protected area in the Northern Territory of Australia
Oceania > Australia > Northern Territory > Top End > Kakadu National Park

A trip to the north of Australia is never complete without visiting Kakadu National Park. Sometimes colloquially called as "Australia's national park", the park is in the Northern Territory, 171 km east of Darwin and the national park is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The park is one of the few listed spots both natural and cultural listed, one of only four in Australia and one of 39 anywhere in the world.

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is two very different parks, which depend based on season. During the dry season, the park's known for its many rock art, hiking trails and waterfalls are accessible, but during the wet season, the crocodiles and seeing the park via a private plane provide views of waterfalls you've probably never imagined.

Understand edit

The origins of the name "Kakadu" comes from Gagudju, an Aboriginal floodplain language which was one of the languages spoken in the north of the park at the beginning of the 20th century. Gagudju is no longer regularly spoken day-to-day but descendants of this language group are still living in Kakadu.

Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land comprise more than 110,000 km2 (42,000 sq mi) in the northeast corner of the Northern Territory. The landscapes are diverse and set the scene for outback adventure travel, Aboriginal culture and nature activities.

Kakadu National Park is the second largest national park in Australia only behind Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert National Park in South Australia. It contains one of the highest concentrated areas of Aboriginal rock art sites in the world; the most famous examples are at Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr.

The secret to discovering Kakadu is taking your time. You'll find stories, secrets and sights never imagined. It is impossible to appreciate the full breadth and beauty of the park in a fleeting visit – if you can afford the time, spend a week or more.

Nature and wildlife abound in this area, which is known for its level of biodiversity. Wholly Aboriginal owned land, Arnhem Land is known for its strong Aboriginal culture, towering escarpments, wild coastline, savannah woodlands, lush wetlands and prolific wildlife. Closer to Darwin is the Mary River region, home to millions of birds, saltwater crocodiles and fish, including the mighty barramundi, which makes it a fishing hot spot.

History edit

The park was established in 1981. It is governed by Environment Australia/Parks Australia and Aboriginal traditional land owners (the Gun-djeihmi, Kunwinjku, Krakeourtinnie and Jawoyn peoples).

Landscape edit

The park contains 1,980,400 hectares of wetlands and other terrain. It is Australia's second largest National Park and is approximately the size of Israel or Wales.

Biodiversity edit

See also: Australasian wildlife

Kakadu is home to 68 mammals (almost one-fifth of Australia’s mammals), more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, over 300 tidal and freshwater fish species, more than 2 000 plants and over 10 000 species of insects. It provides habitat for more than 290 bird species (over one-third of Australia’s birds). Its internationally important wetlands are a major staging point for migratory birds. Some of these species are threatened or endangered. Many are found nowhere else in the world and there are still others yet to be discovered. The Creation Ancestors gave Bininj/Mungguy a kinship system linking people to all things and the cultural responsibility to look after them all. They have always understood the biodiversity of country and their traditional ancestral knowledge is a vital part of managing Kakadu’s rich environment.

The Habitats of Kakadu

Within the vast landscapes of Kakadu, there are six main landforms. Each landform and the habitats it contains has a range of plants and animals. As you move through Kakadu, take the time to explore and appreciate the diversity of the areas you visit - each one is truly unique.

Savanna Woodlands making up nearly 80% of Kakadu.

Monsoon forests occur in small, isolated patches.

The Southern Hills appear in the south of Kakadu are the result of millions of years of erosion.

Sandstone escarpment Dominant in the Arnhem Land Plateau.

coastal and estuarine areas take up almost 500 km² of Kakadu

Floodplains undergo dramatic seasonal changes. Following wet season rains, a sea of shallow freshwater spreads over the plains for hundreds of square kilometres. As the floodplains start to dry, waterbirds and crocodiles seek refuge in the remaining wet areas such as Yellow Water.

Flora and fauna edit

The park's wetlands provide the greatest visual pleasure. The freshwater and estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles sleep on the banks of all rivers and the many billabongs for most of the day but can also be seen floating or swimming in the water. Birdlife abounds from the stately Jabiru to the amusing "Jesus" bird (Jacana) as it steps from lily pad to lily pad. At dusk on the Yellow Water billabong (Ngurrungurrudjba), hundred of herons circle overhead landing and taking of from half-submerged trees. Ospreys sit on termite mounds or soar on high looking for prey beneath the still waters. The billabongs of the Kakadu national park are anything but "stagnant pools of water". Wallabies are very common and are often, unfortunately, seen as roadkill. Feral horses, pigs and water buffalo also roam the park. Frilled Lizards are also present but are only regularly seen during the wet season when the park is nearly inaccessible.

Climate edit

Six seasons of Kakadu edit

The six seasons of Kakadu

Throughout the year, Kakadu’s landscapes undergo spectacular changes. Bininj/Mungguy recognise six different seasons, as well as subtle variations that signpost the transition from one season to another. This knowledge of nature is fundamental to the culture of Kakadu and its people. Bininj/Mungguy have lived with the changing landscape for tens of thousands of years, adapting and using the land for food, shelter and general well−being.


Cool weather time, May to June. The wetlands are carpeted with water lilies. Drying winds and flowering Darwin woolly butt tell Bininj/Mungguy to patchwork burn the woodlands to encourage new growth.


Early dry season, June to August Most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out. Magpie geese, fat and heavy after weeks of abundant food crowd the shrinking billabongs.


Hot dry season, August to October Hunting time for file snakes and long-necked turtles. White-breasted wood swallows arrive as thunderclouds build, signalling the return of Gunumeleng.


Pre-monsoon, October to December Streams begin to run, water birds spread out as surface water and new growth becomes widespread. Barramundi move from the waterholes downstream to the estuaries to breed.


Monsoon, December to March. The heat and humidity generate an explosion of plant and animal life. Spear grass grows to over two metres tall and creates a silvery-green hue throughout the woodlands.

Banggerreng Harvest time, April. Clear skies prevail, the vast expanses of floodwater recede and streams start to run clear. Most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young.

Get in edit

Map of Kakadu National Park

Access from Darwin to Jabiru is via the Arnhem Highway. This is a good road with a speed limit on 130 km/h that is usually open all year round. Access from the south to Jabiru is via the Kakadu Highway, again usually open all year round. Check road conditions before setting off. It is around 3-4 hours drive from Darwin to Jabiru.

You can rent 2WD and 4WD cars in Darwin, with daily distance limits. Campervan rentals often don't have distance limits. A variety of coach and small group tours are also available from Darwin.

During the wet seasons, some parts of the park are not accessible by 2WD vehicles, or even not accessible at all. Check road conditions and closures in advance. This is generally not a problem during the dry season though.

Fees and permits edit

Unlike most national parks, fees are per person, not per vehicle. Fees in Kakadu National Park are also heavily seasonal, with different fees for the dry season, and a slightly lower fee in the wet season. The dry season is from May 15 to October 31 while the wet season is from November 1 to May 14. Passes are valid for seven days.

As of January 2022, the fees are as follows. See the park's website for up-to-date information:

  • For adults (16 and over), a pass costs $40 during the dry season, and $25 during the wet season
  • For children aged 5-15 years, a pass costs $20 during the dry season and $12.50 during the wet season
  • For families with 2 adults and 2 or more children, a pass costs $100 during the dry season, and during the wet season
  • For concession holders, a pass costs $30 during the dry season, and $19 during the wet season.

Get around edit

Map of Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is massive (the size of Wales), more than double the size of Yellowstone and larger than all national parks in the US. 4WD vehicles are required to enter some areas. However many spectacular and popular sites are readily accessible via good roads.

By car edit

Having your own vehicle is the easiest and most pleasurable option. The main tourist route is east from Darwin to Jabiru, then south-west to Cooinda, then continuing on as far as Pine Creek, with a possible deviation south to Katherine, before returning north to Darwin. Such an itinerary could be easily be covered in a few days with longer time if wanting to see things off-road.

By tour edit

Tours inside the park are available with the popular destinations being a day trip to Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. The pick-up points for these tours are typically from Jabiru and Cooinda.

Scenic flights edit

Scenic flights in either small, fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter are available. Air strips are at Jabiru and Cooinda.

See edit

The Yellow Water Billabong in July
Twin falls, Kakadu National Park
  • Yellow Water, a stunning "billabong" (which is an arm of the East Alligator River) brimming with native flora and fauna. It's one of Kakadu National Park’s best known landmarks. Near the small settlement of Cooinda, Yellow Water is home to crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and other wildlife. The billabong, which floods to join other waterways during the tropical season, also attracts millions of migratory birds each year, including jacana, egrets, jabiru, sea eagles, magpie geese and many other native species. Daily boat tours can be booked via Cooinda Lodge. For a real treat, the dawn trip is the best for bird watching and seeing the sun come up. Make sure you bring mosquito repellent.
  • Koolpin Gorge - available only through 4WD tours with a permit, but well worth it.
  • Bardedjilidji Walk, Ubirr, Jabiru (Via Oenpelli Road), +61 8 8938 1120. Through layered sandstone outliers, woodlands and wetlands alongside the East Alligator River, this is one of Kakadu's most interesting short walks which starts at a small carpark 500 m from the upstream boat ramp on the East Alligator River. You can complete it by yourself (map with information sheet available) or join the guided walk departing the shelter on Mondays. Allow 2 hours for this easy to moderate 2.5-km walk. Please enquire with the Bowali Visitor Centre for accessibility as it is subject to weather conditions (flooding) and for the availability of guides. Free entry.
  • Gunlom Plunge Pool, Kakadu Highway, Jabiru (200 km south of Jabiru), +61 8 8938 1120. On Waterfall Creek is a combination of waterfall and serene plunge pool, with shady gums cooling the picnic areas. A steep climb to the top of the waterfall provides sweeping views of the southern-most parts of Kakadu National Park while you enjoy a relaxing soak in the crystal clear pools. Free entry.
  • Gubara (via Nourlangie Rock Road), +61 8 8938 1120. A 6-km return walk past sandstone cliffs to shady monsoon forest pools. Gubara is found 9 km in on the first road to the right after the Nourlangie carpark. It is a pleasant place to spend the heat of the day where the grade is moderate and you should allow four hours to complete. You'll be delighted by the multitudes of butterflies surrounding the pools and can enjoy a refreshing dip after the walk. Free entry.

Rock art edit

Ubirr rock art
  • 1 Nanguluwur, Nourlangie Rd, Kakadu. An art site near Nourlangie Rock, which is a small Aboriginal rock art gallery. Many rock art styles are represented from hand stencils, dynamic figures in large headdresses carrying spears and boomerangs, Namandi spirits and mythical figures.    
  • 2 Ubirr, Ubirr, Kakadu. One of Kakadu National Park’s two most famous Aboriginal rock art galleries. The galleries can be viewed by following an easy one kilometre circular walking track. During the dry season Park Rangers give free scheduled talks about the ancient rock art. A moderately steep 250-m climb takes you to a rocky outlook with views across the floodplains. Enjoying a spectacular tropical sunset from the top of Ubirr is not to be missed. During the tropical summer months access is restricted, check with the Bowali Visitor Centre for the latest information.    
  • 3 Nourlangie Rock (Anbangbang Rock), Nourlangie Rd, Kakadu. Perhaps the most easily accessible of all rock art, the walls of the site have served as a shelter and canvas for thousands of years providing windows to a rich spiritual tradition. Paintings such as Namarrgon, lightning man, explore the relationship of the people to their country and beliefs.    

Visitor and cultural centres edit

  • 4 Bowali Visitor Centre, Kakadu Hwy, Jabiru, +61 8 8938 1120. 8AM–5PM. just outside of Jabiru, has a wealth of information on the Park's ecology and Aboriginal culture and has an excellent gallery and souvenir shop. The centre's long lineal design was inspired by an Aboriginal rock shelter.
  • 5 Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Coolinda Rd, Kakadu, +61 8 8979 0525. 9AM–5PM (dry season), 9AM–3PM (wet season). The centre's architecture represents the story of World Heritage-listed Kakadu as told by the traditional owners. The circular design of the centre symbolises a warradjan, the pig-nosed turtle

Waterfalls edit

  • 6 Twin Falls. set in the Arnhem Land escarpment. Access to the falls is via the Twin Falls Gorge Boat Shuttle Service that will ferry you to the base of the falls. The walk to the boat shuttle, although easy, is very exposed and hot. Post-boat shuttle, the walk continues and in some parts may present a challenge to those with a fear of heights. Carry sufficient drinking water.    
  • 7 Jim Jim Falls. Whether the falls are raging with water or the merest trickle, this majestic waterfall is a sight to behold at the end of a challenging four-wheel drive track in the southern escarpment country of Kakadu National Park. Set in the red ochre of the Arnhem Land escarpment, and boasting white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, it is worth the 900 metre walk across rocks to appreciate this special area. Jim Jim Falls has graced many calendars, books and television programs and is a must see for all visitors to Kakadu National Park. Note that the walk in to the Falls is not suitable for those with mobility or health or fitness issues - small children would struggle to balance and rock ramble. Take sufficient drinking water and swimming gear for a rewarding cool off.    
  • 8 Gunlom Falls.    
  • 9 Maguk. This waterfall is one of the only waterfalls in Kakadu that still continues to flows even where there's no rain.    
  • Motor Car Falls.

Do edit

Guide to Cultural Interaction

Bininj/Mungguy culture has its own set of social behaviours and customs, which are considered good manners. Please consider these while you are in Kakadu.

Show respect by not entering restricted areas. They may be sacred sites, ceremonial sites, burial grounds or even someone’s home.

Traditionally, Bininj/Mungguy do not greet each other every time they meet. However, most Bininj/Mungguy are used to non-Aboriginal people doing so and may expect a ‘hello’.

Many Bininj/Mungguy do not use personal names as freely as non-Aboriginal people do and often address each other by kinship terms.

Bininj/Mungguy appreciate privacy. It is good manners not to enter living areas and not to take photographs of Bininj/Mungguy without permission.

Some Bininj/Mungguy find constant eye contact uncomfortable.

In Bininj/Mungguy culture it is important to listen carefully and consider the response carefully before giving an answer.

It is polite to say goodbye when leaving. The Bininj/Mungguy word for goodbye is Boh Boh (pronounced bor bor).

In Bininj/Mungguy culture it is often not appropriate to use the names or display images of deceased people.

Areas in Kakadu may close at short notice for cultural purposes at the request of traditional owners.

Walking is a great way to experience Kakadu. There are many walks throughout the park, including a wide variety of short and easy day walks as well as some longer, more challenging full day walks for those who are fit. Check seasonal access.

A permit is required for overnight bushwalks. Planning is essential, as is the ability to navigate using a topographic map and a compass. The routes are unmarked, and extend through remote and rugged country with variable climatic conditions.

A small, private cruise on the Corroboree or Yellow Water Billabongs is the best way to get a very close, safe and eco-friendly look at the biggest crocodiles in the world. Most tours include an activity like this. Shady Camp, near Corroboree, is home to one of the biggest crocodiles in the park at 6 meters in length.

Boating on Kakadu’s waterways can be dangerous due to strong currents, sand bars, submerged logs and crocodiles. For this reason use of non-motorised vessels (canoes) is prohibited.

  • Yurmikmik Walks This series of interconnected walking tracks in the southern part of the park take walkers to waterfalls and swimming holes. Many walks are open all year round including the Boulder Creek Walk, Yurmikmik Lookout Walks and Motor Car Falls.
  • Mirrai Lookout Walk This moderately difficult 3.6-km return walk departs from the Mirrai carpark, 30 km south of the Bowali Visitor Centre. The walk goes to the Mount Cahill lookout and after a steep climb you'll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the Kakadu escarpment. Allow 1.5 hours.
  • Barrk Sandstone Walk This challenging, 12-km walk branches off the Nourlangie Rock lookout track, past the Main Gallery of Aboriginal rock art. It takes in the beautiful sandstone country of Nourlangie Rock and past the Nanguluwur Art Gallery. Walkers should allow 6-8 hours.
  • Merl This site in northern Kakadu is perfect for campers who want to enjoy a famous sunrise or sunset at Ubirr. It's also an ideal base for bushwalking along the East Alligator River. There are showers, toilets and a generator zone. Camping fees are collected on site.
  • Gunlom is one of Kakadu's best known attractions thanks to a superb vista across the Park from the natural swimming pools at the top of the waterfall. There is a caravan park and campsite at the bottom of the Falls with a generator area, showers and barbecues.
  • Koolpin Gorge at the southern end of Kakadu National Park, is renowned for its spectacular scenery. Spend a day exploring the endless span of gorges, crystal rock pools and white sandy beaches. Camp alongside Koolpin Creek and, in the morning, take a refreshing dip in a plunge pool. Permits are necessary.
  • Jabiru Mahbilil Festival held in early September, is named for the region's seasonal winds. It includes a mixture of white Australian and Aboriginal culture through live music, dance performances, art workshops, clothing and food and craft appreciation. After sunset a fireworks display is mirrored on Lake Jabiru.
  • Gunbalanya Open Day Usually held on the second Saturday in August, this festival in the community of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) is an opportunity to experience a weekend of sports, art and culture in a beautiful area of Arnhem Land. The program includes art sales at Injalak Art Centre, cultural performances and a spectacular firework display.
  • Yellow Water Cruise, +61 8 8979 0145. Nature and culture cruise on Yellow Water wetlands. See crocodiles, birds and fauna.

Photography edit

Photography in the park might seem like a nice thing to do, particularly something you might want to take home, however, Australian law states that images and film captured in a Commonwealth reserve cannot be used to derive commercial gain unless at least one of the exemptions listed here in section 12.06 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 with examples of exemptions include capture and use of images and film as allowed by the management plan for the Commonwealth reserve, and requesting and being granted a permit.

Scenic flights edit

Kakadu Air has a range of scenic flights from different locations. It's particularly a useful way of seeing the waterfalls during the wet season (summer), as many of them are inaccessible.

Buy edit

Kakadu is an almost completely unpopulated landscape the size of a small country. There are, however, regular service stations, camping grounds, and outposts along the way with assorted small gifts as well as Aboriginal goods.

In Jabiru there is a service station, supermarket, newsagent and post office (Commonwealth Bank agency), Westpac Bank, travel agent, medical centre and chemist ( +61 8 8979 2018), police, public telephones, swimming pool, library (internet), hairdresser, golf course, restaurant, café and bakery.

  • The Border Store (in the East Alligator region), +61 8 8979 2474. Sells food, fishing gear and souvenirs and takes bookings for commercial tours.
  • Gagudju Lodge Cooinda store. Sells petrol, LPG gas, diesel, food and souvenirs, and takes bookings for commercial tours.
  • Gunlom Kiosk. (Dry season only). Light refreshments, cold drinks and ice creams.
  • Goymarr Interpretive Centre, Mary River Roadhouse. Visitor information, food, stores and fuel.

Eat edit

Jabiru has a supermarket where you will find all the basic necessities. There are also a few nice little restaurants and cafes.

Basic food is available at the sporadic rest stops and museums throughout the park.

The lodge at Cooinda serves food until about 9PM and drinks later (whenever things slow down, it seems). The food is really good and includes dishes like the wild goose and kangaroo pie, but neither it or the drinks are cheap.

Kakadu Bakery (close to Lakeview as well as Kakadu Lodge) serves pastries, sandwiches and pizza at reasonable prices.

Drink edit

It is vital that you carry plenty of water with you at all times, especially during the dry season. Some of the upper rock pools are safe to drink from, but lower level rivers are not.

Sleep edit

Lodging edit

An aerial view of Gagudju Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru
  • 1 Aurora Kakadu Resort (Aurora Kakadu Lodge Caravan & Camping Park), Jabiru Drive, Kakadu, +61 8 8979 0166. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Motel rooms, tent sites, powered and unpowered van sites, restaurant, café, store and guest pool. Reservations recommended.
  • 2 Anbinik Kakadu Resort, 83 Jabiru Dr, Jabiru, +61 8 8979 3144. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Bush bungalows, cabins and air-conditioned rooms. On the outskirts of Jabiru, this resort is never short on what a tropical resort needs to have.
  • 3 Gagudju Crocodile Hotel (Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel), 1 Flinders Street, Jabiru, +61 8 8979 9000, fax: +61 8 8979 9098. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A hotel with novelty architecture in the shape of a crocodile. (Sorry, no crocs in the pool.). The hotel includes a restaurant with the main type of cuisine served being "bush tucker", which includes crocodile, buffalo and kangaroo along with many other indigenous Australian foods. Other amenities include a gift shop, guest pool and bookings for commercial tours.    
  • 4 Cooinda Lodge, Old Coolida Rd, Kakadu, +61 8 8979 1500, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM.
  • Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge.

Camping edit

There are many camping grounds dotted through the park. Jabiru, Cooinda and South Alligator all have commercial camping areas and are in proximity to most of the important natural attractions in these areas.

Camping with basic or no toilet facilities is available at Two Mile, Four Mile Hole, Red Lily Billabong, Bucket Billabong, Alligator Billabong and Waldak Irrmbal (West Alligator Head). Drinking water is not available. Rubbish bins are not provided, so please bring rubbish out with you. Check wet season access.

Camping with basic toilet facilities available at Malabanjbanjdju and Burdulba. Drinking water is not available.

Merl Camping Area: Showers, toilets and generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. Check wet season access.

Muirella Park Camping Area (Check wet season access). Has showers, toilets and is a no generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site during the dry season.

Safari camp accommodation and night time spot light boat tour on Djarradjin Billabong (Muirella Park) provided by Kakadu Culture Camp.

Mardugal Camping Area (Check wet season access). Has showers, toilets and generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site during the dry season.

Camping with basic toilet facilities is available at Jim Jim Billabong. Drinking water not available.

Garnamarr Camping Area (Dry season only, 4WD). Showers, toilets, camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. No generators.

Gunlom Camping Area (Gravel road; dry season only). Gunlom plunge pool is located nearby. Has showers, toilets and generator zone. Camping fees (adults only) are collected on site. Gas BBQ in day use area. Camping with basic toilet facilities, BBQ areas and picnic tables is available at Maguk, Gungurul and Kambolgie. Drinking water is not available. Please check wet season access for Maguk and Kambolgie.

Backcountry edit

  • Park Laws Kakadu National Park is established and managed as a Commonwealth Reserve under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Act sets out rules for Commonwealth reserves.

For example you must:

  • Stay on public roads and marked walking tracks.
  • Camp only in designated camping areas. Other park rules and guidelines include:
  • Stay behind the barriers to protect Aboriginal rock paintings.
  • Protect plants — do not use tree branches as fly swats.
  • Do not feed or disturb wildlife.
  • Light fires only in fireplaces provided or use fuel stoves. Keep use of firewood to a minimum.
  • Do not bring pets into Kakadu.

Camping is widely done throughout the park but great care should be taken when camping near water (always at least 200 metres from the water), particularly at the popular camping site Sandy Billabong.

When dealing with Aboriginal people, there are some cultural considerations to remember:

  • Some Aboriginal people have beliefs that mean they don't like having their photo taken. It is courteous to ask for permission first.
  • Family business and ceremonies are an important part of life for Aboriginal people and these matters take priority, which can interrupt scheduled tours.
  • Access to some sites with spiritual significance may be restricted

Please observe all rules on park signs and brochures. For details call the Bowali Visitor Centre on +61 8 8938 1120.

Stay safe edit

A saltwater crocodile in Kakadu
Two species of crocodile can be found in Kakadu, the freshwater and the estuarine or saltwater crocodile. Estuarine crocodiles (Ginga), (Crocodylus porosus) often called ‘salties’ live in freshwater and estuarine areas, such as floodplains, billabongs, rivers and coastal waters. Estuarine crocodiles are aggressive. They have attacked and killed people in Kakadu. For your safety, please obey all crocodile warning signs – do not enter the water and keep away from the water’s edge.

Freshwater crocodiles (Madjarrki), (Crocodylus johnstoni) are only found in Australia, where they live in freshwater rivers, creeks and plunge pools such as Maguk and Gunlom. Freshwater crocodiles are usually shy animals but can become aggressive if disturbed, so do not approach them.

In some visitor areas access is only available after park staff have trapped and removed any estuarine crocodiles that have moved in during the wet season. These areas, known as crocodile management zones, are extensively surveyed at the start of each dry season to ensure the risk for visitors is reduced. Traps remain in place for the entire dry season as estuarine crocodiles may move in at any time.

  • Swimming Due to the risk of estuarine crocodiles in the park, the only public place you should swim is in the Jabiru swimming pool. Some visitors choose to swim at their own risk, in selected natural plunge pools and gorge areas such as Gubara, Maguk, Jim Jim Falls, Gunlom, Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge) and in creeks on the plateau above Twin Falls, Jim Jim Falls and Gunlom. These areas are surveyed for estuarine crocodiles prior to opening each dry season. There remains some risk that estuarine crocodiles may move into gorges and plunge pools during the dry season. Read the crocodile warning signs in each plunge pool and gorge area and consider their information carefully.
  • Some of the most venomous snakes in the world inhabit Kakadu, but luckily for visitors they are all very shy and are very rarely seen, let alone confronted. These species include the Taipan, Death Adder, and King Brown. They are seldom active during the day, hunting at night. Do not hike off any trails after dark.
  • Cliffs Climbing rock ledges and cliffs and walking or standing near cliff edges can lead to serious injury or death, especially when rock surfaces are wet. Keep well away from all cliff edges.
  • What to wear During the heat of the day, you will be most comfortable in loose covering clothing which is cool but protects you from sunburn and insect bites. Use sunscreen and wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Mosquitoes can carry viruses such as the Ross River virus, so if they are biting, use a repellent.
  • Dehydration Symptoms include feeling thirsty, excess sweating, headache, dizziness and nausea. If dehydration continues, it can result in seizures, a loss of consciousness and even death.
  • Preventing dehydration Limit your activity to the cooler parts of the day (mornings and late afternoons) and drink plenty of water. Most people need between 4 and 8 litres of water per day so start drinking water early (coffee, tea and alcohol don’t count!). For every hour you walk, carry at least one litre of water per person.
  • First aid Lie the person down in a cool shaded area. Give them water in small quantities at a time (creek water is alright if you have no other water). If the person cannot keep the water down, or does not recover quickly, seek medical assistance. Contact the medical centre at Jabiru on +61 8 8979 2018.
  • Emergency Call Devices [ECD] are available in remote locations throughout the park. Instructions on use are written on the ECD. These are for emergency calls only. See maps for locations.
  • Flash flooding Possible sudden rises in the levels of waterways can quickly cut off the return route from the top of waterfalls such as Gunlom and Jim Jim. Fast-flowing water can be deceptive, creating strong currents and dangerous swimming conditions.
  • Driving hints Top End roads can be hazardous. Plan ahead and allow sufficient time for travel. Slow down! Roads can become slippery in the wet. During the dry, dust from other vehicles can obscure your vision. When using 4WD tracks, put your vehicle into 4WD. Read your vehicle instructions: many vehicles need their front wheel hubs physically locked, before engaging 4WD from the driver’s seat. At flooded crossings read the signs, look at depth markers and observe how quickly the water is flowing, before deciding whether to cross. Sometimes it is safer to wait until the water recedes. Remember crocodiles may be present. In the event of fires, make sure you park your vehicle in cleared areas rather than in flammable long grass. Use vehicle headlights if driving through heavy smoke, and drive slowly. If stopping, park well off the road and use hazard lights. Do not park on bridges or causeways at any time. Always check road access, by contacting the Bowali Visitor Centre on +61 8 8938 1120 or visit the park website. Watch out for wildlife. Every year hundreds of our native animals are killed or injured on our roads. Drive slowly, look well ahead for animals on the road, and try to avoid driving at night. Toot your horn to alert wildlife on the road. Look carefully for large feral animals such as horses, pigs and buffalo.

Go next edit

  • Darwin is the tropical capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory.
  • Arnhem land is in the middle of Australia's northern coast and bounded by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria. This Aboriginal-owned expanse is made up of wild coastlines, deserted islands, rivers teeming with fish, lush rainforests, soaring escarpments and savannah woodland.
  • Mary River National Park Just over an hour’s drive from Darwin, the Mary River is an unspoiled landscape with wetlands full of birds and wildlife.
  • Alice Springs - Australia’s most famous outback town
  • Katherine - Nature and culture, history and heritage, and gateway to the spectacular Katherine Gorge
  • Tennant Creek - Aboriginal culture, gold mining and pastoralism
  • Litchfield National Park
  • Savannah Way - The Savannah Way is a collection of linked outback roads and highways that form a spectacular touring route traversing northern Australia from Cairns to Broome. Along the way it passes many national parks and reserves including several that have World Heritage status. It crosses the Northern Territory's vast Katherine Region, which is the focus of the itinerary below. Whilst the majority of the Savannah Way is sealed there are large sections of unsealed, but well maintained gravel highways. A large four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to fully appreciate this epic touring route.
  • Nature's Way - Nature's Way winds through a wetland wilderness steeped in Aboriginal culture and pioneering history. The triangular drive begins in Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, and meanders through the Adelaide and Mary River wetlands to World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park - owned and jointly managed by a number of Aboriginal clans. Then it's on to Litchfield National Park with its stunning waterfalls and return to Darwin. For photographic, wildlife and bird watching enthusiasts, this is a dream drive on a fully sealed road - suitable for a two-wheel-drive vehicle.

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