Kakadu’s natural formations and subsequent wildlife habitation is one of the primary contributors to its listing as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The parks natural formations can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The roaring waterfalls, the expansive wetlands, and the diverse ecosystems are the parks greatest attractions alongside the ancient Indigenous cultural pieces such as the rock art work. These rocky escarpments raise over 300m (1000ft) into the sky in an unbroken chain in spectacular contrast to the lowlands of the park. Some of these outcroppings hold thousands of pieces assorted in galleries these artworks are a cultural marvel giving insight to one of if not the oldest civilisation on earth. The park has diverse habitats from the aforementioned and popular rock outcrops, waterfalls, and wetlands to expansive savannahs, open forests, floodplains, and monsoon forest. So untouched are these areas that they are only accessible by the traditional owners to observe the change and monitor these untouched ecosystems.
Aside from Kakadu’s famous crocodiles hundreds of other species of wildlife exist within the park making it one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Marsupials such as Wallaby’s and Wallaroos, to Turtles, Quolls, and Bandicoots, and hundreds more exist within the park including nearly a third of Australia’s birds’ species. Catching a glimpse of these creatures won’t be hard as long as you properly plan.
Be aware the wildlife is wild and to practice safe watching practices for both safety and to minimise the impact on the locals. Please do not attempt to approach or feed the wildlife and pay special attention not only to warning signs but also be aware of the dangers that other creatures pose such as snakes, buffalo and pigs. Early morning and sunset are the best times to catch a peek at these magnificent creatures.
Reptiles & Snakes
One of the main attractions of Kakadu made famous by ‘Crocodile Dundee’ there are two species of crocodile in the park being the smaller freshwater and its larger and more famous salt water cousin. With the largest of salt water crocodiles (Salties) growing to up to and over 6m (20ft) they are the modern-day dinosaur. Taking a river cruise, visitors will be certain to see lots of these prehistoric reptiles in their natural environment. Made famous by ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and the ‘Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’ these reptiles are the apex predator of the park, come visit them in the billabong.
While Kakadu’s crocodiles are at centre stage don’t forget that 117 reptilian species call the park home which include the parks largest predators. If you’ve seen ‘Crocodile Dundee’ then you’ll easily recognise and find the big salties, also keep an eye out for Kakadu’s snakes and turtles, after all they can bite just as hard. The waterways are home to many of these reptiles; so watch out for Goanna’s along the roads and rivers, hikers should keep a sharp eye out for small dragon lizards and skinks scurrying through the underbrush on the trails. The reward for those with an eagle eye or who brave the wet season, the dramatic frilled-necked lizard is the eye candy for reptile enthusiasts.
Kakadu also has its own turtle population with the Pig Nosed and Flatback turtles. The Pig Nosed turtle is a shy creature often darting away when it perceives a potential threat, however in the Wurrgent (June – August) they can be found laying their eggs on the sandy banks. The Pig Nosed turtle has been on the Kakadu menu for a very long time, with both artistry and bone fragments found to confirm this. The Flatback is Australia’s only endemic marine turtle. They can be found in shallow soft-bottom sea beds and can be sometimes found baking in the sun on the ocean surface. As a marine animal flatback turtles sometimes travel across the Timor and Arafura sea in search for food.
Kakadu is home to over 280 different species of birds being around a third of the bird species found in Australia. Kakadu National Park has such a large footprint that multiple ecosystems and habitats exist within its borders providing a home for the many species that live in the park. From the eagles that soar in the sky to the flocks of magpie geese that flock to the park in the wet season Kakadu’s hundred of bird species won’t leave anyone wanting. The seasonal change to tropical summer and the start of the wet season signals the beginning of breeding season to waterbirds as they come to roost throughout Kakadu’s expansive wetlands.