Kakadu National Park: Billabongs, Waterfalls, Aboriginal Culture and Rock Art

Kakadu Yellow Water Billabong

Kakadu Yellow Water BillabongAs we cruised through the Kakadu billabongs we eagerly anticipated seeing our first crocodile from the safety of our boat.  As we were visiting during the Gudjewg monsoon season there was water everywhere which made it harder to spot the crocodiles, but we knew that they were there!  Finally we saw a distinctive snout peeking out of the water – and that was only the first of many that we saw during our cruise through the billabong.

A unique feature of Kakadu National Park is the annual cycle of wet and dry seasons.  The freshwater wetland areas oscillate between being totally immersed during the Gudjewg monsoon season, through to becoming completely dry in the Gurrung hot dry season.  In Kakadu, crocodiles, birdlife and other animals regularly migrate to maintain their access to water.  Within Kakadu National Park there are a few permanent wetland areas such as Yellow Water Billabong.

If you plan to visit Kakadu National Park then Yellow Water is a great central location to stay to enable you to make the most of your visit, which also enables you to easily access sunrise, sunset and evening billabong cruise options, as well as waterfalls and Aboriginal culture and rock art sites.

Visiting Yellow Water Billabong

The Yellow Water area provides a great range of activities for visitors to easily access the Kakadu wetlands all year round.  The daily Yellow Water Cruise enables visitors to take a short cruise through the wetlands area, with the sunrise and sunset cruises being very popular options.  During the cruise visitors can see an amazing array of wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles (which can live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats), over 60 species of bird life and many other creatures such as the northern snake neck turtle.  The billabongs themselves are of interest to see the unique landscape of lush green trees, grasses, lilies and water lilies.

A crocodile lurks in Yellow Water Billabong in Kakadu National Park

A crocodile lurks in Yellow Water Billabong in Kakadu National Park

A great alternative option is to go on the Yellow Water Fishing Cruise where you can attempt to catch a famous barramundi fish.  Barramundi can grow up to a whopping 1.8m long and 60kg in weight and are regarded as one of the best eating fish in Australia.  All equipment and an experienced fishing guide is provided as part of the cruise.

Visiting the Warradjan Cultural Centre

While you are in Yellow Water there is a great opportunity to visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre which contains exhibits from many of the local Aboriginal clans.  Within the turtle shaped building the exhibits include information about various hunting techniques, history and stories.  The Warradjan Cultural Centre is open daily from 9am to 5pm and admission is free.

Exploring Around Yellow Water

Yellow Water is located in close proximity to three great Kakadu day trips as follows:

  • The Nourlangie Rock Art short walk is a 1.5km (0.9 mi) circuit which provide access to multiple Aboriginal art sites and views. This site is located a 46km, 29 mi, 0:39 hr drive north east from Yellow Water which is accessible by 2WD vehicle all year round, and located between Jabiru and Yellow Water.  There are additional walks and access depending on the season.
  • The amazing Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are accessible to the south of Yellow Water via a 71km, 44 mi 4WD only road during the dry season. The Spirit of Kakadu Adventure Tours provides 4WD day tours to visit the two waterfalls during the May to October dry season which depart from both Yellow River and Jabiru. During the wet season the only option for visitors to see these amazing falls in full flow is via a scenic flight.
Monsoonal Jim Jim Falls from above in Kakadu National Park

Monsoonal Jim Jim Falls from above in Kakadu National Park

  • The spectacular Ubirr rock art site is located a 92km, 57 mi, 1:12 hr drive north east of Yellow Water. The rock art can be viewed during a short 1km walking circuit.  During the April to November dry season the road is 2WD accessible but during the wet season the road is often flooded.
Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr in Kakadu National Park

Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr in Kakadu National Park

Accommodation in Yellow Water

In Yellow Water there are two accommodation options.  The Cooinda Lodge provides hotel style accommodation for up to four people with a variety of room configurations and includes some extra activities for guests to make the most of their visit.  Yellow Water Camping adjoins the Cooinda Lodge and provides budget hostel style accommodation and powered and unpowered camping sites which are all able to access the Cooinda Lodge facilities.

About Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is a destination on many peoples bucket lists and with good reason, due to the amazing diversity of pristine landscapes and traditional Aboriginal culture.  The traditional Aboriginal owners of Kakadu National park are the Bininj/Mungguy people who have lived in this area for more than 50,000 years.  The Bininj/Mungguy people jointly manage Kakadu National Park with Parks Australia.

Kakadu National Park was World Heritage Listed in 1981 as having both natural and cultural significance, with further areas of land being added to the listing in both 1987 and 1992.  The Kakadu wetlands are also listed as a wetland of importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, as the Kakadu wetlands also provide protection for not just the local birdlife but for migratory birds along the East Asian-Australian Flyaway route.

Getting to Yellow Water

Yellow Water is located east of Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory in Australia.  Yellow Water is located via a 304km, 189mi, 3:48 hr drive from Darwin.  Day time is the safest time to drive along this route to avoid the ever present night time risk of colliding with an animal.

If you prefer not to drive yourself there are a range of tour options available which regularly depart from Darwin.

Getting Around Kakadu National Park

If you plan to drive around Kakadu National Park stay safe by checking the current road condition report which advises which roads are currently open and the type of vehicle required.

Be Crocwise

Kakadu National Park is the home for both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles which can attack and kill humans and animals. Both types of crocodile can live hundreds of kilometres inland from the coast.  Do not assume that there will be signs warning of danger.  The NT Parks and Wildlife Commission – Be Crocwise website has more information to help you to stay safe.

This article was written in collaboration with Gagudju Dreaming.

Have you been to or are thinking about going to Kakadu National Park?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

17 Comments

  • Anne, this is wonderful. I didn’t know anything about that part of the country. I am not a huge croc fan, but your photos are wonderful. Thanks for all of the useful information.

  • Aileen says:

    Oh wow that crocodile looks menacing! Anyhow this definitely looks like a nice park and you bet I’d love to see it if I’m in Australia.

  • ahhh so cool! I just did a safari through Yala National Park in Sri Lanka and saw some crocs myself 😉 thanks for sharing!

  • Looks like a worthwhile experience. I can smell the fresh air. Enjoy the wildlife. There is nothing like it. Australia has so many wonderful places, and I am happy that you shared this post with us.

  • Thanks for the heads up on the freshwater crocs, when I was in Australia visiting Fraser Island, there were a few instances of freshwater croc incidents. I haven’t been to Kakadu National Park but definitely will put that in my itinerary next time! 🙂

    • Laurie, thank you for your comment. You might be interested to know that saltwater crocodiles used to live around Fraser Island as well until hunting almost wiped them out! Since they have been a protected species they are now increasing in numbers and starting to repopulate further south, so you actually now need to be more careful in more places if you are near the water or plan to go swimming…

  • Stacey Valle says:

    so cool! I never heard about that national park, so thank you for sharing! I’m going to put that on my list when I visit Australia in the future (:

    • Stacey, thank you for you comment. I am happy to hear that you are now aware of Kakadu National Park – if you visit Australia you should definitely include it on your itinerary.

  • Dave Briggs says:

    Wow… I just realised I was there 20 years ago! Your beautiful photos brought back lots of happy memories 🙂

    • Dave, thank you for your comment. I am happy to hear that my article helped you to remember your earlier trip – Kakadu is definitely a memorable place to visit. Maybe it is time to visit again?

  • Red Nomad OZ says:

    We did the Yellow Water Sunrise Cruise back in 2008 – a highlight of a 6 week trip to Darwin (and back!) from Adelaide!! While seeing the crocs was a thrill, there’s so much more to both the cruise AND Kakadu – the wonderful wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences make this a must-do Aussie adventure!

  • Kristy says:

    I would love to go there and see the beauty of Kakadu Yellow Water with my own eyes. By the way, are there many crocodiles there? I am scared of crocodiles you know. Seeing one or two will be okay but if there are many of them I don’t think I can do it.

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