It’s also the place where I’ve had one of the scariest experiences of my travels with Doc, as well as one of the most romantic.
The first time we went to Kakadu it was in June, the burning season. This is when the weather is cooler (hahaha, still 30 degrees or more during the day) and the billabongs are a mass of waterlilies. It’s also time for burning off, to clean the country and encourage new growth.
There is so much to see in Kakadu that it’s hard to know where to start. A trip to the Warradjan Cultural Centre is a good place. You’ll not only find useful information about the park but also lots of great information about local culture and history.
We drove into Kakadu the back way, via Jim Jim Road, explored some tracks off there and then headed up to Ubirr for the sunset. Of course, that meant when we got to the camping ground at Cooinda it was dark, which is where my scariest experience comes in. Now, you have to remember that this is my first time in crocodile territory, and the first time I’ve been out camping like this. As we drove around the grounds looking for a camping spot I was looking at brochures for the Yellow Waters Cruise we were doing the next morning, so I didn’t notice where Doc pulled up. I got out of the car and had a bit of a walk around to check the place out. Then we set up our table & chairs outside, got out the stove and I cooked dinner. It was a lovely night, and I had another walk around with the torch to light my way.
Next morning I got up and walked over to the bathroom blocks. When I came back I noticed the sign that Doc had parked right next to “Danger: Crocodiles”. And I had been walking around, with just a torch to protect me. I nearly had a heart attack then and there, I might even have burst into tears! Doc couldn’t stop laughing. He’d been having giggling fits all night waiting for me to notice the sign.
The second time we went to Kakadu was in February, during the wet season, when most of the tracks are impassable so to really appreciate the amount of water flowing through the park you need to see it from the air. Again we went to Ubirr for the sunset. This time it was over a floodplain covered in water.
Of course, Doc decided we’d camp at Cooinda again (it’s the best place to do the Yellow Waters cruise from). Remembering my first experience there I made him park the car a bit further back to set up. Being February there were very few people, so we had lots of spots to choose from. We pulled up, set up, and as it was still over 30 degrees decided to go for a swim. That’s one of the great things about camping at Cooinda – there’s a swimming pool. You can’t swim in most of the waterholes in Kakadu because of the danger of crocodiles, so a swimming pool really is a necessity. And it’s a beautiful pool.
It was quite late when we got there (again), and, unbelievably, we had the pool all to ourselves. We were lazily swimming and splashing around when Doc called me over to where he was standing in the middle of the pool. When I swam up to him he pulled me close, turned me around so I had my back to him and stood there with his arms around me. “Look” he said. There, off in the distance over the tops of the trees was a huge lightning storm, streaking the sky purple with every flash. We stood like that just watching the lightning show. Who says men aren’t romantic?
And the next morning we did the Yellow Waters Cruise again. The change in the landscape from June when we did it the first time, to February has to be seen to be believed. There was water metres deep covering places we had previously walked. It was almost like a completely new cruise, with lots more to learn from the guides just because it was a different season.
There are 6 seasons in Kakadu based on the natural environmental cycle, and if you want to visit it’s worth knowing what they are to make sure you see what it is you came for.
Our next trip will be in September/October, when all the birds gather in the shrinking billabongs, and turtles lay their eggs at West Alligator Head.