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World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a place of rugged escarpments, lush wetlands and cascading waterfalls covering over 19,000 square kilometres. Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, and can be entered either from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway or via Pine Creek on the Kakadu Highway.
The Nature’s Way tourism drive is a great way to explore the Park. The flora and fauna found in Kakadu National Park is diverse, with pockets of rainforest, wetlands rimmed with paperbarks, pandanus and cycads and dotted with lotus lilies. Some of Kakadu’s amazing wildlife includes crocodiles, barramundi, and birds, such as magpie geese, brolgas, jabirus and white-bellied sea eagles. Around 1000 different plant species, a quarter of all Australian freshwater fish species, and over one third of Australian bird species can be found in the Park.
Kakadu National Park is managed jointly by Parks Australia, an Australian government body, and the Park’s traditional Aboriginal owners. A number of Aboriginal clans reside within the Park, and have for some hundreds of years. Kakadu is home to one of the largest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art in the world. Natural galleries of these ancient paintings can be seen at sites like Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock. Other spectacular landmarks include Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls, Maguk/Barramundie Gorge, Jarrangbarnmi/Koolpin Gorge and Gunlom, which means ‘waterfall creek’ in the Jawoyn Aboriginal language.
Kakadu National Park also offers several established walking tracks and camp grounds. At the centre of the Park is the small mining township of Jabiru, which offers a range of services and accommodation and serves as a touring centre for the unspoiled wetlands of the nearby Mary River National Park, home to millions of birds and plentiful barramundi. Another settlement, Cooinda, also offers accommodation, and is located on the banks of Yellow Water, a billabong teeming with migratory birds, saltwater crocodiles and other wildlife. Cruises on Yellow Water depart daily. A visit to Kakadu is best started at the Bowali Cultural Centre near Jabiru or the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre near Cooinda. Each provides visitors a good appreciation of the Park’s traditional owners’ culture and heritage.
In both Kakadu and Arnhem Land you can learn about and view the many world-famous rock art galleries on a guided tour or through the comprehensive interpretative signage at many art sites. The art sites were integral to Kakadu achieving its World Heritage status with the oldest sites providing evidence of occupation many hundreds of years. The rock art depicts the area’s social, cultural and natural history.
Aside from sharing their art, Aboriginal guides enjoy teaching visitors about the daily aspects of their culture on a Park tour. Some tours explore the spectacular bush environment, searching for traditional foods and medicines while others cruise rivers and billabongs.
There are also a number of indigenous art galleries in Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land and around the Gove Peninsula. The art centres are generally within Aboriginal communities and visits by travellers are encouraged. The art centres can arrange visitor permits and advise when is the best time of day to watch local artists and craftspeople create their work. Art and crafts can also be purchased.
Obirr in Kakadu National Park …