Landscapes

Kakadu's landscapes change dramatically from one end of the park to the other.

  • Coast and tidal flats

    The northern part of Kakadu stretches all the way up to the sea. This is where you'll find our estuaries and tidal flats.

    • Most of the coastline is lined with mangrove forests and is difficult to get to - if you are an adventurous 4WDer, try a trip to the beaches at West Alligator Head.

      Further inland, these tidal areas are dominated by mangrove swamps and samphire flats, with pockets of monsoon rainforest forming at places such as Manngarre, where freshwater springs occur along the river banks.

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  • Stone country

    Our soaring escarpment is just stunning. The sandstone cliffs of the Arnhem Land Plateau run along the eastern edge of the park, up to 300 metres high in some places.

    • Ubirr and Nourlangie are great places to explore this type of landscape, with impressive views over the lush floodplains and woodlands below.

      The top of the plateau is a harsh, dry place. Water drains away quickly and soil is scarce. Along the escarpment, deep gorges house tall monsoon forests - a vital refuge for animals in the drier months.

      The best way to see Kakadu's amazing stone country is by air or by the walks at Ubirr and Nourlangie.

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  • Savanna woodlands, the lowlands

    Travelling anywhere in Kakadu, you cannot help noticing the lowlands - they make up nearly 80 per cent of the park.

    • The Bowali walking track from Jabiru and the Gun-Gardun walk are good places to explore Kakadu's woodlands.

      You will see eucalypts and tall grasses at first glance, but look closer - there are a huge variety of plants and animals in our woodlands.

      Birdlife abounds, especially along the creeks and rivers. Honeyeaters and parrots are particularly common. The evening is announced by the raucous call of the blue-winged kookaburra, while at night the distinctive 'woof-woof' of the barking owl can often be heard.

      The fine-featured agile wallaby is often seen feeding at the roadside in the north of the park. Dingoes are also often seen crossing roads. The Gould's goanna, with its yellow-green throat, is sometimes seen stalking through the woodlands. Sadly this native reptile has reduced in numbers significantly, due to eating cane toads, and are rarely seen these days. On the forest floor skinks scuttle through the leaf litter looking for insects.

      Keep a lookout for termite mounds. These giant mounds stand up to and over six metres high, and are made of mud and termite saliva. They are incredibly solid - somewhere between the hardness of baked pottery and concrete. Nests vary depending on their age and the species of termite, but some are thought to last up to 60 years.

      See our walks page for some great lowlands experiences.

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  • Wetlands

    Wetlands such as Yellow Water and Mamukala have water all year round, making them a crucial sanctuary for birdlife in the drier months.

    • In contrast, the surrounding floodplains are dry for most of the year but succumb to dramatic flooding when the monsoon storms arrive.

      Paperbark forests fringe the floodplains - ideal nesting sites for wetland birds such as the jabiru and green pygmy goose. The paperbarks also provide a safe haven for agile wallabies, who leave the safety of the trees to drink and graze at the water's edge.

      Kakadu's wetlands are visited each tropical summer by about 30 species of migratory birds, coming from as far away as Siberia, China and Japan.

      As the floodplains dry up at the end of each year, northern snake-necked turtles bury themselves in mud. The larger pig-nosed turtles are more secretive; it was recent Aboriginal rock art paintings that first suggested to scientists that these animals occurred in the area.

      The best way to see the wetlands is on a boat cruise.

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  • Southern hills and ridges

    This landscape is common in the south of Kakadu, and can be easily seen from the top of Gunlom Falls and on the Yurmikmik Walks.

    • Rugged ridges of ancient volcanic rocks are separated by woodland areas. Look out for the striking salmon gum - a tree that sheds its old white bark to expose a beautiful salmon-coloured bark beneath.

      Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as the antilopine wallaby (often confused with the red kangaroo) and the black-breasted buzzard (a kite that is easily identified because of the white 'bulls-eyes' in its wings). Some of this area's rarer animals are more elusive, such as the endangered Gouldian finch, the vulnerable red goshawk, and nocturnal animals such as the Kakadu dunnart.

      Check out some of the walks and waterfalls you can see in this area.

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