Re: RFI - Kakadu Accommodations

Subject: Re: RFI - Kakadu Accommodations
From: Andrew Taylor <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 18:06:25 +1000 (EST)
On Tue, 16 Jun 1998, Alexandra Appleman wrote:
> ... however I managed to see the white
> lined honeyeater and chestnut quilled rock pigeon in the vicinity of
> Nourlangie, despite the constant chatter of tour groups and dust from coaches.
> ... does anyone else lament the changing of Kakadu from outback gem of the 
> 1980's
> into an  environmental theme park of the 1990's?

Alexandra asked for direct replies but this is mainly a trip report so
I've sent it to birding-aus.  People from the NT will tell you tourists
see the worst of Kakadu.  No doubt there is more than a little truth
in this, but it is easy even without local knowledge to get away from
the crowds.

I was in Kakadu a few weeks ago and had a morning to myself and decided to
try the Barrk Sandstone Walk over Nourlangie Rock. The pre-dawn drive from
Jabiru gave me good views of Brush-tailed Phascogale, Spotted Nightjar,
Bush-Stone-Curlew and a Diamond Dove dozing on the road.

At dawn the Nourlangie Rock car park was empty.  Distant White-Lined
Honeyeaters called in the fragments of monsoon forest at the base of
the rock.  I didn't linger near the galleries of rock art.  I moved
quietly up the trail hoping to catch a lingering Black Wallaroo unawares.
These shy and elusive Kakadu endemics are little known because they
inhabit the rugged sandstone of the escarpments.  Occasionally they
are seen in the early morning here.

The Barrk trail leaves the well-worn tourist walk at the rock base for
a scramble up a wet-season creek.  Atop the first waterfall, you have
views sweeping from the escarpment, over the Nourlangie creek system
and the South Alligator floodplains to the massive cliffs which front
Nourlangie Rock.  An Australian Hobby flew past.

Rockhole Frogs (Litoria meiriana) skittered around the edges of some
rock pools.  They are one of 4 frog species endemic to the sandstone of
the Top End, all found at Nourlangie Rock.  Unlike most frogs they are
active through the day and through the dry season.

Near the top of the creek a Banded Fruit Dove called from a dark cluster
of fig trees.  The Barrk walk then takes you through the sandstone and
spinifex.  I searched unsuccessfully for White-throated Grass-wren and
I've since read they don't occur at Nourlangie.  A Sandstone Shrike-Thrush
in full voice and in plain view provided some consolation as did several
interesting grasshopper species amid the spinifex.

A group of Variegated Fairy-wrens from the beautiful dulcis race welcomed
me to the creek which takes you back down off the rock.  Nearby a pair of
White-lined Honeyeaters were feeding in a flowering Northern Grevillea.
I've heard this species every time I've been at Nourlangie Rock but this
was the first time I've had good views.

After crossing the rock, the Barrk walk then follows the base of the
rock for 8km or so back around to your starting point.  After a few kms
you come to the less visited Nanguluwurr rock art gallery.  An excellent
excuse for a rest.  The remaining kms were alive with birds, I suspect
birds perhaps because its where the woodland meets the sandstone slope.

A Black-breasted Kite soared past the immense cliffs that front Nourlangie
Rock as I neared my starting point.  A Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeon
loafed in the shade of the toilet block oblivious to the car park now
full of coaches and tour vehicles.

Several thousand people visit the Nourlangie Rock rock art galleries
each day during the dry season.  I'm sure the wonder of these paintings
is diminished for many because of the press of visitors.  But close by
you can do a 12km walk littered with endemic species and spectacular
views and without seeing another person.  I'm sure there are many other
possibilities in Kakadu a little further off the beaten track.

Alexandra mentioned Nourlangie Rock being closed until 8am, I haven't
noticed any sign in quite a few visits including several before 8am so
either I'm particularly unobservant or its no longer the case.

One facet of Kakadu that doesn't get mentioned is the fish.  The few
places you can swim (e.g. Gunlom or Gubarra Pools) are crystal clear
(in the dry) and rich with fish species.  Next time I hope to remember
my facemask and a fish book.

Andrew Taylor

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