Your Guide to Kakadu

In this video (and accompanying text), you’ll find lots of helpful information to learn more about Kakadu National Park; shared by one of our expert Northern Territory tour guides.

What’s the best month to visit Kakadu?

So the best month to visit Kakadu. There’s no real definitive answer. It actually comes down to a bit of an individual choice.


The traditional owners, you know, they identify around 6 seasonal changes….quite impressive. And every month Kakadu is changing. Waterfalls, spectacular waterfalls throughout the wet season. So if, if you want to see those spectacular waterfalls, you know, the famous Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls at their most spectacular, the wet season is the time to sort of go and do that. Access is by scenic flights.

Obviously it’s going to give you a spectacular views. And then the dry season. The dry season, what we classify as the dry season as non-Aboriginal people, is like that middle the winter months, in Australia, clear skies, camping under the stars, but you’ll get access to most of the park and the conditions are fairly dry. as in the humidity levels and stuff like that. It’ll still get up to, you know, around the 30 degrees on a daily basis during those winter months. But that air is cool of a night time and overnight it’s pretty cool. So yeah, at the end of the day, yeah, it will come down to an individual sort of choice.


Is Jabiru worth visiting?

Absolutely… yeah Jabiru is worth visiting. There’s a bit of history there, and it’s been part of the park right from the very beginning.

Yes. It’s got that mining, sort of attached to it, but it’s actually become an important center, not just for visitors, but also for the traditional owners as well as the Jabiru Area School and so forth.

And you know, even if you just go there for ten, fifteen minutes, have a little bit of a drive around it, that’ll be worth it. If you stay there overnight, there’s accommodation there and stuff like that.

Yeah… I think you’ll enjoy.


How to get from Darwin to Kakadu?

Accessing Kakadu from Darwin is relatively straightforward. It’s pretty much just head south out of Darwin initially for about 30 kilometers, get onto the Arnhem Highway and that’ll take you straight into Kakadu.

The only time you’ll have to turn left or right is when you want to go and venture off and do something within Kakadu, or even as you’re leading up into Kakadu National Park.


Can I access Kakadu in a 2WD in the wet season?

Middle of the wet season two-wheel drive, if that’s the only vehicle you’ve got access to, yes, you can still get to Kakadu.

It doesn’t come without its risks. And so once again, just be aware of the conditions at the time. So keep an eye on the weather. ABC is always a good, you know, reporting the weather well… and also check out that road access report on the Parks Australia Government website. So Kakadu Road Access Report and that’ll tell you which roads are open and closed and stuff like that.

But the main highway is Arnhem and also the Kakadu Highway which runs north-south through the park. They are typically open but there will be times and sometimes, you know, they could be closed for a week or so.


How long does it take to get from Darwin to Kakadu?

From Darwin to Kakadu… So Jabiru if you like is kind of like the main center…. it’s 250 kilometers from Darwin to Jabiru.

So drive time, essentially you could do it in two and a half hours, but it’s all going to be based on traffic where you want to stop and what you want to pick up on the way into the park. So allow 3 to 4 hours. If you go from Darwin to Jabiru, allow 3 to 4 hours because you might want to stop and do something on the way.


Can you see Kakadu in a day?

Yes, you can see Kakadu in a day if that’s all the time you have.

Yes, you can see Kakadu in a day.


How long do you need in Kakadu?

Yeah, it’s a good question because it’ll vary for everybody. So there’s really no specific answer at the end of the day, it’s all about how much time you have. If you’ve only got a day… o’kay, well, a day will actually give you a fantastic little intro to Kakadu. But if you do have the time and you want to spend that time in Kakadu, five, seven days, and that way you can just go into these sites, slow down, take it all in, you know, and get the most out of it.


What do you do in Kakadu in one day?

So what to do in Kakadu, in one day. So if you’ve only got a day, my assumption then would be you’d be based in Darwin. So there is a little bit of distance to cover because if you’re in Kakadu and staying in Kakadu you’d have at least two days. So a bit of distance to cover… later in the year as in May, that’s when that Ubirr area will open up. It can open up a little bit earlier. So that is a great little location that’s essentially not too far from Darwin. It’ll take you a good three to…. making stops along the way…. so you’re looking at maybe 4 hours to get out there and that’s picking up little bits and pieces along the way as well. And then, you know, you still got time there to spend a good couple of hours there, have a picnic lunch and… May… the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise operates. Local tour operator. It’s a good opportunity to meet the local indigenous guides as well. They’ll give you that cultural perspective as you go up the East Alligator River on the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise. So that takes about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes as well, that cruise. And it’s fantastic.



What is Kakadu famous for?

Well, it’s Australia’s largest national park. It covers a huge area, 20,000 square kilometers. But I think it’s mainly famous for the fact that it is actually a cultural living landscape. The traditional owners, there’s, as far as I’m aware, that the figures may have changed, but around five, 600 traditional owners still living within the park. There are around 12 or 13 communities throughout the park, and that gives these people the opportunity to access their country, hence being a cultural living landscape so they can still, you know, get the magpie goose, ceremony, initiations, things like that, whatever is sort of happening. So I think that is one of the main reasons why it’s actually quite famous as well is because of the culture that’s in Kakadu.




Where can you swim in Kakadu?


is quite a large place and I sort of break it up into two parts really. You’ve got the northern parts of Kakadu and then you’ve got the southern part. It’s in the central regions to the southern parts where you’ll find most of the swimming holes, waterfalls, plunge pools. In the northern parts… you know… we always sort of say, you know, you want to stay at least five metres away from the water’s edge. Always be aware of your environment. When there is water nearby. Your billabongs, your rivers. Always stay well back because they are inhabited by the estuarine crocodiles. But in the southern parts of Kakadu there are designated swimming areas and once again seasonal access to them, and they are also managed sites.



What type of aquatic life is in Kakadu?


In Kakadu, we have a range of native fish species, turtles, water monitors as well hanging around those creeks and rivers. And then of course there will be crocodiles.



Are there any risks associated with swimming in Kakadu?


Yes. And, you know, there’s always a risk associated with swimming. We provide individual information that will advise you of those risks when we guide you into those areas. Cold water. So, Jim Jim can be quite cold, so you can provide a bit of a shock. But then there’s slippery rocks and sort of accessing some of the plunge pools. You know, you’ve got to be a little careful. Um, yeah.



Are there restrictions on swimming in Kakadu?


Yeah, there are restrictions. And once again that just comes back to that… just swim in those designated areas.



What’s the best time of the year to go swimming in Kakadu?


Seasonal closures will obviously have an impact on that. The wet season in the southern part of the park, we can still access particular areas and waterholes and waterfalls… still being wary, you know, of the daily conditions. But throughout the middle of the year once again you’ll find that most of the park is actually open, particularly when it comes to those waterholes.



Are there any facilities like showers and changerooms available in Kakadu?


So toilets and change rooms are typically found at most locations. There are some off the beaten track locations which won’t have those facilities. So, you know, if you’re walking into say Motorcar Falls, you won’t have those facilities. So take your towel. You can change by the creek. There are some rocks and trees that you can sort of go behind. So some of them… yes. Some of them no.



Are there swim tours to Kakadu?


I think there are mainly guided tours throughout Kakadu which would offer, you know, those hikes and swims more so than a specific swimming tour.



Where’s the safest place to swim in Kakadu?


In the designated swimming areas throughout Kakadu. Follow the signs. If it says ‘do not enter the water’, you know. But you’ll be aware that the place is open. Once again you can go to the Parks Australia website. They have a road access report. So you can Google Kakadu Road Access Report and that will give you a list of places that are open and closed. For when it comes to camping. Also just viewing, accessing and swimming.



Is swimming in Kakadu National Park safe during wet season?


Simple answer, yes, but there’s always that element of risk. Always be aware of the daily situation, daily conditions. If we’re getting storms and they seem to be close to the area that we’re walking into to go for a bit of a swim. Yeah, I’d definitely be wary about that because, you know, flash flooding, but those areas are open for a swim.




Are there crocodiles in Kakadu?


Absolutely, yeah, crocodiles. Estuarine crocodiles, freshwater crocodiles too. So northern, oceanside, I shouldn’t say northern….throughout Kakadu, okay, there are crocodiles. Designated swimming areas depending on the season, but they are sort of managed. So when the water levels are high during the wet season, crocodiles can venture up those creeks which are typically full of debris and so forth. 


So a managed site would be like Maguk before they open it up to the public or anybody. They will go in and do a rather comprehensive survey of the sites. So as that water level drops, you’ve got the debris throughout the creek system itself. That’s going to deter crocodiles from coming up and they will get trapped if they haven’t moved out of the creek system in deeper pools within those creeks. 



So that’s where they’ll do the crocodile surveys, well known. The Rangers are very knowledgeable in regards to where these deep holes are and well understand the behaviours of the crocodiles. So they’ll have crocodile traps which are baited up, they’ll have buoys, floating around on the water which are attached to a tree with a bit of rope. They’ll come and check those, uh, for bite marks or teeth marks. You can tell the difference between the estuarine crocodiles and freshwater crocodiles when it comes to those bite marks as well, quite easily. 


They’ll do, in some cases, they’ll have boats in the water. They can use GoPros doing quite extensive surveys, night surveys as well, shining the torches around, looking for, you know, the red eyes and stuff like that. So they’ll do all that whilst that water has dropped to a safe level and they’re preparing to open up a site. And they’ll make sure that the creek system is actually clear of estuarine crocodiles.


How long does it take to climb Ubirr?

Climbing Ubirr… It doesn’t actually take too long and it’s more of a steep sort of walk as well. The terrain there… there’s two sort of parts to Ubirr. From the parking area you’ve got a level sort of ground area that sort of leads you into some of the art sites. And then halfway through your walk, it’s where you can actually start making your way up into the stone country. So you’re walking and you are following a path. It’s uneven ground. It’s sturdy, though. 

It’s not loose gravel and stuff like that. So wearing good footwear is always recommended, but it’s not going to take you long to walk up. 


And even on your way up, you don’t have to go all the way to the Nadab Lookout. You get 360 degree views from up there, but just the level before that is going to provide you with fantastic views. So at the end of the day, it will all come down to what you want to sort of get out of that walk as well. But I do recommend getting to that level just before the Nadab Lookout. But all in all, not long at all. It’s I think it’s about a kilometre return walk. But yeah, we always try and spend a good couple of hours there taking in the sights as much as the walk and the scenery as well.


Do you need a 4WD to access Ubirr?

No. You don’t need four-wheel drive you can drive all the way from Darwin. So the road is sealed all the way out. It is seasonal access to Ubirr. So when they initially open the road after the monsoon season, there will still be water across Majella Creek and in the floodplain area there. So they’ll sort of just open that up to high clearance and four-wheel drive vehicles typically, but no, generally particularly during the dry season – sealed road all the way up out.


What month does Ubirr normally open for 2WD drive vehicles?

We as operators we sort of plan on going there from the 1st of May. There still might be water… once again it’ll all depend on the season as well. Like every monsoon season varies in its amount of rainfall. On average, it’s about 1.6 to 1.7 meters of rainfall up in the Top End here. But that will vary. Sometimes it can be less, sometimes it can actually be twice that.


Why is Ubirr so significant?

Yeah, it is actually very significant. Once upon a time and it still is home to the Bininj Clan, Western Arnhem Landers and so forth. When you get there you probably get a better understanding why it’s actually so significant. It does have some extremely impressive rock art, some of the world’s oldest rock art as well. But yeah, it’s very, very significant to the traditional owners. The Bininj Clan.


Can you swim at Maguk?

Maguk, yeah, you can swim at Maguk, obviously when it’s open. And once again check those websites if you’re coming up this way early in the year, it will somewhere open up around May ish, all depending on the season and how the crocodile surveys are going. But yes, you can swim at Maguk. And as you’re walking in, you also get a good idea of the terrain and the creek system and stuff like that. So that kind of does sort of set your mind at ease in regards to, you know, that crocodile safety. But it doesn’t matter where you go in Kakadu or North Australia always be aware of your surroundings and potential crocodiles.


Do you need a 4WD to get to Maguk?

It is recommended that you use a four-wheel drive to get into Maguk. Yeah, absolutely.


Can you get to Maguk in a 2WD?

At the beginning, so when you turn off the Kakadu Highway there’s a sign that says four-wheel drive only. Yeah, I’m pretty sure.


How long is the Maguk walk?

Distance-wise Maguk is around a kilometre. And time-wise….it’s varying terrain. It’s a great little walk. There are sort of elements of the walk that you’ve got to be wary of as well, where you’ve got sand on rock and stuff like that. So that can be a bit slippery, but around half an hour.

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