To experience the prehistoric nature of Kakadu, take a sunrise boat tour along the wetlands of Yellow Water Billabong and take in the wonders of Australia’s biggest national park.
- Pristine wetlands
- Abundance of wildlife
- Immersive Indigenous culture
- Get up close and personal with dinosaurs
Welcome to the Wetlands of Kakadu
Surrounded by a chorus of songbirds, the wetlands of Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water) come to life as the first rays of golden sunlight pierce through the heavy mist. The intermittent splash of fish across the surface of the billabong breaks an otherwise perfect reflection.
As you spend the morning cruising the tributaries and backwaters of the South Alligator River floodplain, you’ll learn it’s more than just birds and fish that inhabit these pristine wetlands.
Face to Face With Dinosaurs
With one of the highest densities of Saltwater crocodiles (or ‘Salties’ as they’re affectionately known in the Top End) anywhere on earth, you’ll be wanting to keep all limbs and lenses well and truly within the confines of the boat.
These apex predators have become somewhat accustomed to the wildlife boats coming in nice and close, so don’t be surprised if you end up looking over the top of what’s clearly still a living version of a dinosaur.
Growing upwards of six metres in length, these huge animals have a fearsome reputation for being maneaters, and it’s easy to see why… with thousands of years of evolutionary advantages such as armour plating, movement-sensitive pores on their mouths, and the strongest bite force in the animal kingdom, these animals deserve our respect.
Being able to witness them at such close proximity in the wild, without the need for baiting, is one of the drawcards of Kakadu’s wetlands.
A Bit of Bird Watching
If giant crocodiles aren’t really your thing, then perhaps the 280 different species of birds that can be found here will be. That’s around one-third of Australia’s bird species located in just one spot! Not bad for a morning’s work.
The queen of the skies over Yellow Water is the magnificent female white-bellied sea eagle. With a wingspan of just over 2.2 metres, she’s Australia’s second largest bird of prey, and if you’re lucky you can see her snapping a barramundi out of the water with her massive talons.
Connecting to Country
Perhaps the most lasting memory you’ll have of Kakadu’s wetlands are not the picture-perfect sunrises, nor the abundance of wildlife, but instead the magical insight into the Traditional Owners of Kakadu’s ancient culture.
Home to the oldest living culture on the planet, the Bininj and Mungguy people are the two Aboriginal groups that call Kakadu home. Most of the guides on Yellow Water are happy to share with you stories and knowledge that has been passed down to them for generations.
After a morning of listening to stories of people living in perfect synergy with nature, it really makes you wonder what Australia would’ve been like as a nation if we’d listened to the Traditional Owners upon arrival.
Sustainability and the act of living in harmony with nature are prevalent in Indigenous cultures throughout the world. And with the world facing a major crisis in loss of biodiversity, perhaps it’s time that Australia started listening to its First Nations People.
Kakadu Tourism, the company that runs the Yellow Water Cruise, is Indigenous-owned, so you can rest assured that your money will be going back into the community and helping provide sustainable employment opportunities for locals.
- Mozzie repellent (the drawback of wetlands)
- Something warm to wear before the sun rises
How To Get There
Ngurrungurrudjba is known as Yellow Water Billabong on all maps so search for it under that name.
It’s about a 4 hour drive east of Darwin or around 45 min south of Jabiru, the main tourist hub in the park. Most people stay at the nearby Cooinda Lodge for the night before catching the free shuttle bus down to the billabong in the morning.
Read more: Road Tripping Kakadu National Park
- Wildlife spotting
- Crocodile counting
- Cultural tours