Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Explore the Great Outdoors in Kakadu in the Northern Territory, Australia


This travel post is written by Jasmine who blogs at Scissors Paper Stone. She travelled to the Northern Territory in Australia with her husband and her petite travellers, K (5 years) and J (8 years) in June 2014. 

This holiday is suitable for families who enjoy bonding over road trips, outdoor adventures and a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

When planning a trip to Australia, families often head straight to the cities such as Melbourne and Sydney but if you are looking for an Australian holiday experience like no other, you will want to visit the Northern Territory (NT).

To get there, fly into Darwin which is the capital city of the Northern Territory (NT). Less than 5 hours away from Singapore, it is the ideal destination to explore natural rock formations, spot green tree ants and get up close and personal with reptiles of every kind. 

We had planned a 7 day itinerary that enabled us to spend some time in Darwin over the weekend before we made a road trip to Kakadu where we stayed 3 nights. After which, we returned to Darwin before heading home to Singapore. To plan your trip, you can download maps of kakadu here.

This was to be my second trip to Darwin and Kakadu and you can find out more about my first trip in my travel scrapbook postIn this post, I will focus on our time in Kakadu as well as tips for anyone considering a self-drive holiday there.

TIPS FOR DRIVING TO KAKADU

If you are planning to visit Kakadu, do note that there are areas where your phone may not have any network connection. So do take extra precautions. 

1. Head out with a full tank of fuel. There are a few pump stations along the way where you can top up your tank if you so need, but it is best to be prepared before you set off.
2. Ensure that you have sufficient water for everyone. You can never have too much water. Freezing the water into ice is a great way of keeping the water cold as it will melt during the long drive there. 
3. Bring sunblock and apply if necessary - the sun can be scorching.
4. Bring a shawl or a shade to drape over the window so as to block out the sun if needed.
5. Remember to bring along sunglasses for the kids.   
6. I like to bring a sweet treat such as Jelly Belly candy for dull moments.
7. Audio stories are great for long car rides so you might want to download a couple before you set on your trip.
8. Bring a couple of snacks just in case hunger strikes.
9. Download the maps that you will need onto your phone so that even if you don't have any connection to the phone networks, the GPS chip in your phone will display your location. This will enable you to track how far you are from your destination.
10. Plan to drive in the daytime as many roads will not have street lamps. Also, be careful of life stock or wildlife that tend to wander onto the roads at night.
11. Satellite phones are available for hire and will come in handy in the case of an emergency where your cell phones may have no connectivity.
12. Road trains (up to 53.5m in length) frequently travel on these roads so take extra care when overtaking them. 

OUR TRIP TO KAKADU

Using a map and a GPS, the journey to Kakadu was relatively smooth and an easy drive. Driving from Darwin to Kakadu takes approximately 3 hours. so we stopped midway for lunch at the Corroboree Park Tavern.

1. Corroboree Park Tavern


There are many taverns that you can stop at along the way for the necessary toilet break. We chose to stop at the Corroboree Park Tavern where the kids were delighted to make friends with two huge asian water buffalos named Jack and Jill. Apparently asian water buffalos were hunted from 1885-1980 to reduce their numbers and the damage that they caused. The only natural predator that feeds on them is the large saltwater crocodile.

My son also spotted an Emu who seemed happy to pose in pictures with the kids. It was a great place to stretch their feet and fill up our tummies.

2. Mamukala Wetlands





Just before reaching our lodge, we decided to stop at the Mamukala Wetlands. That's what we love about self-drive holidays, having the freedom to stop whenever we want. It was a short walk to the viewing point and a great place to spot various birds in their natural habitat so I do recommend a quick stop if you have time.

3. Gagudju Cooinda Lodge





Soon, we had reached our home for our time at Gagudja Cooinda Lodge. The lodge is made out of a number of chalets and we chose a family room which had 1 queen sized bed and 2 single beds which was perfect for our family of 4. There was an adjoining toilet and a kettle and fridge as well. 

There is a caravan park located there too for those who might prefer the caravan experience. To cool off, we brought the kids for a dip in the pool when we first arrived. It was very cold and we spotted some bugs in the pool much to the delight of my boys. 

When we got back to the room, the kids were about to shower when they caught sight of a frog in the bathroom. Needless to say, there were many screams which made our stay all the more exciting. In the morning, the frog was gone but the kids will remember the frog in the shower for a while yet. 

Most of our meals were enjoyed at the Barra Bistro but we brought along cup noodles too which the kids slurped up happily. There is also a small convenience store where you can purchase amenities but I would advise you to stock up in Darwin so you have all that you need. 

The reason we chose this lodge is because it is closeby to the jetty where the Yellow Water Cruise sets off from. You should also make time to visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre which is located just 2km from the lodge. Learn all about aboriginal culture and the stories that were passed from generation to generation as they cared for their land.

4. Yellow Water Cruise


If I were to name the top reason for heading out to Kakadu, the Yellow Water Cruise would likely be it. It is a ideal way to be introduced to the birdlife while floating in the quiet waters. Kakadu is in fact, home to a third of Australian's bird species.

Despite the early start, we chose the sunrise cruise because the views are truly stunning. It can be chilly in the morning so do remember to pack a light jacket and long pants for the kids. To help the kids spot the birds, I had brought along kid binoculars that I had purchased from the Singapore Science Centre. These were very handy and kept them busy and entertained.


Before heading out on the cruise, you might want to download the free kakadu bird app which will help your kids familiarise themselves with the different birds even before you get there. You can listen to bird calls and read about their unique features. 

The ride lasted around 2 hours but my kids managed to stay engaged throughout. If your kids are younger, you might want to bring along some drawing or reading materials to keep them quiet during the cruise which will hopefully make your experience and those around you, more pleasant.

5. Ubirr



On our second day, we had planned to visit Ubirr where we could tour the aboriginal art and also catch the sun setting on Ubirr. There is an entry fee for persons over the age of 16 and we purchased the tickets at one of the information centres while driving in but you can also purchase it online or at the places listed here.

Given the rocky path, I wasn't sure if the kids would be able to climb up to the top of Ubirr but they surprised me by fearlessly traipsing up the uneven rocks. Younger kids might need a little help but it the climb isn't too steep.

Once we were at the top, we found a nice quiet spot and sat down to a simple picnic of grapes and cheese & crackers as we waited for the sun to set. Having been there once, I thought it might be a scenic spot for a lesson in dot painting so I brought some materials and the kids happily dotted away as we watched the sun slowly descending into the horizon.

6. Pubs



Soon it was time to make the drive back to Darwin. During the drive back, we stopped at a different tavern  where we met Fred the 1.6m freshwater crocodile. There were interesting facts on the signs around the enclosure and we found out that the temperature at which crocodile eggs are kept will determine the sex of the baby croc. If the eggs were stored at 31.6 degrees celsius, it would be a male and if it was hotter or colder than that, the baby crocodile would be a female.

7. Window on the Wetlands



On our journey to Kakadu, we had missed the entrance to the Window on the Wetlands visitor centre so we decided to stop in on our return trip and I am glad we did. Entry is free and is open from 8.00am to 5.30pm. The facility is air-conditioned and is a great place to introduce kids to termite mounds, wildlife and it provides excellent views of the floodplains.


As a family, this was a really special bonding trip, we played card games in the evening and sang songs during the long car ride. When in Kakadu, we had limited internet connection so our kids had our full attention. It was only a few days but it was a good chance to unplug and connect with the people that matter to us. Cos I guess, that's the whole point of travelling with the kids, isn't it?

We had also toyed with the idea of renting a caravan for that leg of the trip but due to our unfamiliarity with caravans and the terrain, we decided to rent a car instead. Perhaps when the kids are older, we will head back for a different kind of adventure. If you have rented a caravan in NT, I would love to hear about your experience. Otherwise, if you have any questions about holidaying in Kakadu or Darwin, feel free to leave me a question and I will do my best to help.

2 comments:

  1. What an interesting and different Australia experience! Tho I must say the one picture that caught my attention was... cup noodles! haha. Definitely comfort food while on the move! Thanks for sharing -- I'll definitely bookmark this for a visit to NT one day.

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  2. Such beautiful memories and I'm so happy that you got to go back and share the wonderful NT experience with the kids!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

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