Kakadu National Park

Table of contents

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.

Beat the heat

Temperatures regularly reach 30 degrees Celsius or more at Kakadu. Walk only in the cooler parts of the day. In summer we strongly recommend you walk only in the early morning before 11.00 am.

The hottest part of the day at Kakadu is between 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm.

Drive safely

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. 

Injured wildlife

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

  • Be alert when fishing on riverbanks. When fishing from the bank fish five metres from the water’s edge. Try to fish with an obstacle such as a rock in front of you.
  • Do not enter the water when fishing.
  • Don’t stand on logs overhanging the water while fishing or when retrieving lures.
  • Be extra vigilant when fishing alone or where a croc can approach you from behind.
  • Don’t take dogs fishing with you. Their presence may attract crocs.
  • Crocodiles can attack and take people from boats. The smaller the boat the greater the risk. Don’t use or sleep in boats with low sides.
  • All non-powered vessels are prohibited in Kakadu.
  • Take extreme care when launching and retrieving boats. Crocodiles are known to gather at boat ramps, jettys and launching sites. Avoid entering the water.
  • Don’t ever hang arms, legs or any part of your body out of or lean over the edge of a boat when on the water. This includes boats near or at the shoreline.
  • Crocodiles can lunge at and can 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.
  • If night fishing illuminate the outside of your boat to help see what is around you and be extra vigilant.
  • Do not clean fish while on the water.

Be Crocwise: Swimming

  • Kakadu has Crocodile Management Zones that we monitor regularly during the visitor season for the presence of crocodiles in order to minimise risk to humans.
  • In the designated Crocodile Management Zone you enter the water at your own risk.
  • Crocodile warning signs are not found everywhere.
  • Even in the Crocodile Management Zones, you should always be cautious around the water. Crocodiles can move back into these areas at any time.
  • Crocodiles are not found up in the escarpments high above waterfalls.

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 crocdiles 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.