Kakadu might well be the country’s best known national park, yet we’ve been told by many Australians not to bother with it.
“It’s pronounced KakaDO, but they should rename it to KakaDON’T. There really isn’t much to see.”
So our expectations aren’t high as we cross into the park around noon. And after driving for a while, we begin to understand why it doesn’t get the best reviews. The park is the size of Germany and almost completely featureless. Endless, flat bush- and wetlands stretching to the horizon … there really isn’t anything to see from the road. You could literally drive right through it (there is only one paved road) and, except for the signs, never realize that you just crossed Australia’s most famous national park.
Two or three hours into the park we stop at a campground, just in time to jump on a boat for a sunset cruise on the Alligator River. We were told, if we should decide to go to Kakadu, not to miss these two hour long boat trips out into the wetlands. And that was good advice … the cruise turned out to be so good that we booked a second one for sunrise the next morning. For those of you that have been to the Everglades in Florida … the Kakadu wetlands are a very similar landscape. Mangroves, complex river systems and open floodplains. Within a few minutes we had huge crocodiles beside the boat and the birdlife was not only incredibly numerous, but also in huge variety. Combine all that with an unbelievably beautiful sunset (or sunrise) and you have quite an experience.
For us, the other attraction of Kakadu are the Aboriginal rock paintings. There are a few sites that can be accessed by short walks, and apparently thousands more spread throughout the park.We joined two ranger-led walks, which were quite informative and, once we understood the purpose of many of the drawings, it made us appreciate them much more.
In the end, we liked the park so much that we ended up spending four nights in Kakadu … including a day in which we did absolutely nothing except hang out at the pool and catch up on a bit of schoolwork.
Here are a few pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157634296247412