World Heritage Sites

Kakadu National Park

This huge park of exceptional beauty is located in Australia's tropical north. It extends from the wild, sandstone escarpments of Arnhem Land in the east, to the mangrove-rich, tidal fiats of Van Dieman Gulf in the north, and south almost to Katherine Gorge. Three major rivers flow through Kakadu, encompassing almost the entire drainage basin of the huge South Alligator River.

Visitors are drawn by the park's incredibly rich assortment of flora and fauna - 900 plant species, 300 kinds of birds, 75 reptiles (including the giant, dangerous saltwater crocodile), 50 native mammals, 30 amphibians, a quarter of all Australian freshwater fish, and countless insect species.

Kakadu is a treasure chest of archaeological and rock art sites, some dating back to the Ice Age and ranking in antiquity and importance with the prehistoric sites of southern Europe. The oldest evidence for the technology of edge-ground stone axes has been found in Kakadu, which also contains the earliest known narrative art in the world.

Aborigines have lived in Kakadu for at least 25,000 years (perhaps as long as 50,000 years), making the park one of the few World Heritage sites to be listed for both natural and cultural reasons. Today, Aboriginal people work in partnership with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in determining park policy and young Aborigines are trained as rangers and guides. Learning about Aboriginal legends and sacred sites enhances visitors appreciation of Kakadu.

June to September is the main tourist season. Visiting during the"wet" season (December to March), is difficult because although the park is green and bountiful with wildflowers and birds, many of the tracks are flooded and inaccessible.

During the warm climate of the "dry", wildlife is concentrated in large numbers around the water holes. The Parks and Wildlife Service conducts free talks, walks, and slide shows for independent travellers. Walking tracks vary in length and grade, and pass through woodlands, grassy flood plains, wetland, monsoon rainforests, and sandstone country. Other activities are boating, fishing, scenic flights, boat tours, and 4WD tours. Visitors are also permitted to drive into the park; a fiat rate of AUD$ 10 per adult applies.

There are many short and extended commercial tours available, and accommodation within the park ranges from a four-star hotel shaped like a crocodile, to motels, a youth hostel (dry season only), and camping sites. Tour organizers and independent travellers are required to carry their own rubbish out of the park.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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