Chasing Waterfalls At Litchfield & Kakadu National Parks
Visiting Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks was part three of a 10 day itinerary I did of the Northern Territory of Australia with a company called Way Outback (which I highly recommend). Before reading on make sure to read the introduction to my Northern Territory trip in part 1: Exploring The Red Centre of Australia, and part two which was a three day Road Trip from Alice Springs to Darwin to connect us to this part of the itinerary.
The 3 day Litchfield and Kakadu tour with Way Outback can be booked separately as a round trip to and from Darwin, or part of a 10 day trip like I did. Either way it’s worth including as part of your travels around Australia.
Note: I am not affiliated with the Way Outback tour company in any way, I just thoroughly enjoyed this trip and highly recommend it.
So if you’ve never heard of Kakadu National Park, let me enlighten you. It is the largest National Park in Australia and it is enormous. To give you a rough idea of how big we’re talking, this park is larger in size than the whole country of Belgium! At Kakadu you’ll find many rare Australian plants and animals, including more than one-third of Australia’s bird species and one-quarter of it’s freshwater fish species.
Litchfield National Park is just as beautiful as Kakadu and similarly to Kakadu, it’s full of stunning waterfalls. Many people who don’t have much time to spare may choose to only visit Litchfield as it’s smaller and closer to Darwin so can be experienced in a full day trip, however others prefer Kakadu due to it’s jaw-dropping landscapes, cultural activities and cruises along the Alligator River (where you can see crocodiles). Kakadu National Park has stunning waterfalls that are all far away from each other but are definitely worth seeing. So I’d say that if you have the time, why not see what both of these National Parks have to offer?
In this post I’ll do my best to take you on the journey throughout Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks with me, sharing the sequence of events from this tour through photos and descriptions. I’ll also share my tips, and what to expect if you end up choosing this tour…
Day 7: Free Day In Darwin
This part of my Northern Territory trip starts with Day 7, a rest day in Darwin after 6 full days of travelling up North from the Red Centre. We finally got to sleep in! My friend Miriam, who I was travelling with, and I went out for breakfast (meals are at your own expense on your free day) and spent the day relaxing on the Darwin waterfront where we went swimming in the lagoon (you can’t swim in the ocean because of crocodiles).
Later on we met up with some of the other staff that worked for the same backpacker travel agency as us and watched the gorgeous sunset at Mindil Beach.
Day 8: Darwin to Litchfield National Park
We were collected from our Darwin accommodation (Darwin YHA – Melaleuca On Mitchell) at around 6.30am where our Top End adventure began. Again, this time we were with a new group of travellers and this was an all-ages tour so the vibe was slightly different, but we didn’t mind as we were here for the same reasons.
Our first stop was at the Banyan Fig Cafe where we got ice coffee and had the opportunity to hold a friendly snake known as the Children’s Python.
On the way to Litchfield National Park we stopped to check out some of the magnetic termite mounds that can be spotted all throughout the region.These termite mounds are intriguing to learn about, as the termites build these mounds to provide protection for their colony, to breed and to store food. They are called ‘magnetic’ because the termites magnetically sense precisely at which angle against the sun they need to be built their mound to not affect the temperate inside. The termites have different roles, for example some are responsible for breeding, some are the workers that build the mound, and others are the soldiers that protect the mound. Some of these magnetic mounds are even as tall as 6 metres!
Once inside Litchfield National Park we drove straight to Buley Rockhole to discover the many rock holes and cascading waterfalls there. It was very hot so going for a swim in these serene surroundings was the perfect way to cool down.
Next up was a swim at Florence Falls. The water here was very cold and also very refreshing. It was also the last place we could swim at for the day since the next waterfall wasn’t officially open yet for swimming after wet season, due to there possibly still being crocodiles in the water.
The Top End of Australia has two main seasons; the wet season and the dry. During wet season this area gets hit with monsoon rains and storms, therefore gushing waterfalls fill up these natural pools with so much water that freshwater crocodiles can easily get inside. So each year at the end of wet season rangers remove any freshwater crocodiles that have made their way to these swimming holes and only when they feel confident that the areas are croc-free will they officially open the area up for swimming for the dry season.
Wangi Waterfall was next on the list of waterfalls to explore and we had to hike to get to it. Although there were a couple of people in the water at their own risk, this area wasn’t officially opened yet for swimming by rangers and so our tour guide didn’t feel comfortable letting us swim here. It was still magnificent to witness.
And then came the time to start the 4 hour drive to our first camp site on this tour. We had a toilet stop on the way at Corroborree Tavern, where we also got to see a huge pet crocodile along with turtles, pigs and water buffalos.
When we arrived at Cooinda Camp, we had a delicious stir fry cooked for us by our guide who used to be a chef. For those of you who love cooking I asked for his secrets and found out the stir fry sauce was made with simply just pineapple juice, orange juice, soy sauce, and specifically ‘Byron Bay Sweet Chilli Sauce’ (and add ginger, coriander, honey and lemon juice if cooking at home) – SO GOOD. Our camp site had comfortable 2 person cabins as well as a pool and bar/restaurant.
Day 9: Kakadu National Park
Today we were up at 7am to get ready for our 9am Yellow Water River Cruise on the South Alligator River. This area has the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the Southern Hemisphere (10,000 live in Kakadu to be exact) so we were very excited to witness the wild crocodiles that rule this waterway. We were also in search for water buffalo, birds and other wildlife.
So you may be wondering why it’s called the ‘South Alligator River’ and not the ‘South Crocodile River’? I wondered the same. And simply put, when the European explorers stumbled upon this place they didn’t know that crocodiles existed, they thought these reptiles were alligators and so the name for the river stuck. It was later on that all the differences between alligators and crocodiles were discovered.
Fact: According to livescience.com, the main difference between alligators and crocodiles is their snout shape and toothy grin: “Alligators have wider, U-shaped snouts, while crocodile front ends are more pointed and V-shaped. When their snouts are shut, crocodiles look like they’re flashing a toothy grin, as the fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw sticks up over the upper lip.
I found the commentary on this river cruise to be really good and educational. We learned lots of facts about crocs. What I found the most interesting was that male crocodiles try really hard to impress the females (with around 5 days of foreplay!) and once they’ve ‘got them’ they move on to the next females.
Another Random Fact: Dragonflies can mate while flying!
After the cruise we stopped a the Warradjan Cultural Centre, where we got to walk around the museum and learn about the culture of the Aboriginal people from this particular land.
Next we ventured to Nourlangie Rock to see some authentic Aboriginal Rock Art. It was interesting to see the difference between detailed Aboriginal Rock Art in the Top End in comparison to the very basic Aboriginal Rock Art that we saw in the Red Centre due to the amount of rain each region gets which affects the amount of paint they can make.
Considering it was the middle of winter in Australia, it was pretty damn hot.
From there we went to the Nawalandja look out. To get to it we had to hike a steep 10 minute rock climb with beautiful panoramic views of the Arnhem Land Escarpment. I had been feeling very sick the whole morning and really struggled with this climb. It wasn’t until we got to the top that it became very apparent that I was suffering from heat exhaustion.
What is heat exhaustion? I had no idea what it was either until I experienced it. According to webmd.com: “Heat exhaustion can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration. There are two types of heat exhaustion. Water depletion: Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness. [And] Salt depletion: Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.”
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Snapped at the gorgeous Nawalandja look out 🙌🏼, looking over Arnhemland escarpment (indigenous land), just before I started suffering from heat exhaustion (it's bloody hot here in winter!) Be sure to put on sun cream when you travel to the outback guys, those of you who have experienced heat exhaustion before will know it's not fun😎☀️#kakadu #NTaustralia #wayoutback #dotheNT
Thankfully it was time to get to our next camp in Jabiru for a BBQ lunch. This campsite also had a pool and jumping in made me feel a whole lot better.
Though better after cooling down and eating some food I was still feeling very fatigued so I fell asleep and missed out on the last activity for the day.
The group went to an outdoor gallery at a place called Ubirr to see a lot more authentic Aboriginal Rock Art, followed by a hike to the top of the Nadab Wetlands Lookout to watch the sun set. I can show you what that could look like for you too thanks to Miriam snapping the following shots.
As the day drew to a close we enjoyed a hearty meal with our fellow adventurers before an early night to get enough rest for an early start the following morning.
Day 10: Kakadu National Park to Darwin
We rose out of bed at 5am, ate breakfast and packed up camp to be on the bus by 6.30am for the drive to the famous Gunlom Waterfall (we saw 3 wild dingos on the way!). Gunlom Waterfall way BY FAR my absolute favourite waterfall out of them all and it had so many spectacular levels to it.
This place is so much prettier in person than what you can see from the photos so you really do have to come visit to see for yourself (if you had to choose just one waterfall to visit it would definitely be this one).
We spent some time soaking up the natural beauty of this majestic location.
After hiking back down from Gunlum Waterfalls we drove to Moline Falls (also known at Ikoymarrwa) to enjoy some wraps for lunch and the last swim of the day.
From there is was time to head back to Darwin for the end of the tour with a toilet/coffee break at Lazy Lizard Tavern in a town called Pine Creek.
*Note that depending on which time of year you visit Kakadu National Park, you may have the opportunity to also experience Twin and Jim Jim Falls as part f your itinerary.
Overall, heat exhaustion aside, I really enjoyed chasing waterfalls at Litchfield & Kakadu National Parks, and all three parts of my Northern Territory itinerary. The Northern Territory has so much to offer with a diverse range of landscapes ranging from from the red dessert sand in the Red Centre to the green tropical rainforests in the Top End. The whole 10 Day Trip with Way Outback was honestly the BEST guided-tour experience I’ve had throughout my travels – and it takes a lot for me to say that.
I expect that this article has given you some inspiration to experience the Northern Territory for yourself and I wish you as much fun as I did on your trip!
Have you been to the Northern Territory before? Share your favourite part in a comment below…
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