Is Kakadu worth visiting?
But, Kakadu is also worth doing properly. If you aren’t 100% sure if Kakadu is going to be worthwhile, read on for six pitfalls people commonly make when planning a trip to Kakadu.
There are dozens of reasons to visit Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Half the size of Switzerland, Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park. It ranges from the arid interior in the south to the wet tropical coast in the north. Across Kakadu, a stunning variety of different environments exist, including coastal mangrove forests, floodplains, stone country, lowland hills, and woodlands.
A fierce monsoon season floods the land each year creating an explosion of life and color across Kakadu filling its waterfalls, rivers, wetlands, and billabongs. The warm wet tropical weather and varied landscapes support a diverse array of plant and animal species.
The abundant plant and wildlife in combination with the varied environments here have also attracted people to this eden for millennia. The people of this land have managed and cultivated this place for tens of thousands of years. They understand the land and its cycles well, and they have a deep spiritual connection with this place. The record of their teachings and experiences adorns the park in the form of ancient rock art which dates back more than 20,000 years. Today the indigenous owners of Kakadu still live and manage the park, welcoming visitors into certain areas of their home.
For all these reasons Kakadu is one of only a handful of places in the world that has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for cultural AND natural significance.
There are some compelling reasons why you might want to stop and consider your trip to Kakadu. Our recent trip to this world heritage area revealed that perhaps we hadn’t done enough research and planning to really get the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
What about you? Do you understand the weather patterns? The geography? The sheer scope and size of the park? The accessibility? If not, you might want to pause and dig a little deeper before you set off into the unknown.
Is Kakadu worth visiting? Yes, one hundred percent, but it is such a special place that you need to make sure you do it right!
We have put together a list of things you may want to consider before you set out for Kakadu National Park.
It’s Not the Best Season to Visit Kakadu
Probably the most important reason you may want to hold off on your Kakadu trip is that it isn’t the best season to visit Kakadu.
There is something to see and experience in every season. And while most people aim for the dry season when most attractions are open, the weather is more predictable and the temperatures and humidity are more bearable, some prefer to experience the shoulder season in between wet and dry when, or even the middle of the monsoon to see the great storms that roll in over the park.
Some places have summer and winter, some have a spring and and autumn as well. In the far north of Australia (where it’s always hot), they talk about the wet and the dry seasons.
In Kakadu, it’s more nuanced. The people that have lived here for thousands and thousands of years understand these cycles the best, and their system is probably the most helpful for planning your trip to Kakadu.
Gudjewg is the monsoon season between late December until the end of March. Heat, humidity, and powerful storms mean a green wet park, teeming with life.
Bangkerreng the last month of the wet in April. This short season brings clear skies punctuated by brief windy storms. The waterways and waterfalls are at the best, though only accessible via a scenic flight.
Yegge is the start of the cool dry. From May to mid-June, there is still plenty of water around. It is considered one of the best times to experience Kakadu BUT not all attractions are necessarily open by June, especially after a wet summer.
Wurrgeng is the early dry season, June to August Most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out. This is a popular time for hikers and campers to take advantage of the cooler more predictable weather and access to more of the trails and campsites.
Gurrung is the hot dry season from August to October. The temperature and humidity build over this period culminating in the hottest period of the year. The land is dull and dry. Birdlife is easy to spot as it concentrates around the shrinking billabongs.
Gunumeleng is the pre-monsoon, October to December brings the start of the storms. Streams begin to run, water birds spread out as surface water and new growth becomes widespread.
When thinking about when to come to Kakadu, remember that all the hero shots advertising the park won’t be happening at the same time. Consider what you want to do and see in Kakadu and plan the your visit accordingly.
You Don’t Have Enough Time to Do Kakadu Properly
The next reason that might affect whether Kakadu is worth visiting is how much time you have up your sleeve. At 20,000 m2 Kakadu is a sprawling national park with a huge variety of attractions and experiences separated by vast distances. If you only have a weekend, it may be a challenge to fit it all in.
How much time so you need to see Kakadu?
Three days is the absolute minimum you would need to spend here to tick off some of the best experiences here and you will certainly not see everything.
A seven-day or longer self-guided tour would allow you to experience many of the park’s major drawcards at a comfortable pace.
You Don’t Have a Four Wheel Drive
Many attractions are only accessible via unsealed roads. Many more are accessible via rough 4wd tracks.
If you only have access to a two-wheel drive car or a rental car that is not permitted on unsealed roads you may want to reconsider your trip to Kakadu or explore the possibility of hiring a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
You Haven’t Planned your Trip Properly
With such a big park and so many factors inclusing the weather cycle and seasonal attraction closures, pre-planning is essential to ensuring you have a successful Kakadu trip.
Another thing you should consider is the potential for areas being closed by the land owners. Kakadu may be a national park, but the traditional owners still live here and control these lands. While we were there, a number of places normally accessible to the public had been closed down for a funeral rite.
While you can’t know in advance exactly when areas of Kakadu will open the Kakadu access report provides information on seasonal closures and other restrictions or events happening within Kakadu. It also includes forecasts for when areas are predicted to reopen.
The Kakadu access report is an essential resource to start planning your trip.
You’re Not Sure What to Expect in Kakadu
If you are imagining arriving at a small national park with all the famous attractions within spitting distance, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Understand the size of the park, the scope, and the location of the various attractions. Understand that different experiences are only available at certain times of the year. Figure out exactly what it is you want to get out of your Kakadu experience, and how to access these experiences.
You Are on a Limited Budget
Many national parks are great as cheap weekend camping holiday destinations. Kakadu is a little bit different.
At a bare minimum you’ll need to pay a national park entry fee of $40 per person for 7 days, fuel costs to navigate the huge park and camping fees of between $6 and $15 per person per night.
Depending on your style of travel you may also need to factor in tours, accommodation, and car rentals. The experience can quickly escalate in price. If you are looking for a cheap weekend getaway then Kakadu might not be it.
Considered as a true once in a lifetime experience, given the proper planning, time and the experience is actually very good value, but if you are looking for a cheap overnighter, you might find Kakadu on the expensive side!
So, Is Kakadu Worth Visiting?
Kakadu is an important place. A place of breathtaking natural beauty and incredible history. Kakadu is worth visiting, but Kakadu is worth visiting properly! Take you time to plan and understand this special place and you will get the most out of this remarkable experience.
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