The name "Kakadu" comes from the Aboriginal floodplain language Gagudju, which was spoken in the north of the park at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the language is no longer regularly spoken, descendents of the group are still living in Kakadu. Languages used in the park today include Kunwinjku from the north-eastern region, Gun-djeihmi from the central region and Jawoyn from the southern region.
Aboriginal legend says Kakadu was shaped by the spiritual ancestors of Aboriginal people during the Creation Time. They journeyed across the country creating landforms, plants and animals, taking with them laws to live by ceremony, language, kinship and ecological knowledge.
A team of Kakadu locals formed Animal Tracks, aiming to provide an authentic hands-on Aboriginal tourism experience, combined with a wildlife safari. The small group has an interactive approach in offering an insight into authentic indigenous culture.
Sean Arnold, owner and guide of Animal Tracks, first visited Kakadu in 1995 and realised its beauty. Tours began in 2000 from an Aboriginal-owned property in the Kakadu National Park called the Buffalo Farm.
The Animal Tracks tour began operating in 2000 on an Aboriginal-owned 170 sq km property in the Kakadu National Park called the Buffalo Farm in the Woolwonga Aboriginal Reserve. It provides bush food to Aboriginal people in Kakadu and the safaris fund the farm.
Tours aim to nurture Aboriginal participation in business or employment in a way that enriches local culture and providing career opportunities in their homelands. There is a happy balance between traditional ways and modern tour guiding.
Tours are accompanied by Patsy Raglar, a traditional Aboriginal guide. She was awarded best interpretive guide in the Northern Territory in the 2003 Brolga Tourism Awards. She grew up in the bush, living under paperbark shelters made by her father, while learning survival skills from her elders. She lives at Buffalo Farm with the husband and speaks many Aboriginal languages.
Animal Tracks activities include hunting, gathering, preparation and tasting of a variety of bush foods and medicines, campfire cooking, collection of natural fibres and dyes, construction of bush shelter, Aboriginal lore stories, dreaming and learning an Aboriginal language.
Kakadu is unique because it contains many different wildlife habitats within its boundaries freshwater billabongs, floodplains, woodland savannah and paperbark swamps. They are home to buffalo, wallaby, crocodile, goanna, snakes, turtle, dingo, wild pigs, nocturnal animals and the unexplained bird gathering phenomenon which occurs from mid-June to September.
A typical seven-hour safari leaves Cooinda at 1pm for the drive to the Buffalo Farm where you are met by your guide.
Travel is in a specialised four-wheel drive as you search for wildlife, experience hands-on bush food gathering and participate in many other cultural experiences unique to this safari. As the sun sets you enjoy a traditional campfire bush food cook-up and marvel at the surrounding wildlife. You are then returned to Cooinda at around 8pm.