Both the park entrances -- the northern station on the Arnhem Highway used by visitors from Darwin and the southern station on the Kakadu Highway for visitors from Katherine -- hand out free visitor guides with maps. In the Dry they also issue a timetable of free ranger-guided bushwalks, art-site talks, and slide shows taking place that week. A A$25 park entry fee applies for all visitors over 16.
Park permits can be purchased at Tourism Top End in Darwin or at the Bowali Visitor Centre (tel. 08/8938 1120), on the Kakadu Highway, 5km (3 miles) from Jabiru, 100km (62 miles) from the northern entry station, and 131km (81 miles) from the southern entry station. Permits are also available through other outlets; check the website, www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu, for more information. An online ticketing system is expected to be introduced in 2012, so check the website.
The Bowali Visitor Centre is an attractive, environmentally friendly Outback-style building, which shows a program of 1-hour videos on the park's natural history and Aboriginal culture, stocks maps and park notes, has a library and displays, and includes a gift shop and a cafe. Information officers are on hand to help you plan your visit. (They provide tour times, costs, and telephone numbers, but do not make bookings.) You may want to spend a good hour or so here, more to see a video. It is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
You can also book tours and get information at Kakadu Tours and Travel, Shop 6, Tasman Plaza, Jabiru, NT 0886 (tel. 08/8979 2548; www.kakadutours.com.au).
Before you arrive, you can find information on Kakadu, and book tours at the Tourism Top End information center in Darwin. You can also contact the rangers at the park directly (tel. 08/8938 1120).
Never Smile at a You-Know-What!
The Aboriginal Gagudju people of the Top End have long worshiped a giant crocodile called Ginga, but the way white Australians go on about these reptilian relics of a primeval age, you'd think they worshiped them, too. There is scarcely a soul in the Northern Territory who will not regale you with his or her personal croc story, and each one will be more outrageous than the last.
Aussies may be good at pulling your leg with tall tales, but when they warn you not to swim in crocodile country, they're deadly serious. After all, crocodiles are good at pulling your leg, too -- literally. Here are some tips:
- There are two kinds of crocodile in Australia: the highly dangerous and enormously powerful saltwater or "estuarine" croc; and the "harmless" freshwater croc, which will attack only if threatened or accidentally stood on. Saltwater crocs can and do swim in the ocean, but they live in fresh water.
- Don't swim in any waterway, swimming hole, or waterfall unless you have been specifically told it is safe. Take advice only from someone such as a recognized tour operator or a park ranger. You can never be sure where crocodiles lurk from year to year, because during every Wet season crocs head upriver to breed, and they spread out over a wide flooded area. As the floodwaters subside, they are trapped in whatever water they happen to be in at the time -- so what was a safe swimming hole last Dry season might not be croc-free this year.
- Never stand on or walk along a riverbank, and stand well back when fishing. A 6m (20-ft.) croc can be 2 1/2 centimeters (1 in.) beneath the surface of that muddy water yet remain invisible. It moves fast, so you won't see it until you're in its jaws.
- Make your campsite and clean your fish at least 25m (82 ft.) from the bank.
And if you do come face to face with a crocodile? There is little you can do. Just don't get into this situation in the first place!
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.