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Organized tours can bust the hassles posed by distance, isolation, and Wet floods in the Top End, and the guides will show and tell you things you almost certainly would not discover on your own. A loop through Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu National Park, and Katherine is a popular route that shows you a lot in a short time.

Reputable companies include AAT Kings (tel. 1300/228 546 in Australia, or 08/8923 6555; www.aatkings.com); Intrepid Connections (tel. 1300/442 183 in Australia, or 03/9277 8444; www.connections.travel); and Adventure Tours (tel. 1800/068 886 in Australia, or 08/8132 8230; www.adventuretours.com.au).

VIP Touring Australia (tel. 08/8947 1211; www.viptouring.com.au) offers luxury organized and tailor-made tours.

Far Out Adventures (tel. 0427/152 288 mobile; www.farout.com.au) runs award-winning tailor-made four-wheel-drive safaris into Kakadu, Darwin, Arnhemland, Litchfield National Park, Katherine, the Kimberley, and more Top End regions. Proprietor-guide Mike Keighley, who has been operating in the Top End for 15 years, will create an adventure to suit your interests, budget, and time restrictions. Accommodations can range from luxury hotels to "under the stars" in Aussie bush swags. Touring with Mike can involve hiking, fishing, meeting or camping with his Aboriginal mates, canoeing, seeing Aboriginal rock art, extras such as scenic flights, and swimming under (croc-free) waterfalls. Mike is one of a select group of operators with Australia's Advanced Eco Tour Accreditation and Savannah Guide status, and has a great knowledge of the Top End's geography, Aboriginal culture, and ecology. Fun and personal, his trips are accompanied by good wine (sometimes in such places as a bird-filled lagoon at sunset) and "bush gourmet" meals. Mike also runs what he calls -- for want of a better name -- "Out of the Blue" trips, where solo travelers can join him on trips to relatively unchartered areas. Costs vary, but a private 3-day tour to Kakadu for two people would cost around A$3,000, depending on the time of year and inclusions. You can travel with Mike in his four-wheel-drive vehicle or you can "tag along" for a lower cost in your own. Check the website for details of upcoming trips and costs.

Lord's Kakadu & Arnhemland Safaris (tel. 08/8948 2200; www.lords-safaris.com) is based in Jabiru and operates charter tours throughout Kakadu and Arnhemland. Owner Sab Lord was born on a buffalo station in Kakadu before it was a national park and has a strong rapport with local Aborigines. His small-group four-wheel-drive tours, which can be tailor-made, visit the Injalak Hill rock-painting sites in Arnhemland and the Injalak Arts Centre at Oenpelli and have exclusive access to the Minkinj Valley. Day tours to Arnhemland cost A$195 for adults and A$155 for children under 14 from Jabiru, or A$230 adults and A$185 for kids from Darwin. They operate May to October.

Peregrine Adventures (tel. 1300/791 485; www.peregrineadventures.com) runs environmentally and culturally sensitive small-group holidays. Its 7-day Top End tour, Kakadu, Wetlands & Gorges, leaves from Darwin and visits Litchfield National Park, Kakadu, the Ubirr rock painting site, Yellow Water wetlands, and Jim Jim and Twin Falls. It costs A$2,390 per person.


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.