Wild Top End - 6 days
6 day environmental journey to Kakadu and Mary River, Australia's Northern Territory
Australia’s tropical outback – The Top End – is a wild land where Brolgas fly across the sunset, huge crocodiles laze on riverbanks and sandstone shimmers with the world’s oldest art.
Feel the timeless peace of a landscape full of animals and very few people, wake to the manic calls of flying-foxes and cockatoos, look out across a billabong filled with water-lilies, walk on rocks created 600 million years ago.
Wild Top End is a special journey created for curious adventurers who love wild places and wild creatures.
Get to know Kakadu and Mary River National Parks including some of the lesser-known walks and rock art sites. Learn about Top End wildlife, and help protect them.
In 2016 we have two tours happening in the ideal season in the north - (dates may change by a day or two, contact us before booking flights)
WILD TOP END 2016-1: 16 to 21 August, 2016
WILD TOP END 2016-2: 25 to 30 August, 2016
- Tour Leader: your guide will be one of our Level 4 (highest level) Echidna Walkabout Wildlife Guides who has also completed an intensive "Kakadu Knowledge for Tour Guides" course overseen by the Australian National Parks Service and by Local Aboriginal People.
- Duration: 6 days, 5 nights
- Grade/Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - for anyone who is reasonably active
- Price: (AUD) ADULT: $3300 CHILD: $2475 Single use rooming: add $600 (NB: accommodation upgrades are available upon request)
- Includes: wildlife guidance throughout, 5 nights accommodation, all meals from lunch Day 1 to lunch Day 6, air conditioned transport, wetlands cruise on Mary River.
- Accommodation - Anbinik Kakadu (first 3 nights): twin/double share, in simple but elegant architect designed bungalows with external personal-use bathroom with shower, vanity and full-flush toilet - upgrades available to ensuited rooms for an additional cost - please contact us for details
- Accommodation - Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge (last 2 nights): twin/double share ensuited rooms
- NOT included: alcoholic beverages, flights into and out of Darwin before and after the tour
- Optional Add-on: Aboriginal guided boat cruise on the East Alligator River (see Day 3 for more information)
- Tour starts: Darwin city early morning on Day 1. Returns: to Darwin city late afternoon Day 6 (may connect with some outbound flights)
- Minimum pax: 6 adults Maximum pax: 10 adults
We are happy to arrange an introduction to Darwin and the Top End prior to your tour. There are lots of fantastic widlife watching opportunities in and around Darwin and the town itself has much to offer if you know who to ask and where to look. If you'd like some ideas please contact us.
After an early pick up from your Darwin accommodation we’ll head eastwards into the tropical outback. The road from Darwin to Jabiru is sealed for its entire length and makes for very easy traveling. On the way we’ll stop at a number of beautiful locations including famous Fogg Dam (part of the Adelaide River floodplain) where we’ll take our first walk into a monsoon forest and view some of fantastic birdlife of the Northern Territory. Then we’ll get on our way crossing a number of the huge rivers that drain the tropical wilderness including the mighty Mary River where we’ll stop for lunch and possibly see our first crocodile. We enter Kakadu National Park and stop at Mamukala Wetland and take a walk to get our first taste of the wonders of Kakadu. We’ll end the day in the small town of Jabiru and move into our accommodation. (staying here 3 nights)
Accommodation: Anbinik Jabiru (tonight and 2 more nights = 3 nights total). Our price includes wonderful Double or Twin Share accommodation in Bush Bungalows with external bathrooms (personal use). You can upgrade to a private cabin (en-suite) – contact us for more information.
Meals: Lunch and Dinner
Potential wildlife sightings today: Fogg Dam and Mamukala Wetlands are famed myriad species of birdlife which can include - Little Kingfisher, Brolga Crane, Glossy Ibis, Magpie Goose, Black-necked Stork (Jabiru), and many more including finches, herons, raptors, honeyeaters. We may see crocodiles, pythons, lizards, spiders. Vegetation varies from savannah woodlands to monsoon rainforest and wetlands.
Day 2 – Nourlangie Kakadu
Aboriginal Heritage, black kangaroos, red winged parrots, sunset at Nawurlandja
The Nourlangie region will be our first access to the magnificent Arnhem Land escarpment and its unique wildlife. It also helps us to understand the enormous importance of Kakadu to the Aboriginal People. Ancient sandstone ranges rise directly out of the Kakadu floodplains in a landscape that epitomises the Dreamtime in Australia. We’ll visit a number of places in this region including the Nanguluwur Rock Art site, Anbangbang Billabong and Nourlangie Rock Art site – this last site contains some of the most powerful Aboriginal paintings in Australia including a depiction of the Lightning Man. All the names in Kakadu rise from Aboriginal languages. You will begin to feel the incredible power of this landscape.
After a picnic lunch we'll head back Anbinik for a siesta (or a swim in the pool) during the heat of the afternoon before heading back out to the bush to watch the sunset over the Kakadu escarpment from Nawurlandja lookout. Twilight often heralds the flight of tens of thousands of fruit bats winging their way silently through the tropical dusk - an incredible sight. We then return to Jabiru for dinner
Accommodation: Anbinik Jabiru
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Potential wildlife sightings today: our walk to Nanguluwur early this morning can yield an incredible array of bush birds ranging from tiny finches to the large Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. Rare Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeons may come to drink at a small spring near the rock art site and we may see Partridge Pigeons and Red-winged Parrots. At Nourlangie we often see Emerald Doves and sometimes Sandsone Shrike-thrush. A highlight of this locaton may be the sighting of Black Wallaroos, a localised mid-size kangaroo unique to this region. Anbangbang Billabong is host to a myriad of waterbirds, many species of water lilies and Estuarine Crocodiles (in 2014 we watched a crocodile hunt and kill a pelican at this location). The fruit bat fly-out over Nawurlandja in the evening has to be seen to be believed.
Day 3 - Tropical Rivers
Morning at Ubirr – East Alligator River. Afternoon at Iligadjarr Wetlands - South Alligator River
Many who visit Ubirr come away as different people. It is possibly the most beautiful place in Kakadu with some of the most compelling wilderness landscapes on earth. It has a presence that takes humans back to their beginnings. Nearby the tidal (saltwater) section of the East Alligator River bounds the vast Aboriginal lands of Arnhem Land – to go any further requires special permission. But on the Kakadu side there is a wide variety of activities to choose from including gentle walks near the river, views of elaborate Aboriginal Rock Art sites or a climb to the top of Ubirr Rock with its stunning views across Kakadu. We'll also take the Bardedjilidji Sandstone walk which take us deep into some of Kakadu's most remarkable geological formations where we learn how the Kakadu Escarpment was formed millions of years ago. During the heat of the day we’ll return to Jabiru followed by a rest then a refreshing swim in the pool before heading back out in the afternoon to the nearby Iligadjarr Wetlands for a walk in a tropical svannah woodland beside the freshwater floodplain of the South Alligator River.
Accommodation: Anbinik Jabiru (last night here)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Potential wildlife sightings today: The Ubirr region is one of the few places where it is possible to see the dainty Short-eared Rock-wallaby. There are also occasional sightings of the Black Wallaroo. Estuarine Crocodiles are common in the East Alligator River and surrounding billabongs. Some special birds are the Blue-winged Kookaburra, Brolga, Pheasant Coucal and Peaceful Dove amongst many others. The Iligadjarr Wetlands are a total contrast to Ubirr and on a very different river system. We walk through a tropical savannah woodland at the head of the South Alligator River floodplain. Water birds and raptors abound on the surrounding wetlands, Rainbow Bee-eaters hover overhead, Jabiru Storks (Black-necked storks) and Brolga Cranes are often seen with occasional sightings of water monitors, pythons and crocodiles (from a safe distance). This walk can be one of the wildlife highlights of our Kakadu trip.
Optional tour today: Aboriginal guided boat tour out into the wilderness of the East Alligator River. This 2.5 hour tour is remarkable; it follows the river upstream beside brilliantly coloured sandstone escarpments and provides a full commentary by a local Aboriginal guide about the significance of Arnhem Land to Aboriginal People. The highlight of the trip is the opportunity to take a walk on the east side of the river onto Aboriginal land - normally this would require a special permit so this is a very special experience. The tour costs approximately $80 for an adult with discounts for children. For more information please check out Guluyambi Cultural Cruise
Day 4 - Into the vast Mary River Catchment
Jabiru to Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge
Today we backtrack westward out of Kakadu to Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge deep inside Mary River National Park. Our route takes us firstly along the paved Kakadu Highway then onto the dirt roads heading north into Mary River National Park. On route we’ll stop at a number of special little places, visited by few, but very beautiful. We sometimes see Dingoes and the elusive Antilopine Kangaroo. We’ll finish up at Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge, check in, cool off in the pool, then take a peaceful walk through Jimmy Creek rainforest right beside the Lodge. Here you’ll see the huge nesting mounds of Scrub Fowl – a bird the size of a chicken that builds nests up to 3 metres high! The grounds of the Lodge abound with the beautiful little Agile Wallaby. Cockatoos and parrots of various species abound. Overnight at Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge (there is a swimming pool at the lodge and a saloon bar). In the afternoon you will experience some of the ultimate magic of the Top End with a special driving and walking tour beside two magnificent billabongs deep in the bush on the vast Opium Creek private reserve.
Accommodation: Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge (tonight and tomorrow night = 2 nights total)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Potential wildlife sightings today: Agile wallabies abound in the Mary River catchment and this is one of the best places to see the largest kangaroo in the Top End - the Antilopine Kangaroo which moves around in small family groups through the endless savannah woodlands. Dingoes regularly roam the savannah searching out prey and carrion. Opium Creek is a refuge for the Australian Bustard and the Brolga. The Rose-crowned Fruit-dove is often heard and occassionally seen in the monsoon forest and the Pied Imperial-pigeon often bursts out of the forests canopies. Hundreds - and sometimes thousands - of Little Corellas fill the trees during the heat of the day and come down to feed and drink in the evening. One of the most unusual and spectacular birds in this area is Channel-billed cuckoo, a very large cuckoo which is most often see hurtling across the sky at high speed.
Day 5 - Mary River National Park
Crocodiles in the Wild in a wetland wilderness
The Mary River is famous for its abundant wildlife including some of the largest crocodiles in the world. These tough reptiles have outlived the dinosaurs. The Freshwater Crocodile is reclusive and will usually flee from humans. On the other hand the Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodile can be an unpredictable and dangerous creature. Both are magnificent and regal animal and, if treated with respect, they can be seen at very close quarters. This morning we can see crocodiles in their natural environment as we travel in a specially constructed boat to view them – and lots of other wildlife – on the Mary River. With luck you will see numerous large Saltwater Crocodiles and some smaller Freshwater Crocodiles. You’ll also see an unbelievable variety of birds including White-bellied Sea Eagles - the Mary River is famed for its abundance of this raptor which is often seen nesting beside the waterways. Lunch will be a picnic on high land overlooking the vast Mary River catchment. Late today we head as far north as we can go where the mighty Mary River becomes a vast floodplain 15 kilometres from the sea. In this remote location - surrounded by wildlife of all kinds - we enjoy our final sunset looking out over the waters of the Mary River. Huge Saltwater crocodiles often swim lazily (and safely) nearby. As the night rises we head back to the Lodge for dinner.
Accommodation: Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Potential wildlife sightings today: The Mary River is home to just about every tropical bird in Australia and, as much of the catchment is relatively undisturbed, we often see large numbers of individual species. Some specials are: finches of many types including the increasingly rare Gouldian Finch, numerous raptors including the Black-breasted Buzzard and some very special owls ie. Rufous and Barking Owls, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Falcons (Hobby, Brown, Black and Kestrel). Birds of the waterways include: Little and Azure Kingfisher, Black Bittern, all the egrets, Glossy Ibis, Jabiru Stork, Brolga and much much more. The Mary is one of the prime places on earth to see crocodiles of two species plus we may see turtles, fish and other water species
Day 6 - The wonders of Bird Billabong - Point Stuart to Darwin
Today after an early breakfast breakfast we head out into the bush before sunrise for our last special wildlife walk at Bird Billabong in the Mary River National Park. This large wetland - unlike any others we have visited - is nestled beside Mt Bundy Range, an ancient granite outcrop in the middle of the Mary River catchment. Thousands of birds move to this billabong as the surrounding country dries after the monsoon season. Every conceivable species of bird move across the water is huge multi-species skenes fishing and squabbling. The surrounding savannah is home to hundreds of wallabies that appear at every turn of the walking track. Raptors regularly visit in search of prey, creating havoc as they fly over the wetland. This is one of the wildlife highlights of the Top End. After a relaxing morning walk we’ll depart to Darwin having lunch on en-route. You will be dropped at your accommodation in Darwin OR we can arrange transfers to Darwin Airport if you are flying out today.
Accommodation: not included (by others if required in Darwin)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Potential wildlife sightings today: even if you have only a mild passing or no interest in birds, Bird Billabong is spectacular. You cannot help but be impressed. This wetland often contains huge numbers of whistling ducks (both Plumed and Wandering), Spoonbills, Ibis, Magpie Geese (and Pygmy Geese) amongst may others. Jabiru often appear. Great Bowerbirds build their bowers in the nearby grasslands and are often seen and heard around the billabong. Near the granite range we often see the elusive Black-tailed Treecreeper and have also seen the northern form of the Southern Boobook owl. A variety of finches are also seen in the grasslands