I was eager to discover the Northern Territory with the famous Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, and their numerous waterfalls, lagoons, and varied wildlife. Also learning about aboriginal art and culture along the way. I reserved my trip with the “Wayoutback Australian Safaris”, a renowned specialist in this domain. I knew that this trip was going to live up to expectations, and it did, from start to finish! Hiking, swimming in plunge pools, cruising on the Mary River Wetlands, standing under waterfalls, seeing numerous wildlife, sleeping in tents, gathering around campfires, star gazing… what can I say? This trip has all of this and more. Starting and ending in Darwin this round trip has a lot to offer for a reasonable price.
Day 1 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park via Mary River Wildlife Cruise
I was picked up at my hostel at around 7am by a big four-wheel drive truck. Our driver and guide for the next few days, Nat, immediately put us at ease. She had a microphone to communicate with us while she was driving, as the driver’s compartment is a bit separated from the passengers’ seats. We were a group of 12 people (the maximum being 17) and all started to get along pretty well. Nat introduced herself and gave us a little bit of background regarding the Northern Territory, and Darwin’s history.
On our way to Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, we had a very quick pit stop for coffee. Fog Dam is a refreshing wildlife sanctuary that has the perfect conditions for birds, plants (including the magnificent pink lotus) and crocodiles. It is a stretch of land (road) in the middle of the wetlands, accessible only during the dry season. We could only access half of the road at that time of the year. We also saw imposing Asian water-buffalos in cattle stations.
Our first big activity of the day was the Corroboree Billabong Wetland Cruise, on a part of the Mary River, to spot more wildlife. Everyone was eager to embark on the boat. It was spectacular! Our guide Chrissy was absolutely wonderful and extremely knowledgeable. She demonstrated so much love towards all the birds and crocodile of the billabong and had an abundance of interesting facts to tell us about them, we were a captive audience!
It was such a pleasure to cruise with her company along the billabong for over an hour and a half. We had many great photo opportunities of protected birds, Jabiru birds, eagles etc. and of the huge crocs laying on the riverbank.
For lunch, we stopped at a crocodile and buffalo sight at Corroboree. Whilst there, we were able to compare a freshwater crocodile and an estuary (saltwater) crocodile.
On our way to Ubirr, Nat told us about the wet and dry seasons that happen in the Northern Territory and how differently the aboriginals perceive the seasons. She also explained the importance of Kakadu National Park throughout history. Upon entering the park, we saw some controlled burning of the landscape happening. They do contain burning of the bushes when they are still low on the ground in order to prevent big uncontrolled fires. This does not affect the local wildlife or trees as the fire lays low on the ground and the temperatures are not excessively high.
Ubirr has some great artwork on the rocks’ walls, dating from different periods of time. There is also an amazing lookout point on the hill where we were able to admire the wetlands, the rocks, the trees and the controlled burning from a safe distance.
After visiting Ubirr, we arrived at our campsite for the night. It was a pretty big resort with a restaurant, a bar, two swimming pools and clean facilities. We were in a private section of the campsite and had our own kitchen and dining area, with many tents that had a bunk bed and a single bed (this was a room for 3 people). Nat cooked us a delicious dinner whilst we took the opportunity to go and relax at one of the swimming pools. When we assembled to have dinner, we told anecdotes about ourselves so that we could get to know each other better.
During the evening, we gazed at the stars and heard nocturnal animals (probably wallabies, owls and other birds).
Day 2 – Gunlom Falls to Litchfield National Park
(Twin and Jim Jim Falls were replaced by Gunlom falls because these waterfalls were closed)
We woke early and left to go to an amazing waterfall spot. Nat had to leave the trailer midway at the Rangers’ car park to be able to access the bumpy dirt road with the four-wheel drive.
Gunlom Falls are absolutely wonderful! There are three levels of lagoons. The tallest waterfall falls into the lowest pool, it was technically cleared for swimming, but no one was doing so because we all feared there might be a crocodile left hiding somewhere! The upper and middle pools each have a lagoon that almost gives the impression of an infinity pool. The upper-pools have an amazing view and are very safe for swimming in the refreshing water.
We hiked up to the upper-pools first, as we were the first ones there, we could see the beautiful mirror reflection on the water, it was an extraordinary picture opportunity.
We had plenty of time to swim around, explore the different lagoons and take in the gorgeous views. We then had our lunch at the lower pool, whilst admiring the waterfall.
We drove back to the ranger station to pick up our trailer and went to another “secret location” waterfall that was, once more, absolutely amazing and seemed extremely well hidden. We were the only ones there and had the chance to swim again.
On our way back to camp, we stopped by Pine Creek to fill up the tank and buy some homemade ice cream, and I got to meet another python snake called Freckles.
Nat took a moment to tell us more about the indigenous culture, Stuart’s highway, the Japanese bombing in Darwin etc.
We arrived at Mount Bundy Cattle Station, this is situated at the boundary of the Litchfield National Park, this was by far my favourite campsite! The domain is amazing, you can see hundreds of wild wallabies, they also have dogs, a Shetland pony and a horse walking around freely and other horses, cows and buffalos in the cattle/fields/enclosures/pastures/range.
The Adelaide River runs through the campsite so you might be able to spot crocodiles eyes at night if you flash a torch on the water. We slept in tents with beds in and had our own kitchen and dining table too. There is also a little bar and the people are very friendly, a musician was singing to entertain the people during dinner. This place is truly remote, therefore at night, we walked away from the pollution of the campsite lights and gazed at the millions of stars and the milky way, it was breathtaking!
Day 3 – Litchfield National Park to Darwin
In the morning, we all went to feed the animals, there is one particular peacock that jumps for food!
After breakfast, we made our way to a Butterfly farm.
We were able to hold a butterfly and a huge snake. There were also a lot of farm animals: chickens, geese, turkeys, goats, pigs etc. we fed them all at the same time, it was pretty hectic but fun!
Then we travelled to Buley Rockhole which is made out of several levels of clear lagoons. The rocks have a slight orange-red hue that looks so pretty. We all swam and tanned and then drove just a few more kilometres, a few minutes’ drive, to Florence Falls.
Florence Falls is composed of two big waterfalls that plunge into a pool where it is safe to swim, there were a few more tourists there but this is totally understandable as the place looks incredible. There are two paths you can take to go swimming in the pool, one has a great lookout over the waterfalls, the other one is a little pathway that is pleasant to take as you feel immersed in nature and also cross the tiny river a few times along the way.
We had hamburgers cooked on a barbecue for lunch near another outstanding waterfall called “Wangi Falls”.
The Wangi Falls were really tall, but we couldn’t swim there as it was probably full of crocs!
On the way back to Darwin, we stopped to take a moment to appreciate how huge the termite mounds are! Nat showed us two sorts of termite mounds, the Cathedral and the Magnetic, and told us some very interesting facts about them. The Cathedral termite mound is huge, taller than us and has an orangey-red colouration and the Magnetic one is flat and pointed with a greyish hue.
We arrived back to Darwin at around 5.30pm and wished farewell to everyone who had participated in this marvellous tour. A few of us walked to Mindil Beach to contemplate the stunning sunset.
The “Buffalo Dreaming” tour is absolutely incredible, the Northern Territory has so much to offer. The landscapes are beautiful and full of history and meaning to the aboriginals. It was a great opportunity to learn more about aboriginal culture and history, I will take these lessons with me. The fitness level needed for the hikes is not exceedingly high, no one in the group had difficulties on any of the walks and probably waking up early in the morning was the hardest part of the trip for some but it was oh-so worth it to admire the colourful sunrise every morning!
This was my second trip with this company so much of the information that I needed was the same.
Before taking my trip, I was able to find all relative and helpful information on the company’s website, however, rest assured that whilst on the trip you will always be able to recharge any electrical appliances, fill up your water bottle and buy any snacks as needed, although you will most assuredly be well fed!
All of the participants participated! Teamwork is essential as the guide cannot, obviously, do all the guiding, driving and cooking! So, everyone worked together for meal preparations and other varied tasks, I found that this was not a chore but more another adventure and actually made the trip even more interesting. We bonded around the saucepans and the campfires!