Travel

Crocs and friends at Kakadu National Park

Salt-water crocodile

Salt-water crocodile  

Catch the light on the horizon, the art on the rocks and in the half-shut eyes of the salt-water crocodiles that call Kakadu National Park home

“Look” screams Eugene our indigenous guide and boat driver. I see something grey pop up from the muddy water and then vanish, leaving behind only ripples. “It was a croc trying to catch a fish,” says Eugene, as we sail along the East Alligator River inside Kakadu National Park, tucked away in the tropical end of Northern Territory, Australia.

Soon, we spot many more, some following us, others basking on the sandy patches edging the water. Most lie motionless, though a few wag their long tails and one opens his wide jaws to show his sharp teeth.

Factfile

    “We call them ‘salties’, they are very dangerous,” comments Eugene, updating us on the world’s largest carnivorous reptiles, formally known as salt-water crocodiles. “They can grow to seven metres in length and weigh a ton,” he says. They are short-limbed, big-headed, brown-grey in colour and covered in crusty skin. At the moment, I know many of my fellow passengers in the boat, like me, are ticking off an item from their bucket list, which is seeing wild crocodiles in their own habitat.

    As Africa is to lions, India to tigers, the 1986 blockbuster film Crocodile Dundee made Australia synonymous with crocodiles. Filmed inside the wondrous Kakadu National Park, this movie, made both the natural sanctuary and its thousands of resident reptiles a major attraction of Australia. Signposts near waterways warn people about the possibility of crocodiles in the water. It’s a very prudent act, as over 10,000 ‘salties’ crowd the park’s rivers, estuaries and swamps, and attacks on humans are not totally unheard of.

    View of the gorges

    View of the gorges  

    There’s no need to be scared though, as there are a few ways to safely see these prehistoric predators — such as from platforms raised across a waterway or by taking a river cruise, the most popular being the one on East Alligator River.

    Crocodiles are not the only attraction of Kakadu National Park. Art and culture, and history and heritage combine with pristine Nature to make it a ‘must-visit’ destination. Located around 160 kilometres southeast of Darwin, its 20,000-square-kilometre area — almost half the size of Switzerland — is filled with multiple jaw-dropping landforms, ranging from coastal beaches, rivers, cascading waterfalls and mangrove-fringed estuaries to open savannah flood plains, upland woods, and monsoon rainforests with sandstone escarpments stretching for miles.

    It’s one of those rare sites that appear on the UNESCO World Heritage list for both natural and cultural significance moulded by the indigenous Bininj and Mungguy people, who are said to have been living here for over 50,000 years. Their creation stories make up one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world.

    The Jim Jim Falls, an imposing 200-metre-high waterfall which can be reached only after a challenging scramble for more than a kilometre across large rocks and red sandstone boulders, is a personal favourite.

    Kakadu’s rock art provides a dramatic record of life — from the first evidence of human occupation in the region to the arrival of Europeans in the continent. Concentrated along the escarpment, in gorges, and on rock outliers, there are over 5,000 sites across the parkland to attest a close personal relationship of the early inhabitants with their land and spiritual heritage.

    A local guide with Barramundi fish

    A local guide with Barramundi fish  

    Led by Ray, an art expert from the local Bininj community, I explore the art at Ubirr and Nourlangie, with their creation myths involving the rainbow serpent, to fish and animals the indigenous people hunted and the spirits they believed in.

    Enjoying Kakadu means staying outdoors from dawn to dusk, getting lost in its wilderness brimming with flora and fauna, swimming at the foot of thundering waterfalls, appreciating millennia-old rock art, and ending the day with locally-caught fresh Barramundi fish, grilled to perfection.

    Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

    Related Topics
    Recommended for you
    This article is closed for comments.
    Please Email the Editor

    Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 4:55:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/crocs-and-friends-at-kakadu-national-park/article28271585.ece

    Next Story