Kakadu

With the Dry Season now well and truly underway, a weekend pilgrimage to Kakadu is as popular in Darwin as a market fresh mango smoothie for breakfast (NB: VERY popular).

Fortunately, our recent trip to the National Park was during the week so we were able to beat most of the crowds that flock here for a smorgasbord of Lion King-like landscapes, crystal-clear swimming holes, ancient Aboriginal rock art, magical sunsets and star gazing at the Milky Way.

About a three hour drive from Darwin, our base for discovering Kakadu was Cooinda Lodge, where I can honestly say I experienced some of the best service of my life!

Our Cooinda stay kicked off with the Yellow Waters Sunrise Cruise, which not surprisingly delivered an epic sunrise that cast an incredible golden light over everything – including the crocodiles! And there were plenty of those, as well as the most gorgeous water lilies and an abundance of bird life.

Out trip continued with a walk through Nourlangie Rock, home to some of Kakadu’s most iconic Aboriginal rock art, followed by sunset at the nearby Nawurlandja Lookout. This was the perfect spot to watch the colours of the mammoth Nourlangie Rock change with the sky. It was also a deeply spiritual experience with Nawurlandja an official sacred site home to burial grounds of the local Aborigianal people who lived there for 20,000 years.

The highlight of the trip was definitely Maguk Gorge. While the popular swimming hole wasn’t open to the public just yet, we were lucky enough to receive an escorted tour by local Park ranges to the top of the waterfall where we had several plunge pools and waterfalls to ourselves all afternoon!

It’s no wonder #KakadaDope became the official hashtag of our little road trip!

 

Girls Weekend at Cicada Lodge

A luxury weekend escape and a wet and wild adventure don’t normally go hand in hand but that’s what we got from our recent girls weekend at Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park.

A four hour drive from Darwin, Nitmiluk is normally packed with tourists during the Top End’s “Dry Season” (aka May-October) but it’s during the Wet Season where you’ll have way more fun.

Think: Mother Nature’s version of a water park.

100 per cent owned by the local Jawoyn people, Cicada Lodge is a luxury lodge perched above Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, where the ancient dreamtime culture of the Jawoyn collide with contemporary comforts.

Indigenous paintings from local artists line the walls of the elegant rooms, which all contain private balconies that open out to the tranquil bush surroundings.

Our girls weekend kicks off with a River Cruise run by Nitmiluk Tours.

The two-hour cruise takes in two of the Gorges (there are 13 all up!) and you change boats at one point where the water is not high enough to connect the gorges. The benefit of doing this tour during the Wet Season (Nov-April) is dotted along the 12km maze of waterways you’ll find dozens of mini waterfalls springing out from hidden holes on the 70m high rock face.

After our river cruise we return to Cicada Lodge in time for sunset canapés and cocktails by the pool before a three course dinner (complete with personalised menus!) inspired by local bush tucker.

Yes, crocodile meat makes an appearance while other dishes we had included a damper-style tomato and blue cheese ciabatta, braised kangaroo served with a truffle, parmesan and pomme puree, pan fried chicken breast served with asparagus, pea risotto and roast vine tomatoes and red velvet brownie served with cream cheese Chantilly and red chocolate ice-cream. Yuuuuuuuuum!

Tip: make sure you get the “Katherine Cooler” cocktail, as the name suggests it’s the perfect refreshment after a hot day on the river.

After falling asleep to the pitter-patter of rain on our roof, we wake up to find everything fresh and dewy. Speaking of fresh, our breakfast comes with some of the best OJ you’ll ever taste as well as seasonal fruit, yoghurt and a DIY-style croissant with meat and cheese.

Once we’ve had breakfast we hit the walking track early for the 90min hike to the Southern Rockhole – a waterfall and swimming hole located around 4km from the Lodge.

For those who don’t like to walk you can also book a ferry through the Visitor Centre (we booked the ferry back it’s $12 p/p) however, the hike itself is relatively easy with the track well-marked.

There’s just one thing. In the Wet Season, that track we mentioned? It actually resembles more of a stream in some areas especially if you go after a heavy overnight downpour like we did.

But getting down and dirty is what coming to Nitmiluk in the Wet Season is all about. So get your shoes wet, splash in puddles, soak in the lush green landscapes and embrace the adventure.

Those creek crossings are all worth it when you get to ‘Pat’s Lookout’ which is a short walk from the Southern Rockhole track turnoff. The views over the Gorge from here are simply breathtaking. Sit, stand and take it all in before snapping that Insta pic that will make all your friends jealous.

Not to be outdone, the Southern Rockhole is equally as spectacular. Powered by the rain, a huge torrent of water cascades into the pool below which you will practically have to yourself as crowds are non-existent this time of year.

With so much water around you, it’s hard to believe in the Dry Season the Rockhole is empty!

After the short ferry ride back to the Visitor Centre we squeeze in one last swim in Cicada’s luxurious pool and take in the incredible views before it’s time to say goodbye, or as the Jawoyn prefer to say “Bobo”, which means “Goodbye, see you soon”.

Yes, yes you will.

More info: http://www.cicadalodge.com.au/

**Check road and parks closures during the Wet Season before you leave here.