flora is also magnificent and changes dramatically from the tropical summer season to the dry season in May to November. Rains hit the Top End between November and April and Kakadu springs to life almost overnight with an endless array of birdlife, waterfalls and vegetation. Meadows of speargrass grow to two metres in a few short weeks.
A marvellous way to explore this fascinating old land is to join a Hawk Dreaming tour. They run small group safari-style camping tours and visit a wide range of environments at the ideal time of day for full appreciation.
They have permission from the traditional custodians and have been granted exclusive overnight access to the Aboriginal land of Hawk Dreaming where they have built their safari camp.
You will be treated to fine examples of ancient rock art and occupation sites with no fences, no crowds and with the guidance of the traditional owner.
Enjoy the intimate and historical experience with a maximum of sixteen people in comfortable, air-conditioned 4WDs with forward-facing seating.
Comfortable tents ensure privacy and a good sleep and there is a lounge and dining area with never-ending supplies of delicious home-made food.
The first stop may be Bird Billabong on the edge of the Mary River where you will take an early-morning walk to spot wildlife. Then enjoy a break at the Bark Hut Inn, an interesting outback pub.
It's interesting to visit the Bowali Visitor Centre, Kakadu National Park Headquarters, which has displays introducing the many different ecosystems making up this World Heritage National Park. A short climb to a lookout gives great views of the Hawk Dreaming land.
After breakfast on the second morning you travel to Jim Jim Gorge by 4WD track and then hike through the spectacular gorge to the base of the falls for a refreshing swim in the plunge pool. After lunch you'll explore the land of the Bunitj people and explore rock art sites in a spiritual atmosphere.
On day three you leave Hawk Dreaming and head south to Cooinda, home of the Yellow Water Wetlands Cruise, where you spot crocodiles and other wildlife. At Barramundi Gorge you walk through a paperbark forest and stop for lunch at a wonderful waterfall. In the afternoon you are taken back to your Darwin accommodation. (In the event of conditions preventing access to Jim Jim Gorge there will be alternative touring.)