A trip to Kakadu and Darwin

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Sludge321

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I thought I'd post about my recent solo trip to Kakadu National Park and Darwin last week - just a small trip, primarily to use my free ANZ Travel Adventures domestic return flight, and also because I've never visited Darwin before.


I booked the flight at the end of March, and unfortunately couldn't get the original date I wanted as I'd missed the 90 day requirement by 2 days (I had been planning on a Friday night, and couldn't book with ANZ on the phone until Monday).

Using the ITA Matrix to search for VA 'T' fares (a requirement of the ANZ flight), I was able to locate alternative dates which would work for me. The booking process with ANZ via the phone was pretty straight forward, but they failed to add my Velocity number as requested (at first they said they don't add it because the flight is ineligible for points / status credits, but I argued that I still wanted it added for lounge access and the platinum Economy X seat selection benefit and they claimed they would add it to the booking). In any case, I was somehow able to discover the Sabre booking reference myself, add my Velocity number using the Virgin Australia website, and then choose Economy X seats.

I booked accommodation at the Mercure Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru, and at the Darwin Airport Novotel at Accor member rates.

As with my previous (still to be finished) trip report, I will update here as I sort through/document my photos - as I find this provides me with the motivation to actually archive my photos properly!
 
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Sludge321

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PER-DRW.png

PER-DRW

Flight: VA1433
Aircraft: 737-800 (VH-YFQ)
Seat: 2D / 2F (J)
Departed: PER 18/06/2018 08:55 (on time) AWST
Arrived: DRW 18/06/2018 14:04 (4mins late) ACST
Duration: 3h 39m


A few weeks prior to the flight, I placed a $140 (the minimum) UpgradeMe bid on the Virgin Australia website, which was accepted 3 days out. Not bad for a 'freebie' credit card flight.

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I arrived at Perth airport around 06:30, slightly wet from the pouring rain which caught me both getting in and out of the "Ola" (Uber competitor) cab. I don't normally travel at this time from Perth, and security was the busiest I've seen there, so I actually used the priority lane for the first time. Lounge was pleasantly quiet however, and I had a couple of coffees and some nice scrambled eggs and bacon. The bacon was of a surprisingly high quality - quite thick, well cooked, minimal fat. Yum.

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Priority boarding was enforced well, and tablet, headphones, blanket, and pillow were already waiting at my seat. 5 of 8 seats in business were occupied. I had lucked out with a row to myself, so I shifted across to the window seat. A pre-departure drink was offered - I had an orange juice.

The rain had cleared, and I was treated to a nice view of the city as we climbed.

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Breakfast was served as the meal (I was really hoping for lunch, as I was not planning on eating again until after my arrival at Kakadu around 5/6pm). I chose the hot option, which was eggs, and tomato/ham. I found it a little strange that dry granola/oats was also served - I was confused that there wasn't milk or yoghurt with it or something. This was then followed up with a coffee and a bottle of water.

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I watched "Lady Bird" on the provided tablet, and then did a bit of reading. Some fantastic scenery out the window - I love flying over central Australia, looking at the almost Martian landscape. Here is the view from over Little Sandy Desert and the Mueller Ranges:

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It was smokey coming in to Darwin (the flight crew also warned us about this as we approached). The temperature was in the mid-30s, and I used the lounge on arrival to refill my water bottle and change out my jeans for shorts I had stowed in my hand-luggage.

My checked bag was second out, and I collected the car keys from the Hertz desk, and commenced the ~2.5-3h drive to Kakadu around 14:40.

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The drive was very pleasant (and I normally hate driving) - beautiful scenery, empty roads, and only one road train to pass.

I stopped briefly to stretch my legs and buy a park pass at the Aurora Kakadu roadhouse/resort. The pass costs $40 per person, and must be kept on you as you may be asked to present it.

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I arrived at the hotel around 17:30, well before it got dark (which was my main concern). The late afternoon / evening light made the views during the last part of the drive even better.
 
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Sludge321

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The Mercure Crocodile Hotel in Jabiru was expensive for what it was (and I believe I booked during a sale possibly). The building is certainly a novelty, but it's quite old, stained, and the shower fixture wobbled. The switch for the bedside lamp was dodgy and crackled loudly. The room had very bad noise isolation - I heard some interesting sounds from the room next door one night (almost as if they were in the same room as me!). The bed wasn't particularly comfortable. But it was all still ok - the room was large, it was clean, and I certainly don't mind staying at 'cheaper' establishments - if in fact they are actually cheap!

In terms of Accor recognition - there were two small water bottles provided in the room (but never replaced/replenished). A nice postcard of the hotel and a very nice cork notebook were provided as the welcome gift - nice to see something a bit different/unique there. I was also granted a later check-out and free breakfasts for the duration of the stay (my first time using this new Accor Platinum privilege). I also think my room was upgraded from a "Pool view" (first floor) to a "Poolside" (ground floor) room, which also had a patio area and table/chairs.

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The staff at the hotel were all great, and one evening went out of their way to help me ensure that my Yellow Water cruise booking for the following morning was confirmed (as I received no confirmation email when booking, but money was taken from my card - and no one was answering the phone).

I had a burger in the bar area for dinner, and used my welcome drink voucher on a beer. Very refreshing! Food was good!
 
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Denali

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Love Darwin, want to move there!

Did you visit the Kakadu Bakery (not far from the Croc hotel)? I think hubby ate every kind of pie they make.

*settles in for trip report*
 
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Sludge321

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Did you visit the Kakadu Bakery? I think hubby ate every kind of pie they make.

I didn't! I stuffed myself with the free hotel breakfasts before heading out for the day and skipping lunch! Sounds like one to try next time though!
 

Denali

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I found Kakadu accommodation sucked no matter where you went - they are raking in the money, what is it being spent on?

We had dawn/dusk boat trips booked so stayed about 40mins drive from Mecure Croc hotel at Cooinda Lodge: Kakadu Lodge Cooinda Managed by Accor - AccorHotels . Again I wonder, what is the money being spent on as there were doors without locks, broken fly screens, restaurant running out of food, parking sucked but location for the Yellow River cruise, cant beat it.
 

Sludge321

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As a Jabiru resident, its good to see a trip report from my home town. hope you enjoyed the town....

Such a beautiful area to live in! Must be great to be based in the middle of the park!
 
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Sludge321

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Kakadu: South Alligator Region

I hadn't done too much planning before arriving, but soon settled on driving to a 'region' of the park each day. I mostly wanted to walk some trails, see some views, and enjoy the warm/sunny weather. It turned out I could have easily seen two regions each day, but I was happy to enjoy the slower pace, not feel rushed, and minimise the driving. I usually ended up getting back to the hotel around 3pm (the hottest time of the day) and spent the afternoon reading and enjoying the pool.

On the first full day, I drove out to the South Alligator region, about 30mins drive from Jabiru.

Mamukala Wetlands was the first stop, where I had a bit of a walk and then checked out the observation platform. Lots of bird life here (although none that I successfully captured on my camera), and it's a great location to just watch nature for awhile.

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I then walked the Gungarre Monsoon Forest Walk loop which, like most places here, has a multitude of crocodile warning signs near the billabongs. Quite alarming to see at first, but after a couple of days you get used to them!

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There are so many noises in the undergrowth as you walk along the track, typically lizards rushing around the leaf-litter, but it can still take you by surprise sometimes when you're worried about running in to crocs and snakes.

Interesting that a particular section of the trail was covered with spiderwebs up in the tree branches (presumably from the wet season):

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I stopped for a little while at South Alligator River, where the incoming tide was causing the river to 'flow backwards'. I attempted a bit of croc spotting, but the murky water didn't really help, so didn't see any here (although I bet they were lurking there).

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Back in Jabiru, I walked to the Bowali Visitor Centre along a trail - it was pretty hot at this time (around 36 degrees I believe) and the walk didn't have as much shade as I had expected. I enjoyed an iced coffee at the visitor centre cafe!

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I love the colours seen in tropical areas, red earth, blue sky, and green vegetation make for some nice contrasts.
 
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Sludge321

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Kakadu: East Alligator Region

Day 2, and I drove out to the Ubirr Rock Art site in the East Alligator region, about an hours drive from Jabiru. Amazing to think that some of these drawings are thousands of years old.

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There is also a short walk here to the Nadab Lookout, which provides some amazing views over the floodplains to the north, and the escarpments to the east.

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Sludge321

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Kakadu: East Alligator Region

Bardedjilidji is a nice walk amongst the layered sandstone outcrops, unfortunately the longer "sandstone and river bushwalk" was closed - but the shorter walk was still well worth doing. The trail weaves amongst the sandstone, including through arches and passes. A new type of warning sign was on display at the beginning of the trail! Luckily for me I guess, no Buffalo were encountered.

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The trail then makes its way alongside the East Alligator River, so I was on croc watch/alert again!

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Denali

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Re the Buffalo. You will smell them long before you see them.

We didnt see the rock art - reason to return!
 

Sludge321

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Kakadu: East Alligator Region

I made a brief stop at the Ubirr Border Store - apparently renowned for its great Thai food, but unlucky for me they were only operating in 'soft opening' mode with a limited snack menu, as they were waiting for supplies to arrive. I bought a cold Solo (not my normal drink, but this was very refreshing on this hot day), and had an extremely tasty ham & cheese croissant.

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I then went for a look at Cahills Crossing, where the road crosses the East Alligator River to Arnhem Land. There were a few brave soles fishing from the road.

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It didn't take long before a big estuarine croc surfaced and swam along the far bank (only around 10-15m away from the crossing), but it didn't seem to phase any of those fishing.

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As a prominent indicator of how deep and powerful this tidal river area can get, a couple of car wrecks are dumped in the river just the other side of the road crossing:

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I stayed in the shade at the crossing for some time enjoying the scene - watching the birds, the fishing, and looking for more crocs!

On the drive back to Jabiru there was a section of bush burning next to the road (I understand this was likely a managed burn, but there were no signs) - I've never been so close to a bushfire before and it's alarming how 'sudden' you can find yourself in an area with flames burning trees only a few meters away.
 
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Mattg

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Thanks for the trip report, enjoying it so far!

You're giving me some great ideas for when I eventually make it to Darwin. (It's the only Australian capital city I've not yet visited, but I definitely want to.)
 

Sludge321

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Kakadu: Ngurrungurrudjba Region

I took the 9am 2 hour Yellow Water Cruise, which leaves from the Cooinda Lodge - about 45mins drive from Jabiru.

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The boat was somewhere around 50-70% full, so there wasn't a problem shifting seats and walking around during the cruise.

Lots of croc sightings!

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Whistling ducks:
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Egrets:
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A kite:
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And in the distance, a couple of Jabirus copulating on top of a tree:
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There was lots of birdlife, but unsurprisingly I didn't manage to capture much on my phone camera. The cruise was great, the guide quite knowledgeable, and I'd certainly recommend doing it if you're passing through the area.
 
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Sludge321

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Kakadu: Ngurrungurrudjba Region

Afterwards, I headed towards the Mardugal campsite where there were a couple of walks, the shorter of which ended up at a billabong which was a perfect place to relax in the shade and read for awhile.

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The second longer walk (Gungardun walk) wasn't particularly eventful - I didn't take any photos, and eventually completely lost the trail, so I ended up turning around and re-tracing my steps rather than continue blindly in to the scrub/forest.
 

kpc

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Thanks for TR. I went to Kakadu in 1998. Need to go again!
 

Sludge321

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Kakadu: Burrungkuy Region

Today I drove to the Burrungkuy region of the park (around 30mins drive from Jabiru), and first stop was the Mirrai Lookout walk, which was quite pleasant and has an observation platform at the top. There are quite a few trees obstructing the view, and on this morning it was also quite hazy, so my photos aren't fantastic.

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Next up was the short walk to Nawurlandja lookout - the haze had cleared by this time. A few eagles were gliding overhead (one is just visible in my photo).

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The view from here was great:

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I then started the trail towards the Anbangbang billabong. As I approached, a few Magpie Geese could be seen.

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The path around the billabong had been closed, so I wasn't able to complete the full walk.
 
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Sludge321

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Kakadu: Burrungkuy Region

I then headed to the Anbangbang rock shelter, where there are more examples of aboriginal rock art.

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Anbangbang rock art showing aboriginal men and women dancing:
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Anbangbang rock art showing Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit who eats females:
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Anbangbang rock art showing Namarrgon the Lightning Man, Namarndjolg, Barrginj, family groups, and fish:
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From here there is another short walk to Gunwarddehwardde lookout:

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