Declared a national park in 1991, Kakadu National Park is located in the north of Australia, 240 kilometres east of Darwin. The Park covers an amazing 20,000 square kilometers of the Northern Territory in Australia. It could be described as an enormous imperfect oval shape. It runs through flood plains, rocky ranges, billabongs and low lands, holding hundreds of animal and plant species.
Kakadu holds many different landmarks which Tourists can see by walking along one of the many tracks at the Park. Some of the landmarks include the Jim Jim and Twin Falls waterfalls, the Yellow Water Wet Land and for those that want to climb to great heights, the Nourlangie walk which takes you to the top of Nourlangie rock, or stop along the way for a picnic at one of the Billabongs.
Kakadu's climate changes dramatically throughout the year, from cold burning seasons to the heat and humidity in the hot dry seasons.
The park requires lots of care from owners and tourists to be kept a sustainable area. Kakadu's sustainability is threatened by ERA mining not just because of the oil spills and leaks but because of its economy.
Dream Time Stories
Kakadu National Park is home to many Dream Time Stories which tell how things were created by the spirits, and how some spirits still work today.
For example throughout the park there are rock paintings of dream time stories from Aboriginal ancestors. The featured painting is of the spirit Namarrgon (Narm-arr-gon) who is part of the Creation Time story and responsible for the harsh lightning storms that hit the land. The story tells that he uses the axes shown on his head, elbows and feet to split the dark clouds to make lightning and thunder.
The story tells that Namarrgon journeys around Kakadu, with each place he passes leaving behind some of his powers. On his last move he approached the sheer wall of what is now known as Namarrgondjahdjam (Dreaming Lightning). He looked over the wall, took out an eye and placed it high on the wall. The giant rock that sits there today is waiting for the storm season.
Kakadu is home to over 2,000 different species of plant and for generations Aboriginal people have used these plants for bush food, medicine and weaving materials.
Examples of the many plant species are Pandanus, Speargrass, the Kapok Bush and the Darwin Woollybutt.
Pandanus plants are from the screw pine family. Three Pandanus species found in Kakadu, Gonggirr Pandanus being the most common of the three, easily recognised for their 'Cork Screw' leaf arrangement.
The dead leaves hang down, creating a skirt like shape around the trunk, make a perfect home for wrens, bats, mice and lizards. Bright orange and red fruits grow from the leaves of some Pandanus, a favourite food of the sulphur-crested cockatoos.
The leaves from the Pandanus plants are used by Aboriginal people for weaving baskets and mats.
Spear grass is recognised by their spear like strands lining Kakadu's lowlands through the summer, growing up to four meters (13 feet) tall!
The seeds are an important food source for ants and birds, such as finches.
Around April every year Kakadu experiences the 'Knock em' down storms' which knock down the tall spear grass ahead of another dry season.
Kapok Bushes are well known for their bright yellow flowers that grow out during the dry season as the tree starts loosing it's leaves. As time goes by these beautiful flowers develop into green capsules, hardening up and turning brown. The brown capsules open up, revealing the new seeds, contained in a cotton wool-like material .
Aboriginal people have found ways to use the material that is released from the tree. Kapok flowers are eaten raw or cooked and during the late months of the year (September - December), young Kapok roots are also eaten.
Kapok is also used for ceremonial body decorations, paint brushes and string.
Kakadu is home to a vast amount of animal species, some you may not see anywhere else around the world. The rangers and Aboriginals at Kakadu take good care of these rare and special animals as they are connected to one another, like family members are connected to each other.
The park has many rules and regulations to protect their animals, they even offer tips on how to spot and watch animals safely. These include using binoculars to get a closer look, early morning and late sunset viewing and don't approach, disturb or feed wildlife.
There are two types of Crocodiles in the park, estuarine crocodiles (salt water crocs) and fresh water crocs. Fresh water crocs are known to grow up to three meters (10 ft) long, whereas salties are known to grow up to six meters (20 ft) long.
One way to identify each is by their mouth. Fresh water crocs have a narrow snout with smaller scutes, which are a piece of body armour that sticks out like a spike on the crocs back and head. Salt water crocs have a wider snout and hold larger scutes which continue all the way down their back.
There are many warning signs around Kakadu's water ways to warn people about crocodiles that can lurk under the water's surface.
Comb-crested Jacana's are well known for their ability to walk over water. Well, not quite walk on water, they have the nickname lily walker or Jesus bird. The nickname Jesus bird came from a story in the bible that tells us Jesus had the ability to walk on water.
Each bird has a bright red comb on it's head, females having larger combs than males. What is most recognisable about the birds is their splayed feet that spread across the lily pads they stand on or run across.
Jacana's can be found walking on water around floodplains looking for food.
In the local language Comb-crested Jacana's are called Dagarreguyengguyeng.
Leichhardt's grasshoppers get their name from the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt. In 1845 he explored the Kakadu area and reported finding hundreds of these grasshoppers in his exploration. The grasshoppers are quite special to Kakadu as they have only been found in two other places on Earth.
Leichhardt grasshoppers are a sign of change in the seasons of Kakadu. They appear at the start of the Monsoon season (December/January).
Their local name is Alyurr, meaning children of the lightning man, referring to the lightning spirit Namarrgon who is painted on the rocks in Kakadu. Kakadu records one of the largest rates of lightning in the world.
Landforms and Landscapes
Kakadu has many varied landscapes from the north to the south, each one bringing a completely new array of wildlife. Landscapes and landforms change naturally throughout the year with the Kakadu seasons.
Coast and Tidal Flats
Coasts and tidal flats are mainly found at the north of Kakadu because this is where park meets the ocean, creating estuaries and water ways. An estuary is the point of meet between a flow and main stream of water.
Most of Kakadu's coastline is difficult to get to because of the mangrove forests that line the inland area of coastlines. Mangrove swamps and samphire flats dominate these inland tidal flats.
Savanna woodlands and the lowlands
It is hard to miss the lowlands of Kakadu as they make up almost 80 percent of the park. Hundreds, if not thousands of animals can be found in these woodlands and lowlands, birds, honeyeaters, parrots, wallabies, dingoes, goannas, skinks and termites are just some of the hundreds out there. Some animals are used to tell the time of day like the blue winged kookaburra's call, announcing the evening, or at night the woof woof of the barking owl can be heard.
Termite mounds can be found around the lowlands of Kakadu and have been known to reach heights of six meters.
The wetlands at Kakadu have water all year round, making the rivers perfect for boat tours. Wetlands are vital for some bird species and dire moths because of the all year round water supply.
Yellow Water and Mamukala are two well known wetlands in Kakadu, boat tours are run on each one. Boat tours are a great opportunity to go croc spotting and birdwatching. Some birds are known to fly over to Kakadu in the summer all the way from China.
Southern hills and ridges
Southern hills and ridges are commonly found in the south of Kakadu. The hills and ridges can be seen from the top of Gunlom Falls, or along Yurmikmik Walks.
Rugged ridges of ancient volcanic rocks are found in and around the woodland areas.
Rare Kakadu animals can be found around the south, these animals are very hard to find. Animals like the endangered Gouldian Finch, the vulnerable Red Goshawk and some nocturnal animals such as the Kakadu Dunnart.