Darwin and Kakadu small group tour
From A$12,095 AUD
- 1. Experience the unique Ramsar wetlands of the South Alligator River while they are in ‘full swing’ by taking a Yellow Waters Boat Cruise.
- 2. Escarpment walking trails to lookouts, waterfalls & rocky swimming holes
- 3. View some of the most amazing Arnhem Land rock art, walk into the remote Nangaluwurr Art Gallery
- 4. Experience the eerie night chorus of the Northern Spadefoot Toad or observe the strange lifestyle of the aquatic Arafuran File Snake.
|26 September 2021 |
Ends 09 October 2021 • 14 days
|18 October 2021 |
Ends 31 October 2021 • 14 days
|08 November 2021 |
Ends 21 November 2021 • 14 days
|22 November 2021 |
Ends 05 December 2021 • 14 days
|13 February 2022 |
Ends 27 February 2022 • 15 days
|13 March 2022 |
Ends 27 March 2022 • 15 days
|03 April 2022 |
Ends 17 April 2022 • 15 days
|30 April 2022 |
Ends 13 May 2022 • 14 days
|05 June 2022 |
Ends 19 June 2022 • 15 days
|03 July 2022 |
Ends 17 July 2022 • 15 days
|30 July 2022 |
Ends 13 August 2022 • 15 days
|04 September 2022 |
Ends 18 September 2022 • 15 days
|12 February 2023 |
Ends 26 February 2023 • 15 days
|12 March 2023 |
Ends 26 March 2023 • 15 days
Darwin and Kakadu small group tour
Odyssey Traveller is pleased to announce that we are now offering a tour of Kakadu and the Northern Territory . Australia's largest national park, Kakadu is a place of rare majesty, a land of rugged red escarpments, lush rainforest, and thundering waterfalls; inhabited for over 60,000 years by the world's oldest living culture . Kakadu covers almost 20,000 square kilometres, and is a place of incredible ecological and biological diversity, home to one-third of Australia's bird species and one-quarter of its freshwater and estuarine fish species.
This, like all Odyssey Traveller small group tours is limited to 15 people.
This Odyssey Traveller small group tour is designed for mature and senior traveller s, in couples or travelling solo . Our escorted tours are designed for mature travellers who want an in-depth and informed experience of their travel destination in the Northern territory. Since 1983, we have specialised in bringing Australian travellers to the world: now, our goal is to let you again rediscover your own country.
Our Kakadu tour lasts for fourteen days, accessing the park via the Kakadu highway allowing you to delve into aboriginal culture and the vast array of ecosystems offered by the national park with your tour guide and a Kakadu itinerary that is typically not possible on your typical Kakadu day tour. Beginning and ending in Darwin, we spend 11 nights in Kakadu National Park. On our tour of the Northern Territory 's Top End, we also make trips to the historic town of Pine Creek, the sandstone formations of Litchfield National Park, the Territory Wildlife Park, and the Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, within the Mary River Wetlands. Our Litchfield tour will take you to the pristine Buley Rockhole and the iconic Cathedral Termite Mounds, which can also be seen in the southern part of Kakadu.
In 1981, Kakadu National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the first Australian sites to achieve this recognition. UNESCO describes Kakadu as 'a living cultural landscape with exceptional natural and cultural values,' including its extreme biodiversity, the incredible collection of Aboriginal art, and diverse array of ecosystems. Our tour takes you through all three facets of Kakadu, learning about the geology and biodiversity of the park while paying homage to its vibrant Aboriginal culture and history that includes visits to see ancient aboriginal rock art escorted by a knowledgable tour guide on aboriginal art.
Landforms of Kakadu:
At 19,804 km squared, Kakadu National Park protects a region roughly the size of Wales, a third the size of Tasmania, and half the size of Switzerland. It ranges from mangrove-fringed tidal flats bordering Van Diemen Gulf to the north, through floodplains to the spectacular cliffs of the Arnhem Land escarpment. The park protects four major river systems, including the East Alligator River, the West Alligator River, the Wildman River, and the entire South Alligator River, and an extraordinary range of environments.
Ecologically, Kakadu is regarded as having six distinct landforms:
- the sandstone escarpments of the Arnhem Land plateau, also known as 'stone country', which reaches highs of 330 metres,
- Southern Hills and Basins, located in the south of the park, consisting of alluvial plains and volcanic rock
- lowlands, undulating plains consisting primarily of laterite soils
- floodplains serving as drainage for the four rivers, rich in flora and fauna
- estuaries and tidal flats, covered in mangrove swamps
- and 'outliers', areas of the plateau which were once islands in an inland sea
The geological history of southern and northern Kakadu are distinct. The oldest known rocks in Kakadu are some of the oldest in the world, formed 2.5 billion years ago, while the Arnhem Land plateau was laid down 1.6 billion years ago.
The escarpment wall - spectacular sheer red cliffs separating the Arnhem Land plateau from the lowlands below - is one of the defining features of Kakadu National Park. Around 140 million years ago, most of Kakadu was under a shallow sea, with the escarpment wall forming sea cliffs. Some of the most dramatic points can be seen today at Gunlom, Jim Jim and Twin Falls.
The sandstone 'outliers' were separated from the plateau between 500 to 140 million years ago, thanks to the erosion of older sandstone into sea cliffs. They would have been islands in the inland sea.
By contrast, Kakadu's lowlands are a relatively young landscape, dynamic environments which are continually reshaped by sand and silt being eroded from rocks and being carried by wet season waters.
Ecosystems of Kakadu:
Each of Kakadu's landforms is home to its own distinct ecosystems, shaped by dramatic seasonal changes. While settlers describe the landscape in terms of 'wet' and 'dry', the Bininj/Mungguy people recognise six distinct seasons:
- Gudjewg, or monsoon season is the 'true' wet season. Lasting from December to March, gudjewg is defined by electrifying thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding, and vivid green landscapes.
- Banggerreng ('knock 'em down storm season') in April marks the point at which the rain ends and clear skies are seen, as the floodwater recedes into streams. The 'knock 'em down storms' refer to the violent, windy storms at the start of April, which flatten the spear grass of Kakadu's lowlands.
- Yegge is a cooler but still humid season, lasting from May to mid-June, in which early morning mists hang over the plains and waterholes.
- Wurrgeng, from mid-June to mid-August, is the 'cold weather time', in which humidity is low and the floodplains dry out.
- Gurrung, mid-August to mid-October, is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching up to 37 degrees.
- Gunumeleng is the pre-Monsoon season, lasting from mid-October to mid-December. Humidity is high, with storms building in the mid-afternoon. This season is often referred to as the 'build up' in the Kimberley.
In total, Kakadu is home to more than 2,000 plant species. The lowlands are dominated by Savannah woodlands, consisting primarily of eucalypts and tall grasses. Eucalypt forests here are among the largest tracts of virgin eucalyptus in Australia. Trees here are heavily influenced by the intense seasonality, growing during the wet season and developing a variety of coping mechanisms for the long dry. Other plants found here include the Billy Goat plum, which bears edible fruits noted for a high content of vitamin C, turkey bush, which bears pink-purple flowers during the drier seasons, and Swamp Banksia, the only banksia found in the Top End.
The Southern Hills and basins are home to a number of uncommon and endemic species, thanks to their ancient geology. The most notable plant here is the hills salmon gum, which develops a beautiful salmon-coloured bark after shedding the old, white bark. Other trees here include the freshwater mangrove, known as the 'itchy tree', and the silver-leafed paperbark. Water pandanus grows along freshwater streams and yellow bladderwort along sandy creek banks.
Plants growing among the rugged escarpments of stone country must survive extremely hot, waterless conditions for much of the year. Reduction grasses are well adapted to these conditions, dehydrating in the absence of moisture, and springing to life within twenty-four hours of rain. Other plants, such as the Allosyncarpia evergreen and sandstone pandanus grow only in the sandstone areas of Kakadu and Arnhem Land.
The tidal flats are primarily lined with mangrove forests and samphire flats, with pockets of monsoon forest.
The floodplains and wetlands undergo dramatic seasonal changes, with the landscape flooded following wet season rains. In areas where the landscape is flooded for several months, grasses and sedge rushes dominate, while mangroves, pandanus and paperbarks are found on higher ground.
Kakadu is also home to a number of endemic animals. The park is home to over 77 species of mammals (nearly a quarter of Australia's land mammals), 271 species of birds (more than one-third of Australian birdlife), 132 reptiles, 27 frogs, 314 fish species and over 10,000 species of insect. This includes over 75 threatened species - likely more than any other Australian nature reserve.
The extensive floodplains are listed as a Ramsar wetland of international importance. In the wet, saltwater crocodiles head inland, while the dry season sees an array of waterbirds, including magpie geese, green pygmy geese, the Burdekin duck, and the wandering whistling duck congregate on billabongs within the park. Kakadu is a major staging point for migratory birds, many of which come from the sub-Arctic region.
Mammals commonly seen within the park include eight species of macropod (kangaroo), most notably agile wallabies and antilopine wallaroos, and the 'stone country'-endemic black wallaroo. You will likely hear the howls of dingoes at night, or glimpse them as you travel through the park. Sugar gliders, northern quolls and bandicoots all hide through the day, but you may be able to spot one as it searches for food at night.
Aboriginal history of Kakadu:
The traditional owners of Kakadu are the Bininj/Mungguy people, who have lived in this country for up to 60, 000 years. Kakadu is believed to be one of the first areas settled by the indigenous people of Australia, with excavations by University of Queensland researchers at the Madjedbebe rockshelter in Kakadu suggesting that the area was inhabited 65, 000 years ago. These archaeological sites revealed stone axes, seed-grinding tools, stone points (likely used as spear tips), and ochre - the oldest ground-edge stone axe technology in the world.
'Bininj' is the name for Aboriginal peoples of the north of the park, and Mungguy in the south. In the time before European settlement, twelve languages were spoken in the Kakadu area. Today, only three - Gun-djeihmi, Kun-winjku and Jawoyn - are spoken on a regular basis, and most Aboriginal people in the area speak two or more languages. The Bininj/Mungguy people further divided into 19 clan, or family groups. All people, plants, animals, songs, dances, ceremonies and land are divided into two kinship groups, or 'moieties': Duwa or Yirridja. The two 'moieties' are in turn divided into eight 'skin' groups, which govern the way people relate to one another.
Like Aboriginal peoples elsewhere, the Bininj/Mungguy shaped the landscape in which they lived. They managed the country with fire, lighting fires year-round, but particularly during yegge and wurrgeng. Fire promoted suitable habitats for a range of different plants and animals and protected food resources such as yams from later, more dangerous, natural fires. They knew the plants that surrounded them intimately: in 1985, Kakadu elders were able to name 420 scarp species, including several not yet known to science, and detailed the behaviour of each (Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth, 288-289).
The Bininj/Mungguy built stringy-bark shelters near billabongs, rock shelters in 'rock country', and houses on stilts in the wet season. Their regular diet included an array of fruits, including kakadu plum (anmorlak), red bush apple (andjarduk), and blackcurrant bush (andjurrugumarlba). The roots of water lilies were ground into a paste and baked in ground ovens to form cakes. The Bininj/Mungguy also fished barramundi, saratoga, and freshwater mussel out of Kakadu's extensive waterways.
Kakadu National Park is home to an extensive collection of ancient Aboriginal rock art. The park boasts over 5, 000 known rock art sites, with some archaeologists believing that there might be up to 15, 000 total sites in the park. Some of these rock paintings are up to 20, 000 years old, constituting one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. As UNESCO points out, 'it provides a window into human civilisation in the days before the last ice age' (which ended around 11, 700 years ago).
For the Bininj/Mungguy, the first paintings were done by creation spirits, who then taught the Bininj how to paint. They painted by crushing minerals - including ochre, charcoal, haematite, limonite, goethite, kaolin (pipeclay) and huntite on stone palettes, mixing it with water to create a paste, and using human hair, reeds and feathers as brushes.
The styles of painting found in Kakadu National Park evolved over the site's long history. The earliest paintings, during the last ice age, include naturalistic portrayals of animals (including some now extinct), and human figures - simple stick figures with boomerangs, heavily ornamented figures, and northern running figures, small figures common to Kakadu. The 'Estuarine Period', from the Ice Age to 2000 years ago, saw the beginning of x-ray art, which portrays the internal organs and bone structures of animals. More recently, rock art has depicted the arrival in Australia of Macassan fishermen from Sulawesi and other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, with depictions of their ships, guns and knives among spears and spear throwers, and the arrival of Europeans to Australia by ship.
Other artworks depict creation ancestors important to the Bininj/Mungguy, including Namarrkon, who is responsible for the violent lightning storms that occur each summer, and the Rainbow Serpent, who created the waterholes and rock passages of Kakadu, creating a habitat for all beings.
Today the Bininj/Mungguy work collaboratively with Parks Australia to manage Kakadu National Park. Thanks to the Bininj/Mungguy, every Kakadu park ranger has been trained in traditional Aboriginal land management practices, such as seasonal burning to prevent devastating bushfires later in the year.
Tour Kakadu with Odyssey Traveller:
Odyssey Traveller's trip to Kakadu includes several nights hotel/lodge and safari camp accommodation - we will not be camping. The tour price also includes breakfast daily, various lunches (most likely a picnic lunch) and dinners.
The tour takes in the highlights of Kakadu: the plunge pool (one of the national park's most popular swimming holes) and stunning waterfalls of escarpment country; Barramundi Gorge (Maguk) in the Mary River wetlands. Our Kakadu tours make the most of the many indigenous culture opportunities offered by the park, seeing Aboriginal art and learning about the traditional culture of the Bininj/Mungguy people.
Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:
- The Kimberley: A Definitive Guide
- Uncovering the Ancient History of Aboriginal Australia
- Aboriginal Land Use in the Mallee
- Understanding Aboriginal Aquaculture
- Mallee and Mulga: Two Iconic and Typically Inland Australian Plant Communities (By Dr. Sandy Scott).
- The Australian Outback: A Definitive Guide
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Australia:
- UNESCO: Kakadu National Park
- Welcome to Kakadu National Park
- Gunbim: Rock Art
- Kakadu Tourism
- Birdwatching in Kakadu National Park
- Aboriginal culture in Kakadu (Aboriginal rock art)
Refreshed Dec 2020
Day 1: Darwin
On arrival in Darwin, make your own way to our hotel. In the evening we meet for a program overview and welcome group dinner.
Day 2: Darwin – via the Territory Wildlife Park (TWP) – Jabiru
We travel from Darwin – via the Territory Wildlife Park (TWP) to Jabiru.
The well laid out TWP displays only Top End wildlife in its natural habitat & this affords us a chance to familiarise ourselves with the highly specialised animals of the Kakadu/Arnhem region before we get there. There is much to see and learn and this will take us the best part of a day.
We then drive out along the Arnhem Highway to Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, one of the few wetland system that is accessible year-round. We’ll take a walk along the boardwalks and take in the diversity of landscape and the local birdlife.
Our journey continues east and we’ll arrive in Jabiru, our base for the next week, in time for dinner.
The township of Jabiru was built in 1980 to accommodate staff and families of the Ranger Uranium Mine, but is now the centre of tourism in Kakadu.
Day 3: Jabiru
We start the day with an early bird-watching walk at Mamukala Bird Observation Hide. There is a possibility of seeing crocodiles, then on an easy 1h Manngarre Forest Walk (if re-opened).
In the afternoon we take a 20 minute walking track from Jabiru the Kakadu Park HQ and Bowali Visitor Centre on the Kakadu Highway. There is quite a bit of wildlife to be seen around the town as a result of a prohibition on cats. The rare Partridge Pigeon can often be seen feeding along the roadsides while the Black-footed Tree-rat and Sugar Glider are also frequently seen.
Later today, we may take a night walk around Jabiru to look for Savannah Gliders in the flowering Eucalyptus.
Day 4: Jabiru - Burrungguy (Nourlangie Rock) Artsite Walk - Jabiru
This will be our introduction to the unique sandstone ecosystems that have made Kakadu famous. Many of the endemic wildlife, such as Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeons, Banded Fruit-doves, Black Wallaroos and Oenpelli Pythons call this escarpment country home. In addition to this, we are visiting one of the most amazing human history sites in northern Australia. We learn how the art galleries and occupation sites here bear witness to one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures.
We will then move down to the nearby Anbangbang Billabong to observe the flowering lilies and numerous water birds, followed by an easy walk up to the lookout on Nawulandja (Little Nourlangie Rock) for a view of both Nourlangie Rock & Anbangbang Billabong. This spot is also great location for sunset photos.
Day 5: Jabiru - Gubara Valley Walk - Jabiru
We will be driving to a valley in central Kakadu and walking 3kms to a rainforest clad stream where we will see for the first time the amazing Gondwanan Manbinik Trees Allosyncarpia ternata. These giants are seen nowhere else in the world, but have relatives in Malaysia, New Caledonia and South America. They are of great significance to the Bininj people, but have mystified biogeographers with their very limited distribution.
The walk takes us along an almost level, rocky track, fording creeks as we go. At the end of the walk there will be time to relax and have a swim in a series of flowing escarpment pools.
On our return, time permitting, we will check out a low ridge near the Gubara track where we may be able to locate and photograph the little-known but brightly coloured Leichhardt’s Grasshopper – described as one of Australia’s most rare and spectacular insects.
Day 6: Jabiru - Magela Creek & Ubirr Artsite with Guluyambi - Jabiru
The northern sector of Kakadu is normally isolated by floodwater at this time of year, however the Bininj (Aboriginal) owned Guluyambi Tour wildlife cruise provides specialised boat access to one of the most beautiful visitor locations and offers exclusive use on the day.
Wildlife species such as Agile Wallabies and Short-eared Rock Wallabies are often seen in the vicinity of the Ubirr Art site. Ubirr Lookout offers a 360 degree panorama of the East Alligator Plains and outliers and is an unforgettable experience. A local Bininj guide will be with us for part the day sharing stories and local knowledge with our group.
Day 7: Jabiru - Cooinda via Mirray Lookout and the Warradjan Cultural Centre - Jabiru
Today we take a drive through to Cooinda via Mirray Lookout and the Warradjan Cultural Centre. This will be followed by a Yellow Water Sunset Boat Cruise at Cooinda.
Cooinda it is a world-class tourist destination, primarily for the famous Yellow Water Cruise (of the Yellow Water billabong), which now reveal to visitors the amazing wildlife diversity – including the saltwater crocodile in its natural habitat. An experience not to be missed!
The massive South Alligator River system falls completely within the boundaries of Kakadu. At the centre of the system are extensive floodplains, which become inundated during the wet season. These rich wetlands have been described as ‘the engine room of Kakadu’. Each wet season, vast amounts of silt & alluvial material are deposited here, nourishing the aquatic ecosystem & greatly increasing the carrying capacity for wildlife. We return to Jabiru in the late afternoon.
Day 8: Jabiru
Today we have a free day to relax, catch up with your diary, take a walk around Jabiru or take part in one of the several optional activities available such as Scenic Escarpment Flights (not included in your package).
The scenic flights (extra cost) provided by Kakadu Air offer one hour waterfall flights along the main escarpment, taking in prominent places such as Namarrkurn (Lightning Dreaming), Barr’marlam (Jim Jim Falls) & Gungurdul (Twin Falls).
Day 9: Jabiru
Today we will continue exploring Kakadu National Park with a couple of walks, starting with the Nanguluwurr Art Site walk, covering just over 3km going through peaceful woodlands that lead to a quiet Aboriginal Rock Art site. The quiet walk through the woodlands is brought to life with the sounds of grey-crowned babblers, butcher birds, finches and friar birds.
Our second walk of the day is the Bardedjilidji Sandstone Walk, while looking for iconic wildlife as we meander through towering sandstone pillars, small pockets of monsoonal rainforest the paperbark-lined bank of the East Alligator River. Note: Should this walk not be open, an alternative will be presented on the day, in consultation with the group.
Day 10: Jabiru
Today we visit Maguk (Barramundi Gorge). A gravel road leads us from the Kakadu Highway towards the escarpment through open woodland scattered with impressive orange Cathedral Termite mounds. A walking trail takes us from the car park upstream to a series of pools and waterfalls where we can enjoy a swim. Patches of rainforest in the side valleys are home of shy birds like the Rainbow Pitta, the Banded Fruit-dove and the White-lined Honeyeater.
Day 11: Jabiru
After an early breakfast, we travel to remote West Arnhem indigenous community of Gunbalanya (also known as Oenpelli) by road. The town is located about 60km north-east from Jabiru, across the East Alligator River. The area around Gunbalanya is known as Stone Country, a name inspired by the spectacular Arnhem Land escarpment and rock formations that emerge from the floodplains surrounding the town.
We’ll join a local guide to the nearby Injalak Hill to elevated rock art galleries overlooking the surrounding plains. This area has some of the best rock art examples in West Arnhem Land. On return to Gunbalanya we visit the Injalak Art and Craft Centre before returning to Jabiru.
NOTE: A permit is required to visit Aboriginal land of Arnhem Land. At present, the Northern Land Council has suspended the issue of Recreation Permits due to Covid-19 to protect the local communities. Odyssey Traveller is monitoring the situation and should permits still be suspended at the time of our visit, an alternative itinerary will be provided.
Day 12: Jabiru
Today we drive to Yurmikmik and walk to Boulder Creek for a relaxing swim in a small escarpment waterfall & pool. This is the home of the Gouldian Finch & the Hooded Parrot – two of Kakadu’s rarest birds. We visit the Mary River Ranger Station and learn how different the southern hills and basins are from the country we have just seen in the north.
We then move on to Moline Rockhole for a walk and a swim before returning to our hotel in Jabiru.
Day 13: Jabiru - Darwin
After breakfast, we start drive back to Darwin via Pine Creek and Adelaide River, with a visit to Tolmer Falls and a swim at Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park.
On the first section of the drive we will take a short stop at Pine Creek where we can look out for the rare Hooded Parrot, which are often seen feeding beside the road in pairs and small flocks.
The town of Pine Creek began with a gold rush in 1867 and at its peak had a population of over 3000 people. Today, gold is still being mined in the area which is situated on the rim of a giant geological structure called the Pine Creek Geosyncline, which takes in much of Kakadu. This town had a great impact on the people of Kakadu at the time of the gold rush. We will learn the details of how it caused a serious decline in their numbers, from which they are still recovering today.
Litchfield National Park is a small but impressive park close to Darwin focused on another sandstone formation, which produces volumes of fresh water from aquifers in the horizontal geology. As a result, there are many waterfalls and streams, which provide safe swimming for visitors. This is a great way to end our trip, leaving only the one and a half hour drive back to Darwin for our farewell dinner and last night.
Day 14: Darwin
Our Kakadu journey ends today after breakfast at our hotel.
- Most travel will be on sealed roads in a mini-coach.
- This tour is limited to 15 participants.
- Arnhem Land visit(s): Currently no tourists are allowed into Arnhem Land as the Northern Land Council has suspended the issue of Recreational Permits required to enter the area.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 13 nights accommodation.
- 13 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 8 dinners.
- Transport as per the itinerary in a vehicle equipped to travel the local roads.
- Field trips and sightseeing as indicated including applicable entry fees.
- Services of an expert Tour Leader and services of local guides.
What’s not included in our Tour
- Return airfares to Darwin.
- Departure taxes where applicable.
- Costs of a personal nature and any optional activities elected by participants.
- Comprehensive Travel insurance.
Make it a private tour
Easing your journey
Crossing international borders with restrictions
The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:
For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.
Book With Confidence
If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.
See Terms and conditions for details.
Peace of Mind Travel
The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.
See Peace of Mind Travel for details.