Corroboree Billabong – the best wetland cruise before Kakadu

Corroboree Billabong Sunset

Our next stop – Corroboree Billabong

It’s hard to believe, but we finally left Darwin. We had initially planned to stay for 10 days, but we ended up extending our stay to 23 days!

The call of adventure was getting stronger with each passing day.

Next stop, Kakadu! But before we got there, we decided to spend a night at Mary River Wilderness Retreat and go on 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 we will encounter 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 gun.

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 as efficient. 

When we arrived at Mary River Wilderness Retreat, the evening was beautiful. I sat in the setting sun, Nell watched Winnie the Pooh, and Marius went to watch a footy game. I enjoyed the smell of eucalyptus that was soaked in the river breeze.

From time to time, a tiny mosquito would fly by. Without the mosquitoes, the evening would have been idyllic.

Lazy morning at Mary River Wilderness Retreat

The next morning, I felt quite lazy. We decided to take it easy before our Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise later in the day. I enjoyed my time reading a book, sipping on coffee, and observing the hawks building a nest in a nearby tree.

Meanwhile, Marius and Nell went for a swim twice. Later, we went for a short walk and ended up surprising a mob of kangaroos – and they gave us a bit of a scare too. Despite that, it was a great experience overall.

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

To put it simply, if you have a bucket list of things to do, you should definitely add a Corroboree Billabong sunset cruise through the wetlands on the Mary River.

During the cruise, we were lucky to spot various species of birds, wild pigs, horses, buffaloes, and of course, crocodiles. One crocodile stood out to us because it had a huge hump on its back, and the tour guide called it “Quasimodo”.

We initially thought the water was a river, but we later found out that it was a massive billabong that stretches for over 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

During our nature walk today, we spotted a white-bellied eagle. We also discovered an interesting fact: there are typically two chicks in each of their nests. However, as the chicks mature, they engage in a fierce competition for dominance, and the stronger bird eventually triumphs by pushing its sibling out of the nest.

White Bellied Sea Eagle
White Bellied Sea Eagle

Firehawks – intelligent arsonists

Our guide informed us that the locals refer to hawks as “firehawks.” These incredibly intelligent birds have developed a unique method of hunting: when they can’t find prey or face stiff competition, they search for a burning piece of wood.

Once they find it, they seize it in their beaks and transport it to another area of the forest to start a new fire. The ensuing chaos and confusion among the fleeing prey make it easier for the hawks to catch their meal.

Corroboree Billabong
Corroboree Billabong

Jacana – the caring father

We also had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of a Jacana, a small bird measuring just 20 cm in length. This amazing creature can walk on lily pads and has the remarkable ability to carry its chicks under its wings, with two on each side.

In the face of danger, the devoted parent can make a quick escape on foot while keeping its offspring safe. We were really impressed watching this courageous bird standing on a lily pad, making eye contact with us as its little ones’ legs dangled from beneath its wings. Nature truly is amazing.

Comb Crested Jacana
Comb Crested Jacana

Ducks family crossing the river

As the sun began to set, we witnessed a beautiful and perilous sight: a group of ducks and their young crossing the river, with lurking crocodiles posing a constant threat. The parents led the way at the front and rear of the group, with the ducklings safely nestled in the middle.

We cheered on each family as they made their way across, and thankfully, all of them made it safely to the other side. This amazing performance takes place there every day!

Rowing Ducks
Rowing Ducks

Going back in the dark

After our cruise, our guide warned us to drive back to our campsite with extra caution, as buffaloes tend to wander onto the road at night. Apparently, there had been a collision a few weeks ago.

We took the warning seriously and drove slowly, making it back without incident. However, just before we reached our destination, we had a close call with a kangaroo that seemed to have a death wish. It was sitting by the side of the road and suddenly leaped in front of our car!

Fortunately, we were able to avoid hitting it at the last moment, and it only grazed our 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 an 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

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