Kakadu National Park


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's coordinates are 13.0923° S, 132.3938° E

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.

Sacred Land

The Original owners of the Kakadu land are the Bininj and Mungguy Aboriginal tribes who have taken care of the land for over 50,000 years. The Aboriginal culture is the oldest living culture on Earth and there is evidence that Kakadu has been a home to them for at least 20,000 years.

Although the Bininj and Mungguy people are located in different areas of the park, Bininj in the North and Mungguy in the South they all still have a deep spiritual connection with their land. Some families from each tribe currently live in Kakadu's towns or in more remote areas, but this does not change their interconnection with the land and wildlife.

All Aboriginal people have always had a strong connection with their land, caring for it is fundamental to their culture. Art, language, ceremonies and caring for their country are all views of their cultural responsibilities which they pass down through one generation to the next. Some of the art and stories that are passed down are called Dream Time Stories.

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.

The Namarrgondjahjam can be seen from the parks Gun-warddehwardde lookout.

(To left, a Kakadu park ranger at Gun-warddehwardde lookout)

Picture of Lightning Dreaming

Plants (Flora)

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 Plant

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

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 Bush

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.

Darwin Woollybutt

The Darwin Woollybutt, commonly found throughout Kakadu, is recognised for it's dark wooly bark on the lower half of the trunk and white bark towards the top of the trunk and branches.

Aboriginal people use the tree as a calendar to tell them what season it is and what work they need to do to prepare. For example, at the beginning of the cold dry season bright red flowers start to grow, this tells the Aboriginals that it is time to start lighting fires to keep warm, and to 'clean up the country' to prevent wild fires from sparking.

Did you know...

67 plant species in Kakadu are rare or vulnerable.


Animals (Fauna)

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.

Crocodiles (Top: Saltwater Left: Saltwater Right: Fresh Water)

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

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

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.

Partridge pigeon

The Partridge pigeon is endemic to Kakadu, meaning it is found only in Kakadu, no where else in the world. It is listed as a venerable species. To the local Aboriginals the Partridge pigeon is a sign telling them to start burning routines.

In local language the pigeon is known as Ragul, which grows a red and white skin around its eye and up to 25-28cm tall. They are found in the Bowali Visitor Centre of Kakadu and are known to fly off at the last minute as you approach them.

Did You Know...

There are 280 different types of birds in Kakadu National Park, almost a third of all the bird species in Australia.

The bird behind is a Azure kingfisher bird, one of the hundreds of types of birds in Kakadu.


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.

Stone Country

One of the most amazing sights at Kakadu are 300 meter high sandstone cliffs at the Arnhem Land Plateau. This plateau is found at the eastern side of the park along with Jim Jim falls.

The sandstone cliffs at Arnhem Land Plateau
A painting by Michael Bull of Jim Jim falls

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.

A (possibly) six meter tall termite mound at the Kakadu lowlands


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.

Kakadu Wetlands
Yellow Water boat tour

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.

The ridges of an ancient volcanic rock

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.

The Gouldian Finch
Red Goshawk
Kakadu Dunnart

The Six Seasons And their climate

Local Aboriginal people follow Kakadu's six season, Gudjewg, Banggerreng, Yegge, Wurrgeng, Gurrung and Gunumeleng, Kakadu's temperature and environment changing with each one.

Gudjewg - Monoon season

The Gudjewg season lasts from December to March, temperature dropping slightly from 24°C - 37°C to 24°C - 34°C. This is the time of thunderstorms, heavy rain, floods and of flower and animal population growth because of the heat and humidity. Spear grass starts growing 2 - 3 meters tall, creating a silver-grey colour throughout the woodlands. Animals like goannas, snakes and rats will seek shelter and safety in trees from flood waters. Any stranded eggs or animals become a source of bush food for the local Aboriginals.

Banggerreng - Knock 'em down storm season

The Banggerreng season occurs during April, temperature staying almost the same as the Monoon season at 23°C - 34°C. In this season things start to lighten up, first with rain clouds disappearing, meaning animals can care for their young and plants and trees can fruit without flood waters disturbing them. The tall spear grass gets knocked down by the knock em' down storms that come during this season.

Yegge - Cooler but still humid season

Lasting from May to mid-June, the Yegge season is cooler in temperature, dropping to 21°C - 33°C. This season has low humidity, early morning mists hang over the plains and waterholes. The wetlands and billabongs are covered in lily pads. Drying winds and flowering Darwin woolly butts tell locals it is time to 'clean up the country' by burning off the woodlands in patches, trying to encourage new growth for feeding animals.

Wurrgeng - Cold weather season

Wurrgeng is the cold season, lasting from mid-June to mid-August. By day the temperatures reach 30°C and at night temperatures are around 17°C. Most creeks will stop flowing and floodplains quickly dry out. The burning continues through this season, but are left to run through the night as the fires are put out by gathering dew from plants and grass. This is the perfect opportunity for birds such as Magpie geese, to feast on insects and bugs trying to escape the burn offs.

Gurrung - Hot dry weather season

During the Gurrung season the temperatures rise to 23°C - 37°C, lasting from mid-August to mid-October. The Aboriginal people will hunt file snakes and long-necked turtles. Sea turtles will lay their eggs on Field Island and West Alligator Head, but there eggs are not safe, Goannas will try steal eggs from their nest for food. Thunderclouds start to appear in the skies, signalling the return of the Gunumeleng season.

Gunumeleng - Pre-monsoon storm season

Gunumeleng season usually lasts from mid-October to late December, but it can vary. The temperatures rise dramatically throughout the season along with the humidity. Thunderstorm clouds return with rain, giving plants their green look again and streams begin to run again washing acidic waters from the floodplains into billabongs, causing some fish to die. As the rivers refill water animals begin to spread out as there is more space for them. This was the time when Aboriginal people would have moved their camps from the floodplains to the stone country, avoiding the storms from the up coming season, Monsoon season.

Did you know...

The Gagadju Crocodile Holiday Inn in Jabiru (town in Kakadu) is shaped like a crocodile!

Just look at the picture behind.


Sustainability And Tourism

The Kakadu National Park rangers and local Aboriginals work very hard to keep Kakadu a clean and healthy environment. Regular burn offs are held to prevent wild fires during the Gurrung (Hot dry weather) season and deal with any wild animals that get a bit too close for comfort, to keep everyone safe.

Tourists that go to Kakadu must be respectful to the land and it's owners. If they are caught littering or harming animals they will be fined hundreds of dollars.

Ways we can keep Kakadu healthy

Disposing cigarette butts and lighters in the correct waste units, this will prevent wildfires from breaking out.

Before driving around Kakadu's roads, check for any weeds on or in your car that may fall off and start a weed infestation in Kakadu's forestry. Drive on the established roads and not into quarantine areas.

Feeding wild animals can upset their digestive system and if they're feed too much by humans they may start to rely on us to feed them, rather than being able to get their own food. So it's best not to feed the animals you see around the park.

Mining in Kakadu

Since uranium oars were found in 1969 and mining was approved in Kakadu 1977 by the Australian government, uranium mining has continued in Jabiru since 1980 by the ERA (Energy Resources of Australia). In support of the new mine the town Jabiru was quickly built in Kakadu. All of this happened with out permission from the traditional land owners, the Aboriginals. This lead to the Aboriginals feeling marginalised and stolen from, even after the government passed the veto law, meaning the Aboriginals could reject a decision or proposal made by someone of the law. Large protests began to form in 1995 against mining in Kakadu. In 2005 these protests worked by shutting down ERA's idea of expanding their mines to another town in Kakadu, Jabiluka. Although hundreds were arrested after this, ERA said they will not mine in Jabiluka unless if permission is granted from the custodians.

2012 the ERA planned a new mining site, known as the Ranger 3 Deeps. They presented the plan to the custodians along with a $10 million - $30 million money flow from the mines profit each year until 2021, when ERA's mining contract in Kakadu expires. The custodians considered the plan, taking into account all the leaks and spills from the previous mine. This new mine is further away meaning less damage to the environment after a spill or leak.

2014 a spill occurred missing the Kakadu park, causing a six-month shut down in the mine. A debate sparked on the mines social licence of being able to mine in such a significant place. 2015 geological concerns were announced about worrying rock formations in the mines. However the mining industry began earning around $US40 per pound of uranium. Kakadu industry also started profiting from tourists through small businesses, although there were still some worries for earnings from the park. Significant funds come from the near by mining and questions were raised about what would happen when ERA stops mining near Kakadu. Just like the mining business, businesses in Kakadu can only stay until 2021.

The big questions on Kakadu and the mining business are, with declining tourism levels how will Kakadu continue to earn income to manage the park sustainably without destroying it with industries like mining, keeping it's land safe and healthy. Will they need to allow mining to continue past 2021, or will it be better for the park to develop other ways to earn money.

Uranium mine at Kakadu

Thank you

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Photo references


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Lightning Man

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Indigenous Ranger

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Spear Grass

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Kapok Bush

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Wolley Butt

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Tidal Flats

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Stone Country

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Southern hills and Ridges

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Savana Woodlands

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Created with images by sussexbirder - "Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory" • Newtown grafitti - "Marrickville Public School, I"

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