Corroboree Billabong – the best wetland cruise before Kakadu

Corroboree Billabong Sunset

Corroboree Billabong – our next stop

It is hard to believe, but we finally left Darwin. We planned to be there for 10 days, but extended it to 23! 

The adventure was calling louder and louder every passing day. 

Kakadu, here we come! But before we got there, we stopped for a night at Mary River Wilderness Retreat to go for a wetland boat cruise at Corroboree Billabong the next day.

Fog Dam Conservation Area

On the way to Mary River, we also visited Fog Dam – a beautiful place in the wetlands, where we could observe birds and wild buffaloes (there are a lot of them here). The air smelled of mud and damp and personally, I was delighted with these empty, green spaces. I hope there will be even more of them in Kakadu National Park.

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Corroboree Billabong
Corroboree Billabong

We wanted to go for a walk because it was so beautiful, but unfortunately, it was forbidden because of the large crocodiles living nearby. There were two billabongs on both sides of the road and we saw crocodile traps set there. That finally convinced us – no walks! 

Harry (check our Adelaide River cruise) mentioned yesterday that there is an effective repellent for crocodiles. I really want to have repellent for salties and started asking what it was. Harry after a few minutes finally showed me his 38 caliber pistol.

Corroboree Billabong - Saltie
Corroboree Billabong – Saltie

I agree this repellant would be very effective. Unfortunately, we don’t have it and I suspect my fish harpoon would not work. 

When we arrived at Mary River Wilderness Retreat the evening was beautiful. I was sitting in the setting sun, Nell was watching Winnie the Pooh, and Marius went to watch a footy game. I enjoyed the smell of eucalyptus soaked in the river breeze. From time to time a microscopic mosquito would fly by. Without mosquitos, this evening would be idyllic.

Lazy morning at Mary River Wilderness Retreat

The next morning I was very lazy. We had a relaxing day before we headed to the Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise. I enjoyed my time reading a book, drinking a cup of coffee, and watching hawks. I noticed that they are currently building a nest in the tree nearby our camp.

Marius and Nell went swimming twice. Then we went for a short walk. We scared a mob of kangaroos – and they scared us too. And overall it was great.

Corroboree Billabong Wetlands
Corroboree Billabong Wetlands

Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise

The main reason why we stayed at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat was to go for a sunset boat cruise on the Mary River meandering waters. The place is called Corroboree Billabong and similarly to Yellow Waters in Kakadu National Park offers beautiful scenery without too many tourists.

Corroboree Billabong Beauty
Corroboree Billabong Beauty

Let me put it this way. If you have a list of what you want to do before you kick the bucket, you should definitely add a Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise through the wetlands on Mary River to that list. 

We saw quite a few species of birds, wild pigs, horses, buffaloes and of course crocodiles. One looked interesting as it had a huge hump on its back and they call it “Quasimodo”. 

The water looked like a river, but it turned out to be a very large billabong that stretches for 30 km!

Jabiru – the majestic black stork

Now let’s say a few words about birds. First, the icon of wetlands is ​​’Jabiru’. It is a large bird from a stork family with a navy blue neck, head, and red legs. The females have amber eyes, and the males are black. Beautiful, majestic birds. They wander in the wetlands and catch frogs, fish, and even snakes.


White-bellied eagle

We also saw the white-bellied eagle. An interesting fact that we learned today is that there are always two chicks in each nest. As they grow, they fight for dominance and the stronger one wins and throws the other chick out of the nest.

White Bellied Sea Eagle
White Bellied Sea Eagle

Firehawks – intelligent arsonists

We also were told that the ubiquitous hawks are called by the locals ‘firehawks’. These clever and very intelligent birds when they cannot catch anything to eat, or when there is too much competition, simply look for a piece of burning wood. Once they find it they grab it in their beak and fly to set another piece of forest on fire, scaring and catching the escaping prey.

Corroboree Billabong
Corroboree Billabong

Jacana – the caring father

We also had an opportunity to see a bird called Jacana. This tiny 20 cm bird walks on lily pads and holds its chicks under its wings, two on each side. In case of danger, the caring dad is able to escape with them on foot. This one was very brave and he looked phenomenal standing on a lily pad, looking us straight in the eyes, and his kids’ little legs dangled from under his wings. Nature is amazing.

Comb Crested Jacana
Comb Crested Jacana

Ducks family crossing the river

Just before the sunset, we saw the ducks with their offspring crossing the river. It was dangerous because of the lurking crocodiles. Parents were in the front and at the back, and ducklings in the middle. We cheered on every passing family. Everyone succeeded. This amazing performance takes place there every day!

Rowing Ducks
Rowing Ducks

Going back in the dark

After the cruise, we heard from the guide we had to drive back very carefully as buffaloes like to walk onto the road in the dark and someone bumped into them a few weeks ago. 

We drove slowly and the journey passed without any problems. Only just before turning to our campsite, we almost ran into a kangaroo with suicidal thoughts. He was sitting by the road and suddenly jumped right in front of the hood of the car! We managed to avoid it at the last moment, and it only touched the car with its tail.

Travel Spiced Life

We try not to drive after sunset or in dark. At sunset, animals are very active and it is easy for accidents.

The Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise was a magnificent experience, and that was even before we entered Kakadu. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is it safe to go with kids on Corroboree Billabong wetland cruise?

It is safe but children have to be supervised. Saltwater crocodiles are very dangerous and can jump high, so all limbs have to be inside the boat all the time. Standing up is not allowed as someone can fall into the water and that can be fatal.

How far is it from Mary River Wilderness Retreat to Corroboree Billabong?

It is only 43 km which is a 30 minutes drive. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier for the boat cruise. The final 20 km is a dirt road.

What is better Corroboree Billabong or Yellow Waters?

They are both beautiful, and we encourage everyone to see both of them. 

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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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