It was late and hot when we arrived at the Darwin airport. Already tired after the long flight from Melbourne, we now had to patiently wait for the shuttle bus to take us to the car hire, and then find our way to the hotel. A quick stop at a petrol station for some food, the only place open that late at night, and we finally arrive at the hotel. Even late at night the air is still hot and humid, and our room has conveniently trapped all of it, greeting us with a rather unpleasant environment when we open the door. The hot air puts up a fight with the air con, but the room eventually cools and we settle down, anticipating the excitement in the days to come.
The new day greets us with some hot weather again, and a prediction to climb to 40C that day. But we are in holiday mode now, so we take the weather in stride, and head into Darwin. The day calls for some attractions around the city, before heading south to Litchfield National Park. A few short hops in and out of the local shops, and we eventually come across Crocosaurus Cove, a crocodile park in the city. Nestled right in the CBD, the park offers a nice escape from the traffic outside. After entering, you find yourself immersed in the world of the crocodile, great foreshadowing for the week to come. We get eye level with the animals, view some feeding, and even get to hold some babies. Eventually we make our way out and move on to our next destination.
Driving away from Darwin and towards Litchfield National Park, the houses and cars on the road become less and less dense, and we witness nature overtaking civilization. Our destination for the night is Batchelor Butterfly Farm and Tropical Retreat, in Batchelor NT. It is a tropical resort by all means. Lush plant life surrounds every building, and the grounds have plenty of ponds filled with fish, flowers, and frogs. And as the name implies, it features a walk through butterfly house in the middle of the property.
The town of Batchelor is small, with a population around 500 people, but it offers all the essentials. It's located just outside of Litchfield National Park, and provides easy access for us to explore over the next couple of days. The park is filled with plenty of creeks, waterfalls, and swimming holes. We happily indulge in the swimming holes, the cool water helping to relieve the heat we built up walking the vast array of trails. After a couple days in the park our bodies finally start to adjust to the heat of the Northern Territory, and we prepare for the next part of our journey; trekking deep into Kakadu National Park.
We take a nice drive away from Litchfield National Park, north on Highway 1, and then east into Arnhem Land. Despite the speed limit rising to 130KM/H, we don't feel the need to hurry, as we've scheduled plenty of time to enjoy the area. We stop by the Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre and enjoy the spectacular views over the Adelaide River and its floodplains. Then we decide to explore the Adelaide River a little more, and book a Jumping Crocodile tour. A long dirt road takes us down to the bank of the river, where we join the guides and board the boat. The boat is quite large, but shallow, and we're warned many times to not move from one side to the other for fear of tipping over and dumping ourselves into the crocodile-filled water. Content with staying on one side of the boat, and in one piece, we watch the guides dangle meat over the sides, splashing it into the water to attract the crocodiles. Familiar with the boat and routine, the crocodiles come from all directions on the river, the smaller giving way to the larger and more dominant. They each get their turn however, and they each put on a spectacular show, propelling their bodies vertically out of the water to snatch the meat. Some get high enough to get their back legs out of the water, well and truly high enough to jump into the first deck of the boat, which makes me rethink my position leaning out of a doorway a couple feet off the water. Despite the amazing show put on by the crocodiles, the highlight for me is the raptors. Attracted by the splashing, they know the routine as well. They swoop in just above the top deck, time and time again, and catch bits of meat thrown into the air by the guides, and then glide off.
Filled with the excitement of the crocodile tour, we make our way deeper into Kakadu National Park, and eventually to the town of Jabiru. Originally built for the workers of the Ranger Uranium Mine, it now plays host to thousands of tourists a year. We're staying in the Jabiru Holiday Inn, a hotel playfully built into the shape of a crocodile. Our room is near the back right leg, overlooking the billabong themed courtyard, and eyelevel with the flying foxes roosting in the trees.
The first full day in Kakadu is on a 4WD adventure tour. We meet our group early in the morning, and head off into nature. Being one of the first cars on the road, we witness a few interesting events. We see dingoes and wild boars making their way home, as well as a brown eagle picking a dead snake off the road, taking off as we approach with the meal firmly in its grasps. The day has us going on several hikes, viewing Aboriginal rock art, and taking refreshing dips in very secluded swimming holes. After a full day of hiking under the intense Northern Territory sun we are exhausted, and make our way back to the hotel to get some rest.
The next day in Kakadu has a more relaxing agenda, a booking on a Yellow Water Tour. We take a shuttle through a few flooded roads, left over from the rainy season, and take our place on the boat. The tour will take us through the Yellow Water billabong, allowing us to explore the wetlands and marshes. The waters play host to a variety of animal life, showcasing several crocodiles, magpie geese, and a jabiru nest. We even witness the rare sight of a file snake starting to swallow what looks to be about a 2 foot long fish. After the tour we make our way back to Jabiru with enough time to take a look around the town. We make our way around Jabiru Town Lake and watch the sun set, before stumbling across the daily awakening of the flying foxes, as they leave their daytime colonies and head off to the horizon en masse.
Having already spent some time on a boat and a 4wd, we opt to get off the ground the following day, booking a tour on a light aircraft. The plane is small, with a cabin no bigger than our rented Corolla, and we feel every gust of wind. Not used to that level of turbulence, the flight becomes a little uncomfortable after a while, especially since most of the flight was done with one eye pressed to the camera. Never the less, we are offered extraordinary views over the landscape, showing waterfalls still full from the rainy season and forests stretching to the horizon.
After our days of land, air, and water adventures in Kakadu, we start the drive back to Darwin in the cover of night. The interesting part about driving through Kakadu in the dark is the variety of animals you see on the road. We crossed the path of a number of snakes, legless lizards, and frogs, stopping several times to take pictures or move road kill to the shoulder to help protect the scavengers.
Once we’re back in Darwin, we take one last day to see some sights around the city, before boarding heading to the airport, and making our way back to Melbourne.