Every creek or waterhole we saw had crystal clear water. Well, Kakadu is a National Park, so we should expect it to be pristine! Not only was the water clear, but invariably there were small fish swimming around in the shallows. I guess that’s the safest place for them! The variety of life in these streams is quite remarkable, as you will see in the (Darwin) Territory Wildlife Park aquariums where a sequence of tanks illustrates the progression in aquatic wildlife species from the inland source of streams through to the coral reefs.
The fish in the main photo to this tip are Black Banded Grunters, which feed on algae, plants and insects near the water’s edge. I can’t say anything about the little fellow in the second photo, but I think the fish in photos 3 and 4 are Archer fish, which shoot down small insects by firing well-directed jets of water, like a water pistol!
Main photo Dragonfly (Graphic Flutterer?)
Photo 2 Damselfly
Photo 3 St Andrews Cross spider
Photo 4 Green Ants - bush tucker (= bush food).
I have little expertise on insects and spiders, but with so many fascinating dragonflies and such to be seen, naturally the camera came out.
The main photo shows a dragonfly I found at Gunbalanya. From an internet search, I think it is a Graphic Flutterer Dragonfly (Rhyothemis graphiptera). Aren’t they impressive markings! The second photo shows a damselfly at Mt Borradaile – how do I know it’s a damselfly? The difference is that dragonflies leave their wings sticking out like an aeroplane when they land, the damselflies fold their wings back like a moth: you learn something new every day!
The third photo shows a spider on the rock paintings at Mt Borradaile. I don’t know the exact version of it, but the paired legs parked diagonally clearly show it belongs to the group of spiders known as the St Andrews Cross spiders. These spiders are considered harmless, though their webs can be a nuisance when slung between two trees and not spotted in time!
Finally, in the fourth photo you see some busy green ants at Mt Borradaile. These large ants have the useful attribute of being traditional Aboriginal “bush tucker”. They don’t actually taste too bad: I’d describe the flavour as spicy, with a slight lemonish sweetness and a sharp finish.
Let’s do a brief rundown on the “whats and wheres” of Arnhem Land and Kakadu. They comprise most of that big square bump central to the top coast of Australia – an area of about 97,000 square km (larger than many European countries such as Hungary, Austria and Ireland, let alone smaller ones) or in USA terms, larger than all but the ten largest States. This entire area has a permanent population of only about 16,000, with most living in a scattering of small townships such as Gunbalanya/Oenpelli (pop under 1000) – the largest is the mining town of Nhulunbuy with about 3800 in the north east corner. Kakadu National Park is run by the Australian Government and is World Heritage listed. Arnhem Land itself is Aboriginal land, though parts are leased for the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park and for mining. The result is an area that remains largely undeveloped, unpopulated and unspoiled wilderness.
The climate is tropical monsoonal, meaning the climate consists of just ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ seasons. Daytime temperatures are in the 30s year round, though night temperatures in the dry can drop below 20. Prodigious amounts of rain fall in the wet, filling wetlands, overflowing the banks of creeks and rivers, and making road access impossible to many areas.
Geographically, much of Arnhem Land is comprised of rocky plateau, deeply fissured by rivers to leave rugged escarpments. Between the escarpments and the coast are extensive wetlands. Getting around it is not easy, because not only are there few roads but you also must obtain a permit to enter from the Aboriginal owners (this is not needed for Kakadu National Park). Even seeing a little makes the effort worthwhile!
Main photo Basking saltwater crocodile, about 4M long
Photo 2 Saltwater crocodile watching our tinnie while we watch him!
Photo 3 Yellow Spotted Monitor basking on a log in a creek
Photo 4 Goanna tracks .
An Arnhem Land page wouldn’t be complete without photos of crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), would it? The first two photos show two salties we encountered in the Cooper Creek wetlands at Mt Borradaile, one in the water watching us, the other basking on a mudbank – and also, for that matter, watching us carefully though trying not to be obvious in doing so! Bill Bryson has commented that these are the only land-based native animals to worry the average Australian and I’d reckon he’s probably right.
The goanna in the third photo is more correctly called a Yellow Spotted Monitor. We were very fortunate to see this one, because they are rapidly disappearing and now are listed as ‘vulnerable’. Why? Because they live on insects, small animals and frogs – and that diet has expanded to include the recently arrived Cane Toads (see warnings/dangers) which, unlike any native species, are toxic.
Photo four shows some goanna tracks we found on the Cobourg Peninsula – notice the footprints either side of the wandering line down the middle.
Main photo Red-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus magnificus)
Photo 2 Pacific Herons (Ardea pacifica) on the Cobourg Peninsula
Photo 3 Jabiru or Black-necked Stork (Xenorhynchus asiaticus) .
I’ve no doubt all these birds also are found in Kakadu, it’s just that I had more time to take bird photos in Arnhem Land! Somehow I find myself increasingly becoming a compulsive bird photographer…
Many Australians, on returning from overseas, comment on the amount of birdlife here compared to most other places. I’d pretty much go along with that, but I’ve never seen so many birds as in Arnhem Land, particularly on the coasts and wetlands. Were I to make a tip on each type, I’d overload this page completely, so I’ve included just a few here and the rest in two travelogues – I encourage you to spare a moment to visit them. Suffice it to say that, should you be venturing to this part of the world, you would be doing yourself a considerable favour by taking a good bird identification book – you can buy one in Darwin if need be.
The Bowali Visitor Centre is a must see if you visit Kakadu National Park. As well as being the main visitor centre it is the Park's Headquarters as.
You will find a wealth of reading material at the Information Counter, and well trained staff to answer your questions. Within the centre there are videos, a library (with comfortable chairs and aircon!) and several displays. You need a couple of hours at least to look around and "educate" yourself on the Park to enhance your visit and experience.
Also in the centre van be found the Marrawuddi Gallery and the Anmak An-me Cafe. At the gallery you can purchase good quality souvenirs and examples of Aboriginal inspired arts and crafts.
Fondest memory: http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu/visitor-information/index.html
Situated 5 km from Jabiru, on the West side of the Kakadu Highway, well signposted.
Information Centre open 8.00am to 5.00pm
Gallery and Cafe open 9.00am to 5.00pm
Besides being the best tourist info centre in town, Bowali Visitor Centre is also the place to go to pay for your campground fees and to obtain the key for Jarrangbarnmi.
Bowali Visitor Centre
Kakadu National Park is 253km east of Darwin.
There are no National Park fees but when camping you will be charged a fee.
Of course we all had to get out of the vehicles for a photo shoot :o)
Jabiru is the main township in Kakadu.
We stocked up on our food supplies here.
Click the link below to see where Jabiru is.
Species: L. calcarifer
There are so many names for the Barramundi that most would fall asleep if I put them in tip form. The name Barramundi comes from a Queensland dialect of Aboriginal Australian langauage. It essentially translates into large scales in English. The name is commonly used in Australia to name the Saratoga fish, which is common on the Northern and Eastern portions of Australia.
Most Australians enjoy this fish because of its light taste, so it is not uncommon to see people fishing for this. In Kakadu, there are particularly good times to try to catch these, as they swim up the rivers to spawn.
Scientific name: Anseranas semipalmata
This particular goose travels in packs of hundreds, even thousands. It is typically found around water sources, but is known to be found all throughout Australia. The common name comes from the most common bird in Australia, the Magpie, which is black and white, similar to the coloration here. It is much bigger than a magpie obviously, but the similar color scheme gives it a common name.
What seemed amazing to me was the sheer numbers of these birds, which all seemed to be in unison, however equally scared. The slightest movement would have hundreds of birds scattering for a safer location. Of course sitting in shallow water with all those crocodiles around would make me paranoid as well!
This bird is very common to the tropical climate of the northern Australia coast line, and often finds itself living in the wetland portions of Kakadu. The Eastern Reef Egret is commonly seen in and around the streams, lakes and rivers in the Northern Territory, and was likely the most common bird you will see year round. For the most part, this bird remains sedentary where it is located, as long as the food (small fish) remains plentiful there.
The Eastern Reef Egret is easily distinguished by the neck, which seems to twist and turn very easily, making it a great tool for retrieving fish. It also seemed to be very patient, waiting completely still in one place until it determined nothing was coming, then it would take a couple steps and plant itself in for another good period of time.
Australia is a very unique and diverse place for alot of creatures. As I learn more about the flora and fauna myself, I notice how many times only one bird from a particular species are found in Australia. The Rainbow Bee-Eater is another example of this. Bee-eaters come from the species Meropidae, and this bird is the only Meropidae found in Australia. They migrate primarily from the south portion of Australia up to the Northern Territory and Indonesia in winter time, so you will likely only see these birds in the "dry" season. These birds mate for life, but I was unable to catch this bird's mate.
The bird has a yellow head, while its body is multicolored with green and blue as its primary colors. The tail feathers on the bird are violet, but it would be hard to catch that in a picture as these birds move extremely quickly and often.
This bird is very revered in Kakadu National Park, and especially by the Aboriginal people. Jabiru in fact is the name given to the trading outpost located inside Kakadu. The Jabiru bird is truly the regal "king" of the wetlands, and sighting these birds is fairly difficult without a good telephoto lens or binoculars. This particular bird was quite a distance from the road, and difficult to catch as it sat behind a few reed beds.
The black necked stork is a beautiful bird, which is the only known stork to inhabit Australia. It has a purple and dark green neck, with very red legs. The male and female are roughly identical in appearance except in the eye region, where the female has yellow eyes.
The bird itself is content with crustaceans and small fish, so it will likely be in wetlands constantly searching for a good meal. They are fairly nomadic, but have also been known to settle down in areas where ample food and water are available such as Kakadu.
I hope your journey allows you to see a Jabiru up close and personal!
As we start out easy on the reptile species in Kakadu, the next one I want to introduce to you is the Freshwater Crocodile, also known as the Freshie or Johnston's Crocodile.
Freshies are definitely smaller in comparison to their man eating cousin, the Saltie or Saltwater Crocodile, but don't be confused, Salties can appear in fresh water, and Freshies can appear in salt water. Male Freshies can grow to about 10 feet long, and females top out at about 7 feet. You should be able to tell the difference immediately by looking at the snout, where you will see a longer slim snout.
Freshies are typically found in quiet out of the way places, and are not nearly as dangerous to humans as Salties. When you have an encounter with a freshie, keep a safe distance from them, as they will likely just move away from you unless you provoke them. In this particular instance, this freshie was very happy where he was at, until I got a little too close with the camera, then he moved in my direction fairly quickly. As I backed away slowly, he noticed my disinterest in attacking him, and he sat guarded instead of continuing after me.