Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Darwin - Day 3 - Fogg Dam and Kakadu National Park & Signs

Joining Tom for the Signs meme

21 Sept 2021 - Had breakfast, then checked out of the hotel, as we would only be returning 3 days later. The tour guide picked up the group of 7 at 7am.

Our first stop was at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, about 70km from Darwin. We drove along the dam wall and stopped at a couple of lookouts to sight local birds. A beautiful and quiet spot, lots of waterlilies and a we saw mainly a lot of ducks. At one of the lookouts we were told by people there they had spotted a crocodile but we didn't see it while we were there.

The Humpty Doo Rice trail - was an experiment in the 1950's by a joint Australian-American company - Territory Rice Ltd - to irrigate the plain of the Adelaide River to produce a commercial crop of rice to supply to Asia!

Fogg Dam was then built by the Royal Air Force Airfield constructions squad to provide water for the Humpty Doo rice project. By 1959, the project which was a disaster was abandoned and Fogg Dam became a bird protection reserve, and the land was given back to the Northern Territory government.

Murals with local birds at Fogg Dam- birds of Lilied shallows and birds of grassed shallows

Next we stopped for coffee at the quirky Corroboree Park Tavern, and we also bought something to have for lunch later on. The tavern on the Arnhem Highway is halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. 

They also have accommodation, and they are know for keeping 2 crocodiles - Brutus the salty (salt water crocodile), famous for an encounter with a chain saw in 2016, and Fred the freshy (the not so dangerous fresh water crocodile), a couple of buffaloes (introduced from Asia) as well as a huge pig!

The signs for Fred and Brutus the crocodiles and a tour bus for the over 50's 😆 

Inside the bar area, a crocodile skin on the wall, white cockatoos, buffaloes and one fo the crocs

About 1,20h later we arrived at the Mamukala Wetlands, considered to be one of the best birdwatching areas in the Kakadu National Park. (Time to start planning your next trip David 😉).

The park has an area of 20,000 sq kms (7722 sq mi), and is home to one third of Australia’s bird species, many of them not found anywhere else in the world.

The observation platform has murals illustrating the seasonal changes through the year. The area has a large number of magpie geese (usually at the end of August), jacanas, cormorants, purple swamp hens, finches and kingfishers that congregate in this billabong.

We learned about the 6 Aboriginal seasons

Plumed whistling ducks, pied heron, cormorant, black necked stork (jabiru)

After a 20min drive we reached Jabiru - a small mining town within the Kakadu National Park, with about 1000 inhabitants, originally built for the staff of the Ranger Uranium Mine, which was operated by Energy Resources of Australia. Uranium was discovered here in 1969 and the mine opened in 1980. Mining operation have officially ceased in January 2021 and the area is undergoing a recovery to eventually be converted into an Indigenous run tourist town.

The town has a lot of services - eating places, pool, sports oval, golf course, tourist accommodation (the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is famous for its crocodile shape), and an aerodrome from where the scenic flights over Kakadu depart.

Jabiru sign, Mercure Crocodile Hotel, jabirus in the park

We stopped for lunch at the man-made lake by the park which had been planned to be used for water sports by the residents/mine workers, but apparently a few months after its opening a salt water crocodile moved in.... so no more water sports!

Park and lake in Jabiru, where we sat down for lunch

After lunch we visited the Aboriginal-run Marrawuddi Gallery, that sells artworks created by Aboriginal artists living in Kakadu and surrounding region. They had books, clothing, bags, souvenirs, wall art... lots of beautiful things, but quite expensive (for me anyway!). The only souvenir I bought were two fridge magnets.  There was a huge Aboriginal mural at the back of the gallery, which I'll post sometime. No photos were permitted inside.

 Next stop about 30min later is Ubirr - one of Kakadu’s most visited spots.            

Stories about law and behaviour are told via paintings, and some are from the time the Indigenous people first encountered Europeans in the 17th century.   

Aboriginal Rock Art

A 1 km circular track takes visitors past Aboriginal rock art sites, until you reach a steep 250mt climb to a rocky but stunning lookout with 360 degree views of Arnhem Land and the Nadab floodplain.    
Quite a strenuous climb for the unfit, and a couple of people in our group opted to stay below.
When we reached the top, we spent a short while sitting in silence, feeling at peace observing the natural wonders around us...
It would have been amazing to see the sunset from there, but we had to carry on. 
 I think the photos don't do it justice, it's just a phenomenal place!

At the top of Ubirr mountain

A few minutes drive away was Cahills Crossing - on the East alligator river, a notorious and the only car river crossing into Arnhem Land, where about 16 thousand people live, about 12 thousand of them Aboriginal. There is a viewing platform from where people can watch crocodiles, best seen at high tide. There have been 5 fatalities at this spot, and it's an extremely dangerous spot to drive across, because even though it's 50km from the river mouth, the high tide can reach over 6mt high. On one side is a barrier made with stone boulders to stop cars being washed away... On the other side of the river a lone young fisherman was throwing rocks at a crocodile and our guide was getting quite upset and shouted at him to stop it.

Signs at Cahills Crossing

The Alligator River crossing with boulders on one side and fishermen

The Alligator River, was named by Captain Phillip Parker King in the 1800's as he believed the crocodiles infesting the swampy river were alligators. There is an East/West and South Alligator river.

It was time to get going as we still  had an hour's drive ahead to our accommodation for the following two nights - Cooinda Lodge (meaning: happy place), where we arrived at 7pm. 

Just before reaching our accommodation we crossed a barrier of fire in the fields, which was a bit scary for all except the guide who seemed unruffled by it! The controlled fires are part of the park's management and a traditional practice by the Aboriginal, done in cooler weather to prevent wildfires during the hot summers, and to encourage biodiversity to recover.  Our guide told us these fires rarely get out of hand.

Upon arrival and check-in,  dropped our bags at the cabin, and I just had time to make a quick call to Jose from Jenny's phone (the only one who had Telstra coverage) to announce our arrival in Kakadu, and then we went to dinner as the kitchen closed at 8,30pm.

Cooinda Lodge

The bedroom of the cabins

The outdoor eating area by the restaurants, my dinner - fried calarmari, and a friendly dingo that lives at the lodge

I later discovered two Telstra phone booths near the restaurant (since August 2021 all calls to local and national fixed or mobile phones have become free), so after dinner I called Jose with an update of our day, and I did the same the following day.

It was an early night for us as we would have to be ready at the entry of the lodge at 6am for a sunrise cruise...

Map of our itinerary from Darwin to Kakadu National Park:

It was a long day, but exciting day, we covered about 412km , in a 12 hour period with the various stops.


  1. Hello Sami, what a beautiful journey and trip you've made again and also a lot of wonderful sights and you have the impressions very nicely displayed on your blog with also very interesting information. I will never get as far as this and my legcar is more with breakdowns so I often need a service check. ;) But then it is so nice that I can also travel this way just reading and looking at you and other blog friends. Those Aboriginal rocks look very impressive indeed. But I also really liked the other photos. Where you had commented on my writings I also left a comment for you should you come back again. For now I wish you happy days and I will come back when I have some more time. Greetings from south/Holland in the Netherlands.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting Tine and glad you enjoyed the virtual trip. Hope to you see you back :)

  2. You've rekindled so many memories of our visit to NT. We climbed and saw the same views from the flat rock at Kakadu. We must have been younger and fitter. The art was so interesting. Great post Sami. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Andrew. Not easy to climb that steep rock, I realized I'm quite unfit, lol

  3. ...Sami, you have quite an array of colorful signs for this beautiful nature area. Thanks for sharing them, I hope that you are enjoying your week.

  4. You captured some nice signs, Sami. I read the story about Brutus and the chainsaw. He's lucky Brutus didn't take his arm too. Thanks for sharing and have a nice week.

    1. It is a funny story, glad the guy didn't get his arm taken off too! thanks Bill

  5. Beautiful and so are you. Spring is such a wonderful time.

    Have a fabulous day and rest of the week, Sami. ♥

    1. Thanks Sandee. I love Spring, my favourite season. Enjoy the rest of the week too Sandee

  6. Dearest Sami,
    That was an incredible trip for true nature lovers and those fit enough to climb!
    Alligator or crocodile, both are ugly animals and rather dangerous.
    Did find out where the Dutch name Arnhem originated from. My Pieter lived very close to Arnhem, the capital of his Province of Gelderland, just above Limburg where I'm from. So it was named after the ship of the captain, who actually hailed from Arnhem. Interesting story!
    Arnhem is also from the WWII movie a Bridge too far... A famous region in history due to its rivers.
    That river crossing with the high tide coming in is a tricky spot!
    Those 'controlled' wildfires are another scary thing...
    Glad you made it back home safe and managed to climb to the top. Such a view is very hard to capture on camera; it never is the same as being there in person!

    1. Amazing for nature lovers indeed. Yes, crocs and alligators are scary.
      That's right, the Arnhem name comes from Dutch, as the guide also explained. The views are just not the same on camera for sure.
      Thanks Mariette.

  7. Quite a journey. The dingo is a surprise.

    1. Thanks William. The dingo was a "pet" in the lodge, walked around the outdoor eating area sniffing people. The staff feed it, as one of the girls told me.

  8. Essa imensidão é característica intrínseca da Austrália.

    1. Sim, kms e kms entre locais...obrigada Pedro

  9. Humpty Doo.... now this sure made me laugh, Sami!
    Ohhhh it all looks so beautiful!
    And Brutus sure made me laugh, too, he throws tantrums?! I´d like to see that ... from afar. Mia did that once, too, when she could not get a kid´s trolley. Wished back then too, I was not near. People thought that girl on the floor yelling was mine!... Huh ;-)
    Eww, the chainsaw was still running?!
    And now I know... we only saw a freshie back then! Luckily.

    Haha, soon I´ll be allowed on that bus, too.

    I remember that crocodile-shaped hotel, but I think I only saw it in a leaflet.

    Sad you were not allowed to take pics at the Gallery. It would be advertisement for free, no?

    Wow, it was so... simple and un-informative back then. Or maybe we didn´t find everything.
    Oh! I have a huge hat like that, too, but it´s blue-white. Cute pic of you!

    Yes, those tides are weird!

    We sometimes have docus on TV (huhhh, aweasome, huh) and sometimes it´s on dumb tourists who ingnore the warnings and get killed by salties. How dumb can one be.

    Cooinda Lodge... ohhhhh... sweet!

    The fires would scare me, too, but great they have that practice. (scary!!!)

    Wow. The cabin looks good. I wonder if Kingsway Caravan Park still has "usable" ones. Last t ime was.. hilarious, to say the least.

    Ohhh, the Dingo! And a sunrise cruise, sounds wonderful!

    Keep it all coming, please, Sami.
    This was wonderful, I´ll tell Ingo to stop by for sure!
    We just saw a snap of this, so, wow, I really want to come back (hahaha), and I do it this way :-)
    Thank you!

    1. Humpty Doo, near Fogg Dam is the town where the standing crocodile is. I actually took a photo while driving by (a bit shaky)...I think you had posted one recently.
      Brutus doesn't seem too friendly, lol. Not sure which one I photographed (above), I know was I could see, the other was hiding or under water.
      We have dumb Australians too who try to be funny with crocodiles and come second best! Just after we arrived from Darwin, there was a tour guide!!! on the Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile tours who put his arm out and a small croc bit him. Luckily it was a small one, otherwise he would have been pulled down into the water. We are told on river cruises not to put our arms out, so why did a tour guide do it? Silly.
      The dingo was sweet, just smelling the people around the outdoor eating area. He's a pet there.

  10. Replies
    1. Obrigada Francisco, realmente e muito bonito :)

  11. Long ago we visited Australia and the Kakadu Parc too. The name has been stored in my memory. I found it such a funny name. Kak means shit in Dutch....

    1. That would be funny Marianne. It's actually a misinterpretation of the name the Aboriginal people gave the region.

  12. I am flattered that you thought of me, Sami. It seems like a fabulous expedition! I have toyed with the idea of Darwin when I have visited Australia, but I always come in the winter, or early spring at the latest, since I don't handle heat and humidity well. That seems to be a permanent feature of the the north of Australia, and much as the birding there would be phenomenal, and other aspects of nature too, I doubt that I will ever make it. In the meantime, I am enjoying it through your eyes.

    1. Thanks David, I'm sure you would love it! Darwin and surrounds are best visited during May to October, the cooler and dry season. The rest of the time it's too humid and wet. When we went the weather was actually quite reasonable with temperatures up to 32C and not much humidity and I loved wearing summer clothes when in Perth the weather was still quite cool, specially at night.

    2. The ideal temperature range for me is about nineteen to twenty-three. Anything over thirty is awful!

  13. It seems each day you experience something different and Day 3 was all about crocs. Humpty Doo sounds like some American trying a get rich quick scheme.

    I read about Brutus and his battle with the chain saw. Didn't seem to deter him much. Loved all the signs, especially those warning about the crocs.

    That place you stayed for two nights looks clean and quite roomy. I look forward to the next stage of your trip, dear.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. There will be plenty of crocs in the next episode :)
      Brutus is a real brute, quite scary.
      Cooinda Lodge was a very comfortable place.

  14. What a terrific post! You look so happy on top of the mountain and I love all the wildlife and birds you saw. What a nice spot you stayed in. This looks like a beautiful trip and a wonderful time.

    1. Thanks Jeanie, it was a dream holiday for sure, so much better than I imagined. I felt happy to have been able to climb that mountain and it was so peaceful at the top.

  15. HI Sami, do you know that we became lifetime members of the Jabiru Sports Club! In 1995 we asked a ranger if there is any pub. He replied: "For alcohol?" No, just for a beer! He: Maybe you can ask in the Sports Club, but knock on the back door ;-) Members only, so we signed in and got our membership!

    1. That was funny Ingo. They are still very strict with alcohol in the Northern Territory. You need to present your ID to buy alcohol in a bottle shop, and if you have a conviction for drink driving they won't sell it to you. At Cooinda lodge one older guy in our group asked for a double whiskey at the bar, and was told he could buy 2 single whiskeys but she needed to add water to them. He said, "no way are you putting water in my whiskey" lol.

  16. Salty/freshy... this is something I learned in Australia! Never game much thought to crocodiles before :-D

    1. Thanks Zhu. They are different, the salty is aggressive and will kill, while the freshie is smaller, has a narrow mouth, not aggressive and will generally not attack unless disturbed. We don't get them here in the Perth sea waters, so I never gave them much thought either 😁

  17. Such a stunning place to visit, Sami! Thank you for sharing it with me ... I have vicariously travelled today.

    1. Thanks Ju-Lyn, glad you enjoyed the trip :)

  18. Oh dear Sami! your photo on top of the Ubirr Mountain is just magical! It reminds me of glorious photos of safaris and savannahs on National Geographic! Sending you hugs and Happy New Week!

    1. Thanks Stevenson, Ubirr Mountain was magical.
      Enjoy your week too :)


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