Gunlom Falls, Kakadu at Night & chilling crocodile story
The next day we were planning to leave Muirella and head to Gunlom Falls, which is located in the Mary River Kakadu region. Before I move to that story let me tell you about Kakadu at Night cruise and the crocodile attack story they told us about.
‘Kakadu at Night’ cruise
In the evening, Marius went on a ‘Night in Kakadu’ boat cruise with an Aboriginal guide.
He was there for three hours throwing spears, playing the didgeridoo, and the last hour he spent on the river watching the sleeping birds and looking for the red eyes of crocodiles.
Before the cruise, there were two interesting talks. First, they talked about the local area, names, and Aboriginal culture. In the second talk done by an Aboriginal ranger, we learned about bush tucker, weaving baskets from pandanus trees and other cultural activities that Aboriginal people must do to survive.
On the river cruise, Marius didn’t manage to meet any salties, but maybe that’s better… The place we chose for camping was in the past a crocodile hunter’s camp and maybe that’s why crocodiles don’t like to stay there.
Saying that I think I should mention there was a fatal attack on a tourist at this spot. Grab a cup of coffee, I’m going to tell you a story.
Fatal crocodile attack story
More than 15 years ago (in 2002) a group of young people came and set up their campsite close to Sandy (Djarradjin) Billabong. They wanted to take a shower in the evening, but that would cost them $5, so they decided to have a swim in the river.
It was already dark so they took out their flashlights, shone them into the water, and didn’t notice any glowing eyes, so one went in the water… and nothing happened to him.
10 minutes passed and all was good, so he decided it was safe and called the rest of the fellow campers. The whole group went into the water and they started to have fun, grabbing each other’s legs and dragging them down.
They made a lot of noise. At one point, one of the men felt something hard hit his hip (it was probably the tail of a crocodile passing by). He got out of the water and grabbed his flashlight.
When he shone it all around he noticed that water was full of red eyes.
This story doesn’t end well (as you probably predicted). The crocodile took one of the women and the rest managed to escape from the water. They were very lucky because they attracted a lot of crocodiles.
The search for a tourist taken by the crocodile has begun. The crocodiles that were in the river were too small, they were looking for an adult, alpha male. A search crew found the salty in a nearby billabong. First, they saw a pair of wide-set eyes and then they noticed that this crocodile was still holding the woman’s body in its teeth…
They had to catch the crocodile as it tasted human meat and could hunt more people in the future.
But how was the hunting done? It had to be at least 3 people to do it. One person in the front of the boat, the other to hold a very strong flashlight to constantly blind the crocodiles, and the last person must throw the harpoon right behind the crocodile’s eyes.
Let’s go back to our story. The crocodile’s reaction to the chase was immediate. He hid under the water and sat there for an hour and eighteen minutes! (police timed it for the coroner).
After that time he swam up to get some air. Rangers were ready and they pulled him ashore and shot him. It is worth mentioning that the person who shoots must wear protective goggles and try not to get too close to the reptile because fragments of tooth fly in the air and there are thousands of bacteria on them that can cause serious illness.
It is said that the injuries made by crocodiles are not often as serious as the infection that follows.
Finally, they still had to recover the body of the tourist. They shoot the harpoon where the crocodile released the victim and they pull the body out.
Ok, who wants to go swimming in the river?
Never swim in rivers in Northern Australia unless signs clearly stated you can
After a few days, we left Yellow Waters and Nourlangie and moved to Gunlom Falls campground. Gunlom Falls, together with Yurmikmik walks, Koolpin Gorge and Gimbat Picnic Area are part of the Mary River Kakadu region. Gunlom Falls campground was our last stop in Kakadu.
To get to Gunlom Falls, we had to drive 37 km on a bumpy, dusty road. We hoped it would be a quiet and secluded place, but we were very surprised to see hundreds of people crowded in a big camping area.
It was the only weak point of this place. We quickly discovered beautiful Gunlom Falls with its plunge pool at the bottom where you can swim. However, that best part was when we went to the rock pools above the falls and we noticed we can swim there as it is too high for crocodiles.
Gunlom rock pools
There are a few rock pools on the top of Gunlom Falls. When you are at the first pool you can sit back and take a really stunning photo with the valley in the background.
It is also possible to walk along with the pool up the hill and find an isolated one just for yourself.
When you walk around Gunlom Falls rock pools be very careful as a slip to the bottom can end up with a fatal injury
Gunlom Falls rock pools are the best infinity pools we have ever seen! We waited until sunset to see the valley at the bottom of the falls in the red glow, and then the sun quickly went down behind the horizon.
Occasionally the rock pools above Gunlom Falls might be closed at the request of the Traditional Owners. Make sure you check it before and respect the signs.
Leaving Kakadu – we will come back again
We are leaving Kakadu National Park with big regrets we have not seen everything and a promise we will come back in the future. During our Kakadu adventure, we have seen a lot but there are still a few items on our bucket list: Koolpin Gorge, Yurmikmik walks, and Twin Falls
We are heading to Katherine tomorrow as I already miss fresh vegetables and fruits. We did not go shopping (except for bread and milk) for 2 weeks and we are currently running low on food. The only supplies still left are pasta and cans.
The worst thing is that we are running out of beer. Lack of beer is especially painful when you have to set a camp in full sun and over 30 degrees.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
The best way is to visit the Kakadu Access Report page. This report is frequently updated. Most of Kakadu attractions will be closed in the wet season and they reopen starting from May.
The closest walks to Gunlom are Yurmikmik walks located 46 km from Gunlom back to the Kakadu Highway. The walks include Boulder Creek Walk, Yurmikmik lookout walk, Motor Car Falls, and Kurrundie Falls. Note you need a permit to walk in Kurrundie Falls (12 km).
The Plunge Pool has a sandy bottom and the water is crystal clear. The only concern you may have is if there are any saltwater crocodiles in the pool.
At the beginning of the season, rangers check for crocodile presence and move them into the deeper parts of Kakadu. If swimming is prohibited there will be a sign in front of the pool and a red type around the entrance. However, if the pool is open for swimming it is entirely your decision to go for it.
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4WD Equipment Checklist
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