Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest and one of its most popular National Parks. It has an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity and there is lots to do and see for all ages. If you haven’t seen Kakadu yet, it’s about time you come up and say G’Day. Just make sure you read this article first, so that you are well prepared for your Kakadu adventure and don’t fall for the following misconceptions:
1. There is no need to plan ahead
A visit to any remote area should always be well planned. Check weather conditions and access to avoid disappointment. Plan extra early if you are visiting Kakadu in the winter school holidays. This is the most popular time for visitation with perfect weather conditions and the opportunity to get away from cold winters in the South. Nevertheless, we get an an unbelievable amount of enquiries from travellers would like to book a tour for June in May. Many people don’t realise just how busy it gets up here at that time of the year. If you are a single traveller willing to hop on any tour available, you might be lucky and score a spot somewhere. But if you are wanting a particular product, are not flexible with your dates, or would like to book a private tour for a group of friends or family, make sure you plan 6 – 12 months ahead. If you are travelling independently and not wanting to join a tour, you won’t have this issue. Just make sure you book your accommodation and popular activities such as the Yellow Water cruise well ahead, or you might miss out.
2. Kakadu National Park is an easy day trip from Darwin
Not if you would like a balanced experience including activities such as hikes, swimming and viewing waterfalls. Some tour operators offer day trips from Darwin to Kakadu National Park, however you will need to be prepared to spend many hours of that day on a bus. Kakadu is Australia’s largest National Park and is over 300 km away from Darwin. A day trip to Kakadu usually includes a wetland cruise and a visit to one rock art site, then it’s back to Darwin. It is a long day with lots of driving. We recommend three to four days to explore the best of Kakadu, including a variety of activities, habitats and landscapes.
3. Kakadu’s attractions are accessible all year round
Many visitors to Kakadu have experienced disappointment when visiting and only learning, once there, that popular attractions such as Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are inaccessible. Most people know that the Northern Territory, where Kakadu lies, has a tropical climate with a wet and a dry season. In the wet season, we receive a lot of rain which refreshes the landscapes and is thoroughly enjoyed by the local wildlife. However, as many roads in our national parks are unsealed, they are closed during the wet season. Even after the rains many roads and attractions remain closed for many more months. This is because damage caused by water and storms needs to be repaired, visitor facilities need to be reinstalled and crocodile surveys need to be completed before sites can be opened.
However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see in Kakadu in the wet season and shoulder seasons. There are still many great attractions that remain accessible and it is a more quiet time to visit.
4. You do not need a 4WD to visit Kakadu National Park
It’s true, you can drive to Kakadu National Park in any conventional vehicle and you will even be able to visit some of the park’s many attractions. However, if you would like to see some of the most popular attractions, such as Jim Jim and Twin Falls, you will need a 4WD. Even Gunlom and Maguk can only really safely be accessed with a suitable vehicle. Good clearance and suspension along with sound driving skills are essential. A snorkel is often needed to cross the creek to Twin Falls. If you are hiring a 4WD in Darwin, check where you are allowed to take it and what insurance cover is included. Also make sure that everything you need to change a tyre is on board and you know where to find it. If you have never driven a 4WD, you might want to reconsider this option- many accidents happen due to inexperienced drivers.
5. There will be snakes everywhere
They are there, but most of the time you won’t see them. Most Australian wildlife is nocturnal and, unless animals learn to see humans as a food source, they will avoid them. Most snake species see humans as a threat and disappear as soon as they hear their footsteps. If you do see a snake, stop still and warn others. The snake will most likely disappear quickly. If it doesn’t and you don’t know what species it is, slowly move backwards without making any sudden movements. Snakes do not like to use their venom and they will not attack unless they feel cornered or threatened. Most accidents occur if you step into the way of a snake without seeing it, so it is essential to wear closed footwear to protect your feet and ankles. Remember never to handle wildlife but rather admire it from a distance.
We hope this information will help you to prepare a successful and memorable Kakadu National Park visit.