Staying safe video
Staying safe in Kakadu
We want you to have a fantastic holiday that’s memorable for all the right reasons. Kakadu is a wild place – here are our tips to help you stay safe!
- Take lots of water with you and drink at least four litres a day
- Protect yourself from the sun with a broad-brimmed hat, long loose clothing and a high factor sunscreen
- Wear sturdy shoes
- During your visit, please always follow directions from park rangers - their directions are for your safety
- Stay on marked tracks and in designated visitor areas - you don’t want to meet the local crocodiles up close!
- Bringing a boat? Saltwater crocodiles can attack people in boats - the smaller the boat the greater the risk.
- Be aware of your own limitations and supervise children
- You won’t have mobile phone coverage in most of the park. Tell a responsible person where you are heading for the day and when you plan to return.
- Some roads in and out of the national park are 4WD only and many sections are steep and narrow and become slippery when wet. Drive carefully and slowly.
- Obey all safety directions, notices and warning signs.
Water safety in Kakadu National Park
Kakadu’s waterways and natural pools are spectacular however they can also be treacherous for swimmers. Some of the waterways are susceptible to flash flooding and rapid currents, and many of the waterways are home to crocodiles. Crocodiles usually hunt by staying submerged and can attack in knee-deep water, so even wading can be dangerous.
Visitors to Kakadu are urged to heed the following warnings in order to enjoy a safe and worry-free visit to this picturesque wonderland.
- It can be dangerous to swim in Kakadu’s waterways and natural pools
- Observe all safety warning signs in the park
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Maintain a safe distance from the waters’ edge
- Be alert to changes in the weather as flash flooding can occur causing dangerously rapid currents
- Be careful when walking around the waterfalls and rock pools as these areas can be very slippery
- Be aware that submerged rocks and parts of trees may pose a severe risk
- Be aware that water in rock pools can be extremely cold and can induce shock, especially on hot days
- Carry a first aid kit with you and always take an adequate supply of water on walks
- Take note of the location of emergency call devices in case someone needs help
- The safest place to swim in Kakadu is in a public or hotel pool, and you should never swim alone.
Beat the heat
Temperatures in the park regularly reach 30°C or more and can exceed 40°C during summer.
Heat exhaustion, dehydration and hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the blood) are very real dangers here.
To avoid heat-related issues while walking in the park:
- Walk only in the cooler parts of the day, avoiding the hottest period between 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm. In summer we strongly recommend not walking after 11.00 am.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat, sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes.
- Carry and drink at least one litre of water per person per hour.
- Don’t consume sports drinks, diet cordials or caffeinated drinks – these can all contribute to dehydration.
- Consider using an electrolyte product (such as Hydralyte or Gastrolyte) to replace lost fluids.
- Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of heatstroke and heat-related illness (see below).
- Eat regular meals, take frequent breaks and eat plenty of healthy snacks, even if you don’t feel hungry.
- Walk with another person at all times.
- Obey all safety directions, notices and warning signs, including any directions from park rangers.
- Stay on marked tracks at all times.
- Do not walk on any tracks that are closed due to the heat.
- If you have any concerns about your health or fitness, avoid physical activity (including walking) in extreme heat.
Recognising heat-related illness
Please familiarise yourself with the symptoms of heat stress, heatstroke and hyponatremia before walking in the national park.
Heat stress and heat stroke
Heat stress occurs when the body can’t cool itself fast enough to maintain a healthy temperature. Heatstroke is an extreme form of heat stress and can be life-threatening.
Potential symptoms are:
- thirst, dry mouth or dry lips
- cold or clammy sweating
- painful muscle spasms
- high body temperature (over 38.5°C)
- altered mental state
- confusion, disorientation or rapid development of unconsciousness
- dry skin
- dry, swollen tongue
- rapid, strong pulse at first, becoming weaker
- fits, seizures or coma.
Hyponatremia is caused by an imbalance of sodium electrolytes in the body, which leads to an inability to regulate water.
Potential symptoms are:
- nausea or vomiting
- lethargy or irritability
- absent or reduced reflexes
Crossing flooded creeks and rivers can be extremely hazardous so obey directions from rangers and heed road closures at all times.
Many visitors to Kakadu may not be familiar with driving on dirt roads. Stay safe on our dirt roads, please drive to your ability and obey speed limits. Remember:
- Plan ahead and obtain a detailed map before you set off
- Drive slowly and cautiously – 80 km/h is too fast in most conditions.
- Avoid soft shoulders in the road
- Allow plenty of space behind the vehicle in front
- Slow down for on-coming traffic
- Keep headlights on during the day to increase visibility
- Lower tyre pressure when driving on rougher roads (check your car rental conditions)
- Watch out for wildlife, pedestrians and other road users
View the Kakadu Access Report.
Northern Territory checklist for a safe driving holiday – English, Italian and German translations.
If you see an injured animal in the park - please notify staff in the Bowali Visitor Centre either in person or by phone on 08 8938 1120.
Be Crocwise: Crocodile Safety for Kakadu
Read and remember this advice about crocodiles before swimming, camping, fishing or boating in Kakadu.
Saltwater crocodiles are dangerous. They have attacked and killed people. They inhabit most areas of water in Kakadu National Park including floodplains, freshwater billabongs, creeks, rivers and coastal areas. Always obey warning signs. If there are no warning signs, it is always best to assume crocodiles are present.
To stay safe around waterways you should be vigilant and cautious and never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. Crocodiles are ambush predators and can cause serious injury or death. You are responsible for you own safety so please follow these guidelines and be Crocwise in crocodile country.
Be Crocwise: Camping
- Ensure you observe all safety signs, and be aware that whenever you are near water in the park, there is a risk of crocs!
- Bring your own water. It is not safe to collect from any waterways.
- Avoid the water’s edge. Children and pets are at particular risk.
- Be aware that crocodiles can stay hidden underwater for long period and can move with great stealth and camouflage so you won’t always see them.
- Camp at least two metres above the high water mark and at least 50 metres from the water’s edge.
- Don’t paddle, clean fish, prepare food or wash at the water’s edge or next to sloping banks. Do you chores at least 50 metres away.
- Never dispose of food scraps or fish offal in the water, around campsites or boat ramps.
- Don’t feed, harass or try to interact with crocodiles – it is extremely dangerous.
- Don’t interfere with crocodile traps. They are set where there is an identified nuisance crocodile.
- Be extra vigilant during the breeding season (November to April) when crocodiles defend a territory or nesting mound and become more aggressive.
- Always report aggressive crocodiles.
Be Crocwise: Fishing and boating
- Crocodiles are known to gather at boat ramps, jetties and launching sites in Kakadu. Take extreme care when launching and retrieving boats and avoid entering the water.
- Stay at least 10m from the water’s edge and a greater distance if the bank is flat and low.
- When fishing from riverbanks, try to fish with an obstacle - such as a rock - in front of you.
- Do not enter the water when fishing.
- Do not stand on logs overhanging the water while fishing or when retrieving lures.
- Be extra vigilant when fishing alone or where a crocodile could approach you from behind.
- Don’t take dogs fishing with you. Their presence may attract crocodiles.
- Crocodiles can attack and take people from boats. The smaller the boat, the greater the risk. Avoid using boats with low sides (gunwales), and remember that all non-powered vessels are prohibited in Kakadu.
- Consider installing elevated safety railings at least 50cm or higher on the stern, gunwales and bow of your boat.
- Don’t ever hang arms, legs or any part of your body out of the water or lean over the edge of a boat. This includes boats near or at the shoreline.
- Do not revive fish in the water using your hands. Release fish using a landing net or by throwing back into the water.
- Crocodiles can lunge at fish and follow fish onto your boat so always use landing nets when retrieving a fish.
- Wear polarising sunglasses to help spot crocodiles near the surface of the water.
- Be extra vigilant at night. Use external-facing lighting when boating or mooring at night and avoid internal lighting where possible.
- When cooking meals on a boat, crocodiles will be attracted by food smells especially at night, have an elevated awareness of crocodiles. Keep spotlighting for crocodiles.
- Cook meals well away from creek mouths or areas where crocodiles may be congregating. For example, creek mouths or gutters at low tide can have large numbers of bait and predator fish. Crocodiles will be in these areas to feed.
- Don’t clean fish while on the water. Clean fish at facilities provided at the boat ramps.
- Clean fish remains off vessels as much as possible.
- Use long handled landing nets.
- Ensure all required safety gear is stowed on the vessel, and always carry a registered and up-to-date EPIRB.
- Carry a satellite phone when boating in coastal and remote areas of the Kakadu’s waterways.
Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodile Myth Busting
- Saltwater crocodiles only live in salt water. False – they can be found more than 200km up river from the coast in freshwater habitats.
- Saltwater crocodiles don’t like fast flowing water. False – crocodiles are often seen in fast flowing water and are able to move through rapids and even surf.
- Saltwater crocodiles don’t like beaches and you’re safe to swim there. False – crocodiles are often seen on beaches.
- Crocodiles do not travel up waterfalls. False – crocodiles can go around a vertical obstacle like a waterfall to reach a pool upstream. The main reason is that young male crocodiles are trying to establish their own territory.
- Crocodiles don’t move around on land much. False – they have been know to travel up to one kilometre on land.
- Crocodiles will not stay long in small water holes. False – they can remain for extended periods in mud holes if necessary.
- A saltwater crocodile has never been seen here so they obviously don’t live here. False – crocodile number are increasing and they’re repopulating areas they would’ve occupied before nearly being wiped out in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
- Crocodiles are less active in the dry season so you’re unlikely to be attacked. False – crocodiles are opportunistic hunters and will take advantage of an easy feed if available.
- Crocodiles can’t open their mouth underwater therefore can’t attack underwater. False – although crocodiles need to have their head above water or be on land to swallow food without taking in water, they can open their mouths underwater to attack their prey.
- Crocodiles are sluggish creatures. False – when charging from the water crocodiles have been measured moving at 12 metres per second.
- You can outwit a crocodile by running from them in a zigzag pattern. False – run as fast as you can in a straight line as crocodiles can only manage short bursts of speed when coming out of the water.
- Crocodiles can swim up to 60km/h. False – crocodiles can swim 10-15km/h on average.
- You are safe to camp beside a river if you have a fire. False –there is no evidence to support this. Always camp 50 metres away from water and at least two metres above the high water mark.
- If you can see the bottom, it’s safe to swim. False – all bodies of water in Kakadu may have crocodiles present.
- You’re safe in the water when launching a boat because boat noise frightens crocodiles. False – crocodiles are very sensitive to sound and vibration, and in most cases this attracts them.
- It’s OK to swim if you don’t stay in too long. False – it takes less than a second to be attacked by a crocodile.
- If you keep a lookout, you will be able to tell if a crocodile is near. False – a crocodile can hold its breath and stay hidden underwater for long periods and are dangerous ambush predators.
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