Kakadu and Crocodiles

Tuesday, Aug 04, 2009 at 00:00


“What do crocodiles eat?” one of the French tourists from the front of the boat asked, as the rather large crocodile we had all been watching lazing on the bank swims towards the boat. “French tourists” is the reply from some of the passengers.

As much of Kakadu is near sea level, even when the waters retreat after the wet season, there are still vast areas of wetlands and lagoons in Ramsar listed wetland, which encompasses the entire park. Wetlands are selected as Ramsar sites for the list of Wetlands of International Importance because of ecological, botanical, zoological, limnological or hydrological criteria.Kakadu National Park meets all nine of the criteria for a Ramsar site and has seventeen different wetlands types.

One of the highlights of a visit to Kakadu is to take a tour boat out on Yellow Waters. The sunset and sunrise tours are particularly popular, but we chose a middle of the day option to maximise light for photographing birds and animals. Tours of 1½ or two hours duration can be selected. Bookings are made at Cooinda, where there is ample big rig parking available. A coach takes passengers to the boat departure point.

Yellow Waters is a large permanent wetlands area at the junction of Jim Jim Creek and the South Alligator River. Floating buffalo grass and white snowflake lilies and lilac blue lilies lined the main water coarse, with feral horses wading in the shallow water grazing on the buffalo grass. A few large bright pink Lotus lilies were in bloom. Large white Cattle Egrets were dotted amongst the herd. There are around 3,000 horses in the Kakadu National Park. Buffalo, which used to roam freely, are now rarely seen at Yellow Waters. There is a herd near an Aboriginal community but strays in the Yellow Waters are eradicated.

We headed a little way downstream on the River sighting many birds including Jabiru, Jacana, Brolga, White Egret, Cattle Egret and Greater Egret, a large Snake Necked Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Whistling Kite, Rainbow Bee Eater, Magpie Geese, Sea Eagle, Whistling Ducks, Plumed and Wandering Ducks, Burdekin Ducks and several other species of small Ducks.

We saw around seven large crocodiles up to 4½ metres in length, with the biggest of them being the bull of the area. This large bull crocodile lazed on the banks sleepily posing for the many clicking cameras as the boat came closer and closer. He suddenly slid into the water then swam towards the boat load of people who had distrubed his slumber. Our boat then backtracked upstream and turned into a wide backwater.

The boat we were on was named ANDJIMJIM; the freshwater Panadanus, which gives the name to Jim Jim Creek and Jim Jim Falls which we will visit next.

Our guide explained that Aboriginal women swim under the Pandanus to feel and collect File Snakes. A large crocodile was visible near this Pandanus. The Arafura File Snake is a non venomous water snake which strangles its prey. The name File Snake comes from the rough file like texture of its skin which is very rough to enough the snake to catch and kill fish. Females, being the larger of the sexes, can reach up to 2.5 metres in length.

Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our 2009 Travelogues

Red desert dreaming

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