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Kakadu National Park - Northern Territory 

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Darwin to Kakadu

The Northern Territory is remote, and coming from Sydney, Brisbane, or any Australian coastal city, expect a long distance drive through the heart of Australia. Geographically speaking, the distance from pretty much anywhere else in Australia is enormous. So, most people who visit the Northern Territory to go to Kakadu National Park do so through Darwin, which has a large international airport. But, even if you fly into Darwin, you will most certainly want to arrange for a vehicle (preferably 4WD) to enjoy Kakadu, Kimberly, and Litchfield National Parks. Darwin is at the Northern edge of the Northern Territory and is an eclectic, beachside city with a formidable nightlife scene (including a casino) and a wide variety of accommodation, dining, and services.

Three hours (250 km.) from Darwin is the town of Jabiru, a great little town to stock-up on supplies and top-up the gas tank. Jabiru has a supermarket, bank/ATM machine, service station, medical centre/pharmacy, travel agents, and some accommodation. Its about 5 kilometers from the Bowali Visitor Centre, a convenient place to begin your exploration into Kakadu National Park, Australia's largest national park and one of the worlds largest. The park is massive, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. The park is in the tropics and has two six-month seasons: wet and dry. This is important to note while planning your trip, as the season will affect your route and destinations within the park. In fact, one of the most popular destinations, Jim Jim Falls is only accessible with a 4WD vehicle and is virtually inaccessible during the wet season. The Bowali Visitor Centre can tell you what roads are passable and give you ideas for itinerary according to the weather conditions.

For us, the highlight of Kakadu was as much cultural as natural. Kakadu is home to the world’s largest collection of cave paintings, some of which date as far back as 20,000 years ago. Most are located on sandstone cliff faces and depicts a variety of themes, from religious ceremony to daily life. Most of the cave paintings have a reddish-orange hue resulting from dye created from Hematite stones. There were other paintings made with other colored pigments, but Hematite is the most resilient, and many other colored dyes have weathered away. The cave paintings have earned Kakadu recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage.

In terms of natural attractions, the list is abundant. The waterfalls and river areas are extraordinary and best viewed by boat. There are two species of crocodile in the park: saltwater and estuarine (freshwater). The boat guides usually will help you spot crocs and get you nice and close for a photo. The bird life is prolific, with a huge variety of birds, from Brolgas and Egrets, to Kingfishers and Parrots, Kakadu has the lot, often to be spotted in great numbers found nowhere else on earth.

Our trip to Kakadu was a three day, two night excursion. We came to Kakadu from Darwin and drove straight on after to Alice Springs. For us, three days was not nearly enough; we could have easily spent weeks in the park. Also, Kimberly and Litchfield are close by(well, close in Australia terms) and can be combined with a trip to Kakadu if you have the time and energy to do so. The Northern Territory has tons to offer those who take the time to get away from the beach and see another side of Australia.