Swimming, Fishing, & Bushwalking in the Park
Gagudju Adventure Tours (book through Gagudju Lodge Cooinda; tel. 1800/500 401 in Australia or 08/8979 0145; www.gagudju-dreaming.com) runs an excellent small-group day trip for active people. You take a 4WD through savannah woodland to the edge of the Arnhemland escarpment; then bushwalk through the monsoon forest along the river gorge to the base of Jim Jim Falls. Another short 4WD trip, then a cruise with an Indigenous guide, and a walk along the gorge cliff-face brings you to the sandy beach at Twin Falls. Tours depart daily from Jabiru and Cooinda from May through November and cost A$168 adults and A$128 children (no children under 6). Book in advance for July, the busiest month. A less predictable tour program runs during the Wet season; check the website for details.
Kakadu's wetlands are brimful of barramundi, and Territorians like nothing more than to hop in a tin dinghy barely big enough to resist a croc attack and go looking for them. Kakadu Fishing Tours (tel. 08/8979 2025 or book through Gagudju Lodge Cooinda) takes you fishing in a 5.7m (19-ft.) sportfishing boat. Tours operate from March to November and depart from Jabiru, 5km (3 miles) east of the Bowali Visitor Centre (or they will pick you up from your accommodation. The cost is A$200 per person for 5 1/2 hours and A$320 per person for a full day (10 1/2 hours), for a maximum group of three people.
Wide-ranging bush and wetlands walking trails, including many short walks and six half- to full-day treks, lead throughout the park. Typical trails include a less than 1km (less than .5-mile) amble through the Manngarre Monsoon Forest near Ubirr Rock; an easy 3.8km (2.5-mile) circular walk at the Iligadjar Wetlands near the Bowali Visitor Centre; and a tough 12km (7.5-mile) round-trip trek through rugged sandstone country at Nourlangie Rock.
One of the best wetlands walks is at Mamukala wetlands, 29km (18 miles) from Jabiru. Thousands of magpie geese feed here, especially in the late Dry season around October. An observation platform gives you a good view, and a sign explains the dramatic seasonal changes the wetlands undergo. Choose from a 1km (.5-mile) or 3km (1.8-mile) round-trip meander. The Bowali Visitor Centre sells hiking-trail maps. There are also some challenging unmarked trails along creeks and gorges, for which you will need good navigational skills.
Some people swim at spots that are generally regarded as croc-free, such as Jim Jim Falls and water holes such as Gubara (it's a long walk, but it can be lovely in the Wet), Maguk, and Koolpin Gorge. However, you do so at your own risk. Although rangers survey the swimming holes at the start of the season, and crocodiles are territorial creatures that stick to one spot, no one can guarantee that a saltwater crocodile has not moved into a swimming hole. Ask at the Bowali Visitor Centre which pools are croc-free that year (it can change from year to year) before setting off into the park. If you are unsure about a water hole's safety, the only place rangers recommend you swim is your hotel pool. Water hole depths change dramatically with the season. Check with the Bowali Visitor Centre for the swimming spots that are best at the time you visit.
A 1km (.5-mile) walk over rocks and through rainforest leads to a deep green plunge pool at Jim Jim Falls, 103km (64 miles) from the Bowali Visitor Centre. An almost perfectly circular 150m (492-ft.) cliff surrounds the water. Allow 2 hours to drive the final unpaved 60km (37 miles) off the highway. Due to floodwaters, Jim Jim Falls may not open until as late as June. At Twin Falls, the waterfalls descend into a natural pool edged by a sandy beach, surrounded by bush and high cliffs.
Where Can I Swim? -- In the eastern section of the park rises a massive red-sandstone escarpment that sets the stage for two waterfalls, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. In the Dry, the volume of water may not be all that impressive, but the settings are magical. Both are accessible by four-wheel-drive only, and neither is open in the Wet. At Twin Falls, you must swim or float the last 500m (1,640 ft.) to the base of the falls -- and be warned that saltwater crocodiles have been found in this area.
A Swim in the Falls -- Remember the idyllic pool that Paul Hogan and Linda Koslowski plunged into in Crocodile Dundee? That was Gunlom Falls, 170km (105 miles) south of the Bowali Visitor Centre. A climb to the top rewards you with great views of southern Kakadu. It is generally regarded as croc-free and safe for swimming. Access is by four-wheel-drive; it is cut off in the Wet.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.