No visit to the Northern Territory is complete without a visit to Darwin. As a seaside town known for its summer weather year round, you would think Darwin would have heaps of stuff to do. Unfortunately, I found the city rather boring. You can’t swim at the beach because you’ll either get eaten by a crocodile or a shark. And there’s not much else going on unless you like to party.
Thankfully the Top End is home to several amazing national parks that I was just dying to visit. Since visiting the parks on my own was next to impossible without a car and camping equipment, I decided to go on a Kakadu and Litchfield tour. After careful research, I decided on the Kakadu & Litchfield 3-Day Tour with Jump Tours, a Tasmania-based adventure tour company with an excellent reputation. Jump Tours has won numerous awards over the years and is the most affordable Kakadu and Litchfield Parks tour for backpackers.
Day 1: Kakadu National Park
We were picked up promptly at 7 am by our Aussie tour guide, Chris, at Youth Shack. I was pleasantly surprised to find out our group consisted of only six people, including two girls I had met on previous tours. The maximum group size is 20, but tours average around 12 people. The perfect size!
Our first stop of the day was Corroboree Billabong for our Wetlands Cruise to see Salt Water Crocodiles and various birds in their natural habitat. Before this tour, I never considered myself to be a “bird person,” but after this trip, I find birds fascinating. I was impressed by the number of birds we saw during our one hour cruise. We saw everything from White-Bellied Sea Eagles to young Jabiru birds to the tiny, but big footed Jesus birds. The highlight of the cruise was most definitely the crocodiles. We spotted several crocs along the shores basking in the sun, but the real treat came when our guide was looking for the monster croc that lives in the Billabong. As we were cruising down the waterway, several guests spotted a giant crocodile eating a wallaby!
We arrived just as the giant 4+ meter crocodile flung the wallaby around before devouring it. We just missed him catching the poor creature by a few minutes. We all watched in awe at the power of nature and the circle of life.
Once the cruise was over it was back onto the bus to head to Kakadu National Park for the afternoon. Kakadu National Park (don’t you just love the name?) is a massive national park consisting of almost 20,000 square kilometers. It’s roughly the size of Slovenia. The park is ecologically and biologically diverse. We saw loads of wild animals and the landscape is impressive to say that least.
We stopped at Mamukala wetlands for a short bit to check out even more birds before arriving at our campsite around 1 pm. We quickly set up before taking a dip in the campground pool. Coming from winter in Sydney to the Top End was a drastic change in temperature. The cold waters of the swimming pool was a welcomed treat. Around 3 pm we dried off and grabbed our water bottles and headed to the art walk near Ubirr. Kakadu is a very religious site for the local Aboriginal people who have lived in the area for centuries. The art walk was a short, flat walking path about two kilometers long. While the walk itself isn’t that exciting, it was the numerous cave paintings that were worth the walk in the hot sun. At each site, Chris would tell us a bit about each painting and the Aboriginal legend behind it.
Our last stop of the day was Ubirr, where we would climb to the top of the rock pillar and watch the sun set over the grassy plains. The climb is short and the views incredible. If I didn’t know I was in Australia, I would have guessed I was in Africa.
Day 2: Nourlangie Rock Art and Gunlom Falls
If you thought the Aboriginal art at Ubirr was impressive, then you need to see Nourlangie. Nourlangie has an even more impressive gallery of Aboriginal art painted in the “x-ray” style. Once again, Chris shared his knowledge of the paintings and Aboriginal legends. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about several paintings as the Aboriginal people have not shared their stories with us yet, or the knowledge holders have since passed on.
After exploring Nourlangie Rock Art, it was off to our long drive to my favorite sport of the trip, Gunlom Falls. About 40 kilometers of the road is a bumpy dirt track so be prepared to be bounced around. I found the bouncing to be oddly relaxing on my sore back. One of the girls even slept through it!
We collected firewood along the way and quickly set up camp so we could climb the 20 minutes up the steep, rocky trail to Gunlom Falls to enjoy the refreshing infinity pools with a view. Gunlom Falls, itself, was not very impressive. But, we were traveling at the end of the dry season. Most waterfalls in Kakadu and Litchfield were pretty dry. So, if you really want to see epic waterfalls, you need to go at the end of the wet season.
There are several pools at the top of Gunlom Falls, with one being the most famous infinity pool. The water was fresh and crystal clear. It was perfect after a sweaty hike in the humid air up to the pools. We spent a good two hours just relaxing in the various pools and snapping photos left and right. Chris was more than happy to play photographer for us. He’s quite good!
As the sun began to set behind the clouds, we reluctantly hiked our way back down to the campground. Chris went off to start the fire and our dinner while the rest of us went for a dip in the waterhole below the waterfall. You might recognize this waterhole as it was made famous by the movie Crocodile Dundee! But, don’t worry. There were no crocodiles in this waterhole. The parks management service sets a crocodile trap to catch any saltwater crocodiles that might try to swim into the waterhole. There could be some freshwater crocs in the water, but they are harmless to humans as they are much smaller and less aggressive.
Our dinner was a delicious pot of stew and a side of damper bread all cooked by the open flames. I taught my fellow travelers the fine art of making a proper smore, and Chris showed myself and another girl how to take star photos. I had no idea my camera could do that, so that was exciting!
Chris told us before our arrival at camp that there is a herd of wild horses that runs through in the middle of the night. I didn’t quite believe him at first, but sure enough, right before dinner, they came galloping through. I couldn’t help but giggle and jump in giddy excitement. They came again around 4 am.
Speaking of wild animals, we saw loads of amazing Australian wildlife. We saw salt water crocodiles, water buffalo, emus, horses, dingoes and even a few wallabies. And probably hundreds of various birds.
Day 3: Litchfield National Park
We woke up early and said goodbye to Kakadu National Park. We once again traveled 40 kilometers over the rough red dirt road back to the highway heading to Litchfield. We stopped about an hour into our journey to grab some coffee and breakfast. We arrived in Litchfield National Park around mid-morning just as the day was heating up quickly.
We spent about 20 minutes looking at the massive termite mounds. You’ll see heaps of termite mounds from Stuart Highway heading up the Darwin, but not to the height of the mounds at Litchfield. There are two types of mounds at Litchfield. The first are the cathedral termites who build their mounds over six meters high and with outcroppings to keep the mound cool under the hot Australian sun. The second type is the magnetic termites who build their mounds north to south so they can avoid the hot sun. Truly impressive, huh?
Our last stop of the tour was Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole. We had a picnic lunch at Buley Rockhole and quickly changed into our swimsuits to jump into the crystal clear waters of the small waterholes. The waterholes were busy with tourists of all ages. A group of hippies was jumping into the water while others just relaxed in the refreshing water.
Buley Rockhole is about 1.5 km from Florence Falls, which we decided to walk on the nature trail while Chris drove the bus to the parking lot. Once again, Florence Falls was teeming with people. The waterhole is much larger and the water a bit colder. I swam over to the waterfall and then sat on a rock and people watched for awhile. Due to the numerous underwater rocks, it’s not advisable to jump, but some brave (or maybe just dumb) guys did climb the rocks for a jump or two.
Overall, I had an awesome time with Jump Tours on their Kakadu & Litchfield 3-Day Tour. The tour was easy to book online, but you can book with some hostels too. For $469 you get two nights under the stars in tents (bring your own sleeping bag or rent one), three lunches, two delicious dinners, and two breakfasts, and entrance to the national parks. Chris, our tour guide, was excellent. He’s one of the best I’ve had during my travels. Not only is he very knowledgeable about the region, but of Australia and South East Asia too. He’s a talented photographer, and he’s super fun to be around.
I can’t wait to do Jump Tours’ Best of Tasmania Tour with sister when she comes visit me in a few months!
A huge thank you to Jump Tours for providing me a media discount. As always, you will always get my honest reviews no matter who foots the bill. I only partner with companies that I truly believe and love.