Kakadu National Park
Around 150 kms east of Darwin, Kakadu National Park was proclaimed in 1979. The park’s traditional owners and government officials jointly conserve and manage the park’s pristine Alligator Rivers wetlands, Arnhemland escarpment and their surrounding lowland woodland habitats. At about 20,000 sq km, Kakadu is one of the largest national parks in the world. It was named for the Gagudgu language, once spoken in the north-east part of the park and recorded as Kakadu by Baldwin Spencer, an early anthropologist to visit the region. The park is inscribed on the list of the World’s Heritage for both its natural and cultural values.
The western edge of the Arnhemland plateau forms the eastern side of Kakadu National Park. This 300 m high escarpment and its many outliers are formed of sandstone and quartzite laid down in a shallow sea some 1800 million years ago. Erosion over millenia has carved out deep gorges and waterfalls, protecting ancient rainforest that includes an evolutionary ancestor of the eucalypts, Allosyncarpia ternata. The escarpment is too rugged for road construction and is best accessed by walking.
Alligator Rivers wetlands
The wetlands of Kakadu National Park are listed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The extensive freshwater wetlands formed about 6000 years ago after the sea level rose some 140 m following the end of the last ice age, creating extensive mangrove forests. The sea level then receded slightly to form vast areas of freshwater wetland and seasonal floodplain protected from the sea by low, naturally-formed levee banks. These wetlands support a vast array of native animals, notably crocodiles, barramundi, huge flocks of magpie geese, migratory birds, and endangered species.
There is evidence that Aboriginal people have lived in parts of Kakadu National Park for over 60,000 years, and continue to maintain their ancient and diverse culture. Kakadu is rightly famous for its large number of rock art sites in shelters throughout the Arnhemland escarpment and plateau. Some of these sites are open for visitors to see. Kakadu remains first and foremost a home for its people.
Kakadu National Park is too far and too spread out for an enjoyable day trip from the visitor hub of Darwin. It is best appreciated over at least a few days and by walking into its beautiful places.