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 it. 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 reaches 2 meters in length. 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 complemented 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, only 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 they’ve lived in this country since it came up.”
Kakadu National Park is not only one of the best places to vacation, but also a treasure trove of knowledge in various areas of biology.
When you come here you enter a completely different world with its own climate and special flora and fauna, characteristic only for Australia. The park is located in Australia on the Arnhem Land Peninsula near the city of Darwin. A big plus of the park is that it is open all year round, but entrance is paid.
When visiting Kakadu, you can stay in campsites or go to the park’s population center, Jabiru. There are hotels, restaurants, stores, a bank and other elements of infrastructure. Near Jabiru is a visit center, where any tourist will be told about the local attractions and help you choose a tour. There is also a store with handmade souvenirs in the center.
Kakadu Park has a huge area, so to get around it in one day is unreal. An abundance of tours will not get bored.
In the park you can ride horses through the monsoon forest, take part in a car tour or rent a jeep and go down to the gorge Culpin. By the way, you can also spend the night there. But there is always a fly in the ointment. And so here. Each year during the rainy season floods a large part of the park, so some hiking trails are inaccessible to tourists. For water lovers there is an interesting tour along the Alligator River, where you can meet real crocodiles and other diverse fauna. Anyway, to explore the entire park and feel its power is quite difficult on foot or otherwise, so Kakadu has a helicopter tour of the entire park. An experienced tour guide will show and tell the history of each natural landmark.
History of Kakadu Park
About 40,000 years ago, the island was already inhabited by people, the ancestors of today’s aborigines. As it should be, they were engaged in gathering, fishing, and hunting. They even developed their own distinct culture, which we have learned of only recently on the basis of numerous archaeological finds. In the caves of Arnhem Land, archaeologists have also found rock art, very reminiscent of X-rays.
According to scientists, the area had already been visited at that time by Asians before it was officially discovered during the Dutch sea voyage. The island was not explored until 1802 by Matthew Flinders.
The second half of the 19th century was marked by the arrival of missionaries. This visit greatly influenced the future life of the natives. They began to learn sciences, religions. During the many missions, some natives even received medical care. In the early 20th century, the natives became involved in the mining industry, which reversed the usual way of life and raised the people to a new level. Over time, there appeared a whole network of telegraphs, gold mines were founded, and later even found a deposit of uranium. This economic boost attracted the Europeans, who began to actively press the natives. And by the end of the 1970s, the indigenous population was no more than 150 people. Such a rapid decline was influenced not only by outside pressures, but also by diseases brought in from other continents. And so, reaching a critical point, the population decided to start fighting for their rights.
In 1979, the founding of the Kakadu Park takes place, timed to preserve the surrounding landscape. It got its name from the tribe of “gagaju”, whose name has always been mispronounced by Europeans. For the preservation of the gifts of nature today are monitored not only by the aborigines, but the management of all national parks and reserves in Australia. Even all the tours of the park are conducted by the indigenous people. Which is a huge plus, because each meeting is always filled with positivity and plenty of ancient legends and legends. Cockatoo is very popular with tourists from all over the world. Each year here come more than 250 thousand people.
The park is located on a huge plateau, riddled with threads of rivers. Almost every side of the park has gorges and long mountain ranges. It feels like Kakadu is hidden from the world around it. The park’s landscapes, which constantly change throughout the area, are surprising. Here you will meet and humid rainforest, and impenetrable swamps, and hot plains.
Kakadu’s main river network is the Alligator River and its many tributaries. It is an amazingly beautiful body of water, delighting tourists. That is why the management of the park constantly organizes walks on the Alligator, so that anyone can get acquainted with the flora and fauna of the river. Along the course of the river you will encounter not only life-rich places, but also dried-up rivers. These include Jim Jim, Twin, Double, Gunlon and Majela. Surprisingly, adjoining these are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Australia.
Another attraction of the water cruise is a visit to the park’s largest alligator swamp.
The park’s caves hide archaeological discoveries – rock art. It is a very interesting spectacle, because the drawings are made in such a way that on closer inspection you can see the internal fragments of animals and people. Most of the paintings are more than 20 thousand years old, but they are still in good condition.
Kakadu Park Plants
The flora of the national park is considered one of the richest in the world. In total, there are more than 1700 species of plants collected in the territory. Widespread throughout the territory, the so-called monsoon forest, in which the most favorable conditions served the emergence of endemics. Among them is the Kulpin eucalyptus, growing right next to the gorge of the same name. The entire low-lying part of the park is occupied by eucalypts. A little higher up you can find another endemic – heteropogon twisted.
As mentioned above, during the rainy season, a huge area of the park is flooded. And the rains continue for several months. But even this does not prevent the growth of mangrove forests on the flooded land, in which grows pandan, a tea tree. There are more than 39 species of mangroves in the park, although only 47 varieties of this plant are known in the world.
Of the park’s rich fauna, about 74 species are represented by marsupials alone. Most of them live in the forest and are active at night, but, for example, the kangaroo is active only during the day. Among the endemics of the animal world are the dingo, the kangaroo antelope, the wallaby, the dugong, the big bandicoot and so on. An unpleasant tendency has been noticed, related to a sharp decrease in the number of animals in the park. But the local population is stubbornly fighting it.
Cockatoo has a large collection of birds, numbering more than 280 different species. Many of them can live in different environments, but there are also purely “Australian” species that live only here. In addition to mammals and birds, there are also 117 species of reptiles. These are the different kinds of inhabitants you can find in Kakadu.