We spent most of our time on the south part of Kakadu. However, on the last day we decoded to do a 90 km detour for stunning views and short interesting walks. One of them was along Stone country which is some of the oldest rock in the world and the house for Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years. Stone country signals the start of Arnhem land a vast area of the top end named after a Dutch boat that passed a hundred years before Captain Cook arrived. This particular site in Stone country is called Gunwarrdehwarrde; warrde means ‘rocks’ and gun ‘lots of’.
In the walk we learnt that during wet season, Stone country was the home of the inhabitants of Kakadu. We also learnt about the aboriginal art which are paintings some of which cannot be dated; the ink is made of stone (ochre) which cannot be carbon dated. Those that can be dated are due to one of two reasons: either the paint was made of bees wax and thus can be carbon dated, or the ancestors painted over wasps nests and those nests can also be carbon nested.
In its enormity, it is not astonishing to find hidden treasures or swimming holes scattered through the national park. Some places are not even in the tourist map of Kakadu and only known to the guides and park rangers. Some of these hidden swimming paradises are not visited by crocodiles as they don’t really like having to climb across rocks.
Though the most popular swimming places are frequently checked by the rangers to make sure ‘salties’ are not hidding in the depths and make it to the news covers by attacking a distracted tourist. To search and dispose of crocs, the rangers use a few different methods. They might put a cage in the water with a feral pig’s leg at the end with a simple pull and close the hatch mechanism and trap the crocodile inside. Another way to check if estuarine crocodiles are about is by putting a styrofoam ball in the water. Crocodiles, being the inquisitive animals they are, will bite the foreign object. Rangers can then look at the teeth marks and determine if they are salt or fresh water crocodiles.
Rangers also use the good old have a look and see for tracks of animals method.
Lastly, at night, rangers flash lights along water surfaces. The crocodiles eyes will be easily spotted as red reflections in the water, much like humans eyes on a night photo taken with a flash.
In any case, all these methods are not certain and you can always be risking your life if you do decide to have a swim. Though if you come out, you might have a good story to tell. And feeling refreshed from swimmingin the crystal clear waters.
The national park of Kakadu is 20K squared kilometers, the size of Israel, has 8 different habitats and only 2 seasons: wet and dry. (Indigenous locals have 6 though so it evens out) For its natural importance it has been named a UNESCO world heritage site. Though it is a double listed heritage site as it also has great cultural significance for Australia as it is Aboriginal land.
Billabongs are inviting swimming places around the national park. They are peaceful looking crystal clear ponds left behind as rivers changed course. For the longest part of the year, billabongs are dry but fill up with the seasonal rain. However, full of fresh and salt water crocodiles, all rivers, billabongs, water holes in Kakadu are strictly no swimming areas. Or swim at your own risk.
Both species of crocodiles were once hunted until almost extinction in around the 1960’s but are now protected species and their populations recovering. So whilst it is tempting, I’d rather stay out of becoming a crocs meal.