Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park is located 171 kilometers east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its archaeological, natural and ethnological components are under strict protection because Kakadu Park is unique and inimitable!
Kakadu National Park covers an area of 20,000 square kilometers and is located about 150 kilometers east of the city of Darwin. It is the largest national park in Australia. It also includes the South Alligator River, home to a particularly large crocodile population, and various areas of the park include heathland, eucalyptus and rain forest.
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Video: Kakadu National Park
The history of the park and its name
It would be logical to assume that the park is named after the colorful cockatoo parrot, but this is far from the case. The park got its name because Europeans mispronounced the name of the language spoken by the tribe of aborigines living in the area. Their language was called Gagadju, but the European ear heard “Kakadu,” which gave the name to the area and later to the National Park.
Kakadu Park was founded in 1981, but only after the adoption in 1999 of the law “On Protection of the Environment and Natural Diversity” the entire area was declared a National Park. Today, its area is 19,804 km². The park, which extends 200 km from North to South and 100 km from West to East, has clear boundaries created by nature. The precipitous rocks, up to 400-500 meters high, fringe the reserve, as if protecting it from destructive winds and prying eyes.
Flora and fauna
A distinctive feature of Kakadu National Park is that its nature looks as if no man has ever set foot here. The territory of the park has not only a unique structure of the earth’s crust, but also soils, unusual in their biological and chemical composition. An extensive water network covers the whole territory of the reserve, thanks to which its flora and fauna are amazingly diverse.
More than 1,700 plant species, 280 bird species, 117 reptile species, 77 varieties of freshwater fish, 1,000 species of insects and 60 species of mammals have been recorded in Kakadu Park. And in the waters of Noarlanga Creek and Majella Creek, you can find both human-safe freshwater crocodiles and giant crested sea crocodiles, which terrify all the inhabitants and visitors of the park.
Two species of crocodiles live here – Johnson’s crocodiles live in fresh water and feed mostly on fish, and the crested crocodiles are the largest reptiles in the world, which can live in both fresh and salt water. They can reach up to b meters in length. These crocodiles are extremely dangerous, it has happened that they have killed careless tourists.
Here you can also see the barramundi – a double-breathing fish that is up to 2 meters long. Not to mention frogs! Scientists have counted about 22 species of these amphibians in the park. The most famous are the bullfrog, the marbled frog, the green tree frog and the toad frog.
Against the lush green vegetation of the park, the light brown termites, reaching 6-8 meters in height, catch the eye. Termites build their structures from saliva, earth, and shredded wood. These structures are as strong as bricks. Traveling through the park, you can meet the whole glades of termites.
The picturesque picture is completed by another attraction of the park – a cascade of waterfalls Jim Jim, Maguk and Gemini, when you look at them breathtaking. They dry up towards the end of the dry season, to reappear during the rains.
Before Australians came to the area, Kakadu Park was home to about 2,000 First Peoples. Today, 500 Aboriginal people live and work here permanently. They are direct descendants of various tribes who lived in the territory of the reserve more than 40 thousand years ago. According to legend, the “first people” have appeared in Kakadu Park in the “time of dreams” (the creation of the world), when our forebears emerged from the depths of the Earth, who, after wandering around the world, sank into the rocks, leaving only their fingerprints on the surface. The natives are sure that the souls of ancestors still dwell in the southern part of the reserve, called “the land of disease”, and therefore they warn tourists to tread carefully and not to wake the sleeping gods. There is a rational explanation for this story. When the first conquerors came to these lands, many of them died of disease, while others returned to their towns and settlements.
In general, the Aborigines keep many stories and legends handed down from generation to generation. They are happy to share them with tourists, while leaving room for mystery and hints. A representative of the Manilacarr clan says, “Our land has a huge history. Sometimes we talk a little more. Come and listen to our stories, see our lands. Perhaps it will stay in your heart. And if you want more, you’ll come back.”
Unique rock art
When visiting Kakadu Park, travelers should definitely see the drawings of Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur caves. Recognized as outstanding examples of Aboriginal rock art in Australia, they are rightfully the main attraction of the park.
The petroglyphs open the door to Aboriginal mystery and local life, from prehistoric hunters and gatherers to the present day. An interesting “X-ray style” is an original feature of their drawings: the artists transmitted not only the external appearance of people and animals, but also their internal organs. Rock paintings were created for different reasons:
- Hunting – images of animals were bright, eye-catching to exaggerate their beauty and power, guaranteeing a successful hunt to the one who came into contact with the spirit of the painted animal.
- Sacred significance – some drawings depict the stages of mysterious religious ceremonies.
- History – the caves are dominated by drawings showing the history of the creation of the world by the Ancestral Spirits.
- Witchcraft and sorcery – the drawings may have been used for ritual purposes to control events and influence people’s lives.
It is also interesting that for Aborigines the process of creation of rock art was more important than its outcome. This is confirmed by the fact that many drawings are made on top of old ones.
The images suggest that humans appeared here more than 50,000 years ago. But the natives treat these studies with irony. The Warrajan people say, “People came to these lands and found ochre, stone tools, and embers from a fire. They said the aborigines lived here 50,000 years ago. But at least the aborigines know that they’ve lived in this country since it’s been here.”
Kakadu National Park – land of aborigines and crocodiles
The main feature of Australia – the unique nature. Tropical forests, mountains of the most bizarre shapes and colors, the ocean coast, waterfalls, deserts. And it all looks very different from anywhere else in the world. In Australia there are more than five hundred national parks, their total area is 28 million hectares (4% of the territory). Kakadu Park (KakaduPark) is one of the largest and most interesting. Each year, 250 thousand tourists visit this natural site. They are attracted by the diverse landscape, unique flora and fauna, caves with drawings of ancient people, interesting locations for photos. To explore the main attractions of the park, located on an area of more than 19 thousand square kilometers, will take more than one day. A brief description of this natural “pearl” of Australia can be read below.
Where is Kakadu Park
The national park is located in the north of the country, on the Arnhem Land Peninsula. The nearest large city, Darwin, is 171 km from the park. This is a short distance for Australia.
How to get there:
The nearest airports are in Darwin and Alice Springs . You can get to the park from these cities by rental car or with a tour group.
The park is reached by car from Darwin via the Stewart Highway, then the Arnhem Road.
History of Kakadu Park.
The areas where the park is today were settled 40,000 years ago . Aboriginal tribes were gatherers and hunters. Their culture, samples of which have survived to this day, was distinctive. Particularly interesting are the drawings where people and animals are depicted in X-ray style, with internal organs.
There is speculation that Chinese and Malay navigators visited Australia much earlier than its official discovery by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. M. Flinders made a survey and survey of the northern coast in 1802. L. Leuchgard crossed the territory by land in 1845, and in 1862 an expedition of Europeans explored the places where the southwestern boundary of Kakadu Park now lies.
Missionaries from Europe arrived on Arnhem Land in the 19th century. They began to educate and treat the natives.
The development of the mining industry in the early twentieth century affected the region. A telegraph and railroad were built. In the twenties and thirties, mines began operating where gold was mined. And in the 1950s, uranium mining began. By this time, the number of Kakadu natives was down to 150 people. They were dying from diseases introduced by the settlers and were being evicted to other regions. In the 70s, the remaining natives began to assert their rights.
To preserve the unique area, a national park was created in 1979.
This is interesting. The name of the park has nothing to do with parrots. It was the name of a tribe of aborigines who lived in the area for centuries. More precisely, the tribe was called “gagaju”, but the first Europeans pronounced the name as “cockatoo”, the name stuck.
Cockatoo Park today
Today, 500 aboriginal people live and work in the park, giving tours, serving tourists in hotels, stores and cafes. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, both as natural and cultural heritage. Hundreds of thousands of travelers from all over the world visit this amazing place, which carefully preserves the pristine nature.
Description of Kakadu Park
Kakadu is located on a hilly plateau, its height from 180 m to 400 m. There are rivers running through the park. The park is framed by rocks, the height of which up to 500 m, they enclose Kakadu on all sides. The landscape is very diverse: tropical forests, swamps, savannah, woodlands, rivers, waterfalls, and cliffs.
The main rivers are the Alligator and Wildman. Park staff conducts water tours, where tourists get acquainted with a variety of flora and fauna. There are other smaller rivers in the park. Visitors are impressed by the park’s waterfalls. In the southern part of Kakadu is a large swamp, it is beloved by birds and reptiles.
There are many caves in the cliffs, some of which have preserved drawings that are about 20,000 years old.
The concentration of rock art in Kakadu is one of the largest in the world. There are individual images of people and animals, and there are entire paintings. The peculiarity of the drawings is an X-ray image, which means that the natives did not just draw figures, but also depicted the internal organs.
Did you know? Ancient painters made paint from plant pigments and water. Brushes were made from hair, feathers, and reeds.
One of the most visited places in the park is Ubirr . There are a large number of drawings, mostly images of fish, turtles. There is even a picture of the Tasmanian tiger, which was found in this area 2000 years ago.
Ubirr rock art is considered one of the best in the world. A hiking trail from Ubirr will lead you to the viewpoints.
Jim Jim Falls.
The park’s most famous waterfall has a height of 200 m. The best time to visit is from December to March. This is the rainy season and the waterfall during this period looks the most picturesque, though you can see it at this time only from the air. Even in the dry season to get to it is not easy. From the entrance to the park you have to drive 60 km on dirt and 10 km off-road. According to the reviews of tourists, the waterfall is very beautiful and the time spent on the road is not a pity. There are several other waterfalls in the park, they are smaller, but also picturesque.
Crocodiles in the park
There are thousands of crocodiles living in the waterholes of the park. There are billboards all over the park with warnings about where it’s dangerous to be. But there are ways to see the predators completely safely. Staff members lead dueling excursions to places where these reptiles are plentiful. There are specially equipped platforms from which you can watch the crocodiles. The best time for observation is from August to November.
Flora and Fauna
The flora of the park consists of 2,000 species. There are endemic plants which are not found elsewhere, such as eucalyptus kulpinus. Eucalyptus is the most common plant in Kakadu Park. The floodplains are flooded for several months of the year. The main plants of this area are mangrove forests (39 species of mangroves). Tea tree, pandal and herbs grow in them. Lilies of different species grow in the ponds. There are succulents in the park.
Animals of 74 species (mammals) feel fine in the protected area. You can meet kangaroos and other marsupials, dingoes, martens, flying foxes, tree rats. Unfortunately, the animal population in the park has been declining in recent years.
Did you know? The flying fox feeds on eucalyptus pollen and can travel 50 km in one night. The body length of this animal is only 40 cm.
280 species of birds nest in Kakadu and 119 species of reptiles. The main inhabitants of the park are crocodiles of two species – the crested and freshwater crocodiles. The former grow up to 7 meters, the latter up to 3 meters. The park has many frogs, 25 species. In the rivers there are 53 species of fish.
Where to stay for the night?
The main population center of the park is Jabiru . This is a small town with hotels, restaurants, cafes, supermarket, post office, bank, tourist and medical center. You can spend the night in hotels, as well as in the campsite.
The Bovali Guest Center is not far from Djabiru. On its territory is located the office of the Directorate of Kakadu National Park. Here you can get all the information about the park and excursions.
- In NP Kakadu is home to 10,000 crocodiles, not counting the cubs.
- Fishing is allowed in the park. You can catch fish from a boat or from the shore. But in either case, the staff warns of caution. Crocodiles also like fish. They can accompany the boat. Fishing from the shore can only be at a distance of at least 5 meters from the water.
- The Kakadu area is equal to half of Switzerland.
- According to Wikipedia, the park stretches 200 km from north to south and 100 km from west to east.
- Among the cave paintings are images that are 20,000 years old, and there are paintings depicting European ships that came to Australia 300 years ago. They are called “first contact” paintings.
- Most of the park is owned by Aboriginal people. They manage Kakadu along with the state organization Parks Australia and participate in all decisions concerning the park.
- The lives of the locals have changed over the past decades. But Aboriginal people keep the traditions of their ancestors and many do what local tribes have done for centuries – fishing, hunting.
- Family admission ticket (2 adults + 2 or more children ages 5 to 15) – $65.
- Adult ticket – $25.
- Children’s ticket (ages 5-15) – $12, $5.
- Children under 4 years old visit the park for free.
What to see nearby
The closest big city to the park is Darwin . Although the distance from Kakadu to Darwin is just over 170 km, it’s not far for Australia. There are interesting sights to see in and around the city.
- The Northern Territory Museum and Gallery is located in Fanny Bay, a suburb of Darwin. The museum has more than 30,000 historical and nature exhibits in its collection. The most popular is the stuffed crocodile “Darling” that attacked boats. There are items of aboriginal life and art. The museum complex has five galleries, a traveling exhibition, theater, gift store and cafe.
- The Casuarina Coastal Park consists of 8 km of beaches, bluffs and plantings of casuarina trees. These areas are sacred to the natives, there are several sites of special importance to them. There are many birds in the park. It is one of the favorite recreational spots of Darwin residents.
- The botanical garden is located in the city, not far from the business center. On 42 hectares there is a collection of plants from Australia. Founded in 1886, the garden is divided into zones. In addition to trees, shrubs and flowers, the garden has a playground, a fountain and a visitor’s center.
Cockatoo Park in Australia is an ideal place for wildlife lovers. A trip to NP will give active and inquisitive tourists a lot of pleasant impressions – walking and water excursions, ancient rock paintings, bird and animal watching, exotic souvenirs, vivid photos.
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