Kakadu National Park In Australia: How To Avoid The Tourist Crowds
Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is without doubt one of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia and is a must see for anyone travelling to Australia's tropical regions.
Nowhere else in northern Australia will you be able to gain the same appreciation and understanding of tropical habitats, see as much wildlife, learn about Aboriginal culture, see ancient rock art, climb and swim at spectacular waterfalls and, and, and...
- Almost 20,000 square kilometres (3.2 million acres) in size - the same size as Denmark or Ireland!
- the park is the only one in the world to protect the entire catchment area of a major river system, the South Alligator River.
- The habitats range from the high stone plateau to forest woodland, from monsoon rainforest to open savannah-like flood plains dotted with billabongs, from mangrove-fringed estuaries to the coastal beaches of the Arafura Sea.
- As a result of the diversity of habitats the park contains over 1000 plant species, a quarter of all the freshwater fish species found in Australia, and over one-third of all the bird species. Add reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and thousands of insect species... a reminder that the tropics really are the breeding ground for the whole planet.
- Aborigines have lived in Kakadu for at least 25,000 years (perhaps as long as 50,000 years), the longest continuous surviving human culture in the world. The park is one of the few World Heritage sites to be listed for both natural and cultural reasons. Kakadu is a treasure chest of exceptional galleries of Aboriginal art, some dating back to the Ice Age.
But Kakadu's popularity has one draw back: 200,000 visitors a year, all visiting the same attractions at the same time, don't add to the experience of "untouched wilderness"...
If you would like to experience the wonders of Kakadu National Park, but want to escape the tourism circus that surrounds it, follow the tips laid out below:
1. Choose the right time to visit Kakadu National Park.
It is accepted wisdom that the middle of the dry season, from June to August, is the best time to visit Kakadu. This is the time of the year with the most pleasant temperatures, and by far the most tourists. Avoid the biggest crowds by scheduling your trip earlier or later. It might be a bit warmer in May or September, but heck, that's what the beautiful waterfalls and rock pools are there for.
2. Choose the right areas within Kakadu National Park.
Most tourists enter Kakadu through the northern entrance, the one closest to Darwin. Be different. Instead of turning left just south of Darwin onto the Arnhem Highway, continue on to Pine Creek, and turn left there. The Kakadu Highway leads to the southern entrance, which is located only 60 km from the main highway. Many of Kakadu's most beautiful waterfalls, like Maguk and Gunlom Falls, can easily be reached from there. And many people who choose the northern entrance never make it that far.
3. Choose the right vehicle for your trip.
Kakadu's network of bitumen and gravel roads is fantastic and well maintained. Still, there are several tracks that are accessible by four wheel drive only. Hiring a four wheel drive vehicle greatly increases your reach within Kakadu National Park, and allows you to leave the other tourists behind.
4. Do you like camping?
Kakadu offers some of the best camping facilities of all Australian national parks. Therefore the managed camp sites, the ones that offer a generator area and a proper bathroom with hot water, fill up quickly. However, there are many bush camping sites that are well maintained, too. And usually they are only accessible by four wheel drive. See point three, and be willing to rough it a bit. As a reward you will wake up to bird songs rather than your neighbour's blaring stereo.
5. Do you like walking?
Kakadu also offers an extensive network of walking tracks. You can choose from short half hour walks, to full day or even over night trips, and everything in between. The longer the walk, the less people you will meet and the more different habitats, flora and wildlife you will see.
To sum it up: to get away from the tourist masses visit Kakadu National Park in the shoulder season, take your four wheel drive to the southern parts of the park, and be willing to exchange ultimate comfort for the ultimate nature experience. You will treasure the memories of your visit for the rest of your life.
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