Symphony for man & nature — Australia’s Kakadu National Park

András Tóthmihály
Oct 6, 2020 · 16 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Natural infinity pool above Gunlom Falls in the Kakadu National Park

The wild is calling…

Kakadu National Park is the first place I visited in Australia. The park is among the most awe-inspiring wildernesses on our planet, together with the Canyonlands National Park in America and the Kruger National Park in South Africa. It’s one of those places where Mother Nature lets her hair down.

Pleasure of nature

The landscape changes dramatically from one end of Kakadu to the other. The various environments protect one-fifth of Australia’s mammals (75 mammal species), 120 reptiles, 300 fish species (a quarter of freshwater fish species in Australia), 2,000 plants and 10,000 species of insects.

A patchwork of landscapes

In the giant, 20,000-square-kilometer patchwork of Kakadu, there are six main landforms. And each habitat contains a unique range of plants and animals. These distinct landscapes are so dazzling that the popular Aussie movie “Crocodile Dundee” featured many scenes from Kakadu.

Image for post
Image for post
Beach around Kakadu National Park
Image for post
Image for post
Sunrise in the savanna woodlands of Kakadu National Park
Image for post
Image for post
Billabong with waterlilies and paperbark trees
Image for post
Image for post
The stone country of Kakadu National Park
Image for post
Image for post
Vine forest in the gorge of Jim Jim Falls

Useful plant life

Aboriginals use many plants in Kakadu for food, medicine, weaving material, canoes, and the world’s oldest musical instrument. Some plants also indicate seasons, telling them when to harvest various foods or when to patch burn the vegetation.

Image for post
Image for post
Paperbark trees at a billabong of Kakadu National Park
Image for post
Image for post
Screw palm trees in the savanna of Kakadu

Mammals with wings & pouches

Many of Kakadu’s mammals dwell in the forests and become active only during the night. Thus, it’s difficult to see them. But others, such as the 8 species of kangaroos, are active during the cooler mornings and afternoons, and this makes them easier to see.

Image for post
Image for post
Flying foxes roosting in the forests of Kakadu

Birds of the billabongs

The summer rapidly refills Kakadu’s dry floodplains and kicks in the mating season for birds. Imposing egrets patrol the shallow waters and sea eagles sail the skies. When the water retreats in the dry season, large flocks of magpie geese congregate on the dwindling billabongs.

Image for post
Image for post
Great egret at a billabong of Kakadu National Park
Image for post
Image for post
White-bellied sea eagle in the Kakadu National Park. It’s the second-largest raptor in Australia.
Image for post
Image for post
Kakadu harbors about 3 million magpie geese

Crocodiles abound

There are roughly 10,000 crocodiles in Kakadu! This means one croc every two square kilometers, on average. Though, if we look carefully at certain places, we can spot even seven crocs in a short stretch.

Image for post
Image for post
Freshwater crocodile in Kakadu. It’s much smaller and less dangerous than the giant saltwater crocodile.

Termite mansions

Termites have erected Kakadu’s most stunning structures: enormous castles towering six meters high. These insects munch grass roots and other plant remains on plains. But the plains are seasonally flooded. Thus, they have to build fortresses to stay above the water.

Image for post
Image for post
Termite mound in Kakadu. These castles can rise 6 meters high and last for over 60 years.

The oldest living culture

The land of Kakadu National Park has been home to Aboriginal clans for over 65,000 years. They preserve the oldest living culture on earth. Their ways of life, mythical stories, rock paintings, and caring for the land have passed from generation to generation.

Ways of life

The Aboriginal ancestors were hunter-gatherers. The clans moved around the area with the change of seasons to find food and shelter. These people didn’t build permanent dwellings, but used the same camping sites for countless generations. In the dry season, they set up paperbark tents on the floodplains. And during the wet season, they made huts on stilts at the billabongs or rock shelters in the stone country.

Image for post
Image for post
Aboriginal rock shelter in Kakadu

Kinship of nature

Kakadu has 19 indigenous clans. These clans are family groups who mutually own an area of the park. The boundaries between clans have passed from one generation to the next, through the fathers.

Creation time

According to indigenous traditions, creation ancestors traveled across the terrain during the Creation Time. They formed the landscapes of Kakadu and taught natives how to live with nature. From then on, Aboriginal people became the guardians of the land.

Image for post
Image for post
Rock painting of Lightning Man, an Aboriginal creation ancestor in Kakadu

Dreaming painting

With 5,000 rock art sites, Kakadu has one of the greatest concentrations of rock paintings on earth. Some paintings are 20,000 years old. They represent the world’s oldest unbroken tradition of art and the longest historical records of people.

Image for post
Image for post
The Aboriginal rock painting of “Lesson in Good Behavior” in Kakadu

Bonding with bushfood

The best way to grasp the indigenous bond with the land is to harvest bushfood. Kakadu is rich in nutritious bush meals — so rich that one can collect enough in an hour to serve a family for a day. Here are my favorite bush fruits, traditionally gathered by women.

Image for post
Image for post
Kakadu plum is the most vitamin C-rich natural food on our planet: it contains 3 grams of vitamin C per 100 grams. That’s 50 times the vitamin C content of oranges.
Image for post
Image for post
Red bush apples in Kakadu
Image for post
Image for post
Waterlilies on a billabong of Kakadu

Caring for the land

Aboriginal people have seasonally burned the bush for thousands of years. The creation ancestors gave them this cultural duty to clean up the country, and they have handed it down from generation to generation. Signs in nature told them the time to burn — the time when they could achieve maximal benefits with minimal harm.

Image for post
Image for post
Controlled patch burning in Kakadu at night

Seasons of nature & man

Six seasons tie together the nature and men of Kakadu. The transitions between seasons arise from the subtle changes in weather and bushfood. Natives have embraced these changes for thousands of generations to find shelter and food.

Image for post
Image for post
Speargrass in the Kakadu National Park. It reaches two meters in the monsoon season.
Image for post
Image for post
A spiraling beehive of the stingless sugarbag bees
Image for post
Image for post
Long-necked turtle in Kakadu

To feel this land…

Take time to look and listen to the country to feel the spirits of this land. Sit on and respect the country to learn the stories of this land. Your experience will be one that you cannot get anywhere else in the world. You will regain your lost communion with nature, and go home and feel the same way.

Andy’s AnyLand Tours

Transformative trips worldwide

András Tóthmihály

Written by

I travel with people to 6 continents. Let’s see if we are a fit in traveling and have a transformational trip. → AndysAnyLandTours.com

Andy’s AnyLand Tours

Travel with purpose to have transformative trips. — Real travel expands our horizons. Suddenly, we can paint the story of our lives with more colors. The more we learn from our travels, the richer our lives become. → AndysAnyLandTours.com

András Tóthmihály

Written by

I travel with people to 6 continents. Let’s see if we are a fit in traveling and have a transformational trip. → AndysAnyLandTours.com

Andy’s AnyLand Tours

Travel with purpose to have transformative trips. — Real travel expands our horizons. Suddenly, we can paint the story of our lives with more colors. The more we learn from our travels, the richer our lives become. → AndysAnyLandTours.com

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store