Kakadu National Park Australia Facts
Kakadu National Park is a sprawling and extraordinarily biodiverse nature preserve, located in Australia’s Northern Territory. This natural preserve is Australia’s perfect place to observe the link between the Aboriginal stewards of the land, and the country they have lived in for thousands of generations. Covering a wide area of just under twenty thousand square kilometres, Kakadu National Park encompases a unique ecosystem and aunbelievable concentration of ancient rock art. The park’s topography is an ever-changing landscape of scorched acreage, flooded regions, desolate and dry or vibrant and bountiful depending whatever the season may be.
Where did Kakadu National Park get it’s name? And when was this park established?
Kakadu National Park gets its name from the European interpretation of a local Aboriginal floodplain language, called Gagudju. The term is also used to describe the tribe who once communicated in the Gagudju language.
While we’re on the topic of interpretations of names, did you know that Kakadu National Park is home to a river called the South Alligator River, even though alligators don’t live in Australia? It’s said that the river’s name mix-up happened when the man who named the river didn’t know the difference between alligators and crocodiles and simply called it as he saw it.
The park is a Commonwealth Reserve, and home to the traditional lands of several Aboriginal groups. It’s jointly cared for and managed by the region’s traditional Aboriginal owners, and by the Northern Territory’s Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage. Kakadu National Park was established in April of 1979, and will be celebrating its thirty seventh anniversary in 2016.
The park’s exceptional natural beauty and unique ancient cultural heritage was recognised internationally in 1981, when Kakadu National Park was first inscribed on the World Heritage list. Additional land was since added to the listing in 1987 and 1992. In 2011, after decades of lobbying by Koongarra’s Jeffrey Lee, the Koongarra land was added to the Kakadu World Heritage Area after previously being excluded from the listing due to its potential uranium resources. This important land is now recognized as a part of Kakadu National Park, gaining the protection it needs as a significant cultural and heritage site.
What can we expect to see in Kakadu National Park, in terms of wildlife and habitats?
Kakadu National Park is home to many different habitats such as floodplains and billabongs, stone plateaus and escarpments, monsoonal rainforests, tidal flats, coastal beaches and large, sweeping open savannah woodlands. In Kakadu National Park you will be able to find ten thousand different types of insects, more than two hundred eighty bird species – making up one third of all of Australia’s bird species – over one hundred different types of reptiles, sixty mammal species, more than fifty types of freshwater fish, and almost two thousand different plants. That’s a lot of wildlife packed into one national park! And some of them are very rare, endangered, or endemic – which means that you won’t find them anywhere else in the world, and the national park is this species’ only home. A recorded sixty seven of the plant species are rare or considered vulnerable species.
Kakadu National Park has been relatively lucky to be one of the precious few places in Australia where extinctions of animals or plant species have been only very limited. The park works hard to keep it this way, and protects the
habitat for all the species who call this national park home. Kakadu National Park is also regarded as being one of the most weed free national parks of the world, strangely enough only 5.7% of the recorded plant species are considered weeds.
The majority of Kakadu National Park waterways are home to populations of saltwater crocodiles. Swimming is possible in plunge pools and gorge areas such as Maguk, Gunlom Falls or the famous Jim Jim Falls for example, however it is officially not recommended. The risk of encountering a dangerous crocodile is all too real – therefore swimming is recommended only in swimming pools!
Kakadu National Park has some tremendously beautiful waterfalls, a definite must-see if you are ever fortunate enough to be in the region. Get up close to these falls in the dry season, or see them full-force from a scenic flight in the wet season.
The mesmerizing beauty and power of Kakadu National Park’s astounding Jim Jim Falls will take your breath away. These impressive waterfall descends from a height of of almost three hundred metres or 850 feet above sea level, flowing over one enormous drop that varies in height between one hundred forty and two hundred metres down into a plunge pool in the creek. The Jim Jim Falls are a popular location, and are found near the eastern boundary of the Kakadu National Park. They’re definitely one of terrific holiday destinations for those seeking the ultimate Kakadu natural attraction, located twenty eight kilometres south of Jabiru. During the region’s dry season, you can gain access to the falls via the Kakadu Highway by a sixty kilometer gravel road. The final eleven kilometres of the trip are suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles only. Unfortunately, when the dry season hits, the falls dry up flow very little. During Kakadu National Park’s wet season the falls are at their most splendid and powerful state, and it is virtually impossible to drive any vehicle into the area due to the flooding and wet ground. It’s this time of year when the falls are best viewed from the air on a scenic tour which includes views of the nearby Twin Falls. There are a range of different scenic tour options – you can choose whether you’d like to travel by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, and see these magnificent falls from the sky. Dry season scenic tours are always an option too – tours will take you over the park’s impressive landforms, incredible ecosystems and rough wilderness. These scenic flights allow visitors to capture views of unique vistas as they sail over the World Heritage-listed natural region. Take in view of the erosion on the ancient Arnhem Land plateau, including the archway, and follow along the East Alligator River and into Mikinj Valley before flying over the sprawling Magela Wetlands for a tour you will never forget! It’s one of the best ways to behold the beauty that is this amazing national park.
What are the seasons like in Kakadu National Park? Is there a best time to visit?
Kakadu National Park is described as having a tropical monsoon climate, with two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season. Kakadu’s dry season runs from April or May through September, and the region’s wet season from October through April or May. You can expect that the majority of the rain falls between January and March, with a monthly average of 300 to 350 mm and often times much higher, will lead to flooding and subsequent closure of sections of the Kakadu National Park, so choose the season wisely if you’re planning on making a trip.
The months of October, November and December are prime time for a bounty of intense tropical thunderstorms. The storms here are usually very isolated, but they are also very heavy with strong rains. Kakadu National Park temperatures reach their highest points during the build up for the region’s wet season in October and November, sometimes exceeding 40°C. Average nightly temperatures during this time are around 25°C. The middle of June through to mid August offer the most tolerable daily temperatures, averaging about 30°C, and subsequently the biggest amount of tourists flowing in and out of the national park. Temperatures during the evening at this time of year can drop below 10°C. The beginning and the end of the dry season tend to be a time when the weather is warmer.
How has the culture and art of the Aboriginals impacted this region? Is it still possible to view the fascinating rock art?
For twenty five thousand years or more, Aboriginal Australians have made their home in what we now call Kakadu National Park. Some say Aboriginals have lived there for as long as fifty thousand years. One thing is certain, what we now call Kakadu National Park is a culturally diverse region, with different groups of Aboriginals calling the land home. The different groups adhere to different traditions, different laws, and speak different languages. The
Gagudju language that inspired the name of the National Park is actually no longer spoken regularly, however descendents of the Gagudju people still call the park region their home.
There are more than five thousand rock art sites to be found in Kakadu National Park. The locations of Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock are typically the two most popular sites for Aboriginal rock art, and you can see these and many more throughout the entire region. The rock paintings are often layered, in that they were painted over again and again by several generations, the way graffiti on a city structure can be covered and painted over multiple times by many different people.
Modern Aboriginal people living in Kakadu National Park rarely paint on the reserve’s rocks, in fact few of the people have been passed down the required knowledge allowing them to paint at certain rock art sites. Instead, contemporary Aboriginal artists create their paintings on materials such as bark, paper, and fabric.
The layers of the paintings are associated with layers of meaning and stories behind the art. Each one of the artworks portrays a story, and there exist up to six levels to that story. Depending on your importance, and your status, you may be privy to the entire six levels of the artwork’s story, or knowledgeable about only the first level. Tourists visiting the sites will only ever learn the first level! Kakadu National Park’s Aboriginal rock art contains a multitude of different subjects and meaning. People expressed the variety of animals they hunted in their art, some of which are now extinct. The tools people used in daily life and the events they saw are documented in paint. White Europeans are depicted in some of the relatively newer rock art sites. Some paintings are stories going back to creation and different forms of religious ceremonies. Still others were created to instill good or bad influence on people’s lives and on the future as a whole.
Where can you stay in Kakadu National Park? Can people come to the reserve to camp?
Fortunately for the aspiring Kakadu camper there exists a wide selection of designated camping grounds within Kakadu National Park. Jabiru, Cooinda and South Alligator are all endowed with convenient commercial camping sites, and all are located to a good portion of the natural reserve’s important natural attractions in each one of the listed regions. Some of the national park’s campgrounds do charge a nominal fee to cover the costs of shower and toilet facilities, while others are free and have limited or no shower or toilet facilities.
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