“Have you heard there’s a killer on the loose?” our tour guide asked us with a broad grin, as he twirled his golden brown dreadlocks. “A crocodile you mean?” I’d heard enough stories of giant, man-eating crocs lounging freely in the Top End.
“Nah, not those poor buggers, they’ve just got bad PR. It’s Australia’s yellow, dirty fellow – the sun.”
Welcome to Country
And so, with the fear of dehydration firmly planted in our minds, we sat in our 4WD, clutching our water bottles tightly to our chests, and headed into the ancient Wulna Country – home to the original inhabitants of Australia.
Graham, an Aboriginal Elder and his shy daughter Selena, performed the ancient Cul Cul or ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony, formally inviting us to walk on their sacred ground.
They told us of the laws us of the land and the culture of going ‘walkabout’ in the bush, which is followed to this day. But the highlight of that morning was listening to the haunting, yet weirdly upbeat, sounds of the didgeridoo.
Snacking in the marshes
Stocked with impossibly succulent oranges, we set on a cruise across the marshy Corroboree billabong (a lake). A collective sigh floated across the boat when we spotted hundreds of rebellious pink lotuses standing proud against a muddy backdrop of brown and green.
The lotuses didn’t just look good, they tasted delicious too. The seeds of these sacred flowers were rather addictive and we soon found ourselves tearing the petals and feasting on the insides.
If you’re a bird lover and know the difference between a Jabiru, Ibis and a Brolga, billabongs like this are a feathered heaven. The rest of us kept our eyes on the water, trying to spot the resting eyes of a lurking croc.
Next stop: Adventure
Almost half the size of Switzerland, Kakadu National Park is one of Australia’s most iconic heritage sites, teeming with salt-water crocs, ancient cave art and all the red dust adventure you dreamed of.
We drove for miles, nodding our heads happily to ‘G’Day G’Day’, a song that is in-your-face Aussie. Our guide, unable to drive because of the loud rumbling in our stomachs, pulled over for lunch by the gently gurgling Mary River. We peeled, sliced and sprinkled away to create an enviable spread – with ingredients sourced from the back of our van!
Congratulating ourselves on surviving Day 1 of the Outback, we tucked ourselves into our tents, only to be awoken by curious wallabies at the break of dawn.
The explorer’s way
Early next morning, we huffed and puffed and trekked to ‘Nature’s blackboard’. That’s what I’d call Ubirr, an ancient art site, where stories were scribbled on rocks with a mixture of animal fat and red sand. Some told tales of the evil white man, others warned children of the perils of stealing.
What we saw next however, was a spectacle straight out of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. We walked through a field of vertical rocks…until our guide told us they were really huge termite-made mounds – and no ordinary ones at that – these constructions came with their own chimneys, tunnels and even nurseries.
Time for a dip
What better way to end the Adventure than by cooling off at a quiet pool, deep in the Bush?
Our last stop was Litchfield National Park, home to some of the most refreshing watering holes in Australia, complete with little fish nibbling at your feet, giving you a free spa in the woods. We swam in the Buley rock pools, before ending with a picture-perfect dip under the frothy Wangi Falls.
Want to see the best of the Top End? Check out our award-winning small group adventure tours.
Written by Nainaa R Rajpaal in partnership with World Nomads.