Day 1. Darwin to Kakadu
Set out early for your drive to Kakadu (under three hours’ drive) and just before you arrive in Kakadu call into the Mamukala wetlands for an introduction to the remarkable birdlife that calls Kakadu home for part or all of the year.
Mamukala is at its most dramatic in the late dry season (prior to December), when thousands of magpie geese congregate to feed. There is an observation platform to view the birdlife, while a 3km walk adjacent to the wetlands is open for much of the year, and you may even get to see crocodiles by the shore, kangaroos, wild pigs and buffalo.
Call into Bowali Visitor Centre to find out the latest access details around the park and to view a fascinating display highlighting the plants, animals and landscapes that have contributed to making Kakadu a dual World Heritage-listed national park.
Drive 40 minutes to Cooinda Lodge Kakadu and check into a fully refurbished Lodge room, one of the new Outback Retreat glamping tents, or into the shady caravan and camping village. Grab a bite to eat before driving back (20 minutes) to the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) rock art site and Kunwarddewardde lookout (1 km return walk). The dramatic sandstone cliffs here are a wondrous sight. Take your time winding through shaded rock shelters.
In the main (Anbangbang) gallery you’ll see the Creation Ancestor Namondjok, and the Creation Ancestor Namarrkon, the Lightning Man. Climb to the Kunwarddewardde Lookout, and be rewarded with sweeping views of both Kakadu’s escarpment and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock). If you have time, another rewarding walk is the 6 km Kubara pools walk, which takes in savanna woodlands, paperbark forests and monsoon thickets. The Kubara pools walk is open most of the year but is most popular during the tropical summer.
There’s an abundance of birds here – listen to the calls of the helmeted friarbirds or try to spot emerald doves and banded fruit-doves darting about the tree canopies. Finish your afternoon of exploration by climbing to the nearby Nawurlandja lookout to be rewarded with tremendous views of the park. This is a magical spot to relax and watch the colours change as the sun descends in the west. Amazing storms often roll in and put on a dramatic lightshow during the tropical summer.
Return to Cooinda for a cooling swim in the large lagoon pool and dine on local cuisine at the recently refurbished Mimi’s, which offers both inside and outside dining.