Ubirr, Nourlangie and Jim Jim Falls
Kakadu National Park has the largest number of rock paintings in the world. Aboriginal people believe that most of these images were created by their gods. Thanks to them, they know how the world was created and it is also a form of passing rules to their people. Paintings often describe what is good and rewarded, and what bad deeds could bring.
Why do I talk about it? Because today we visited one of the most recognisable places in Kakadu – Ubirr. Ubirr is located 42 km northeast of Jabiru, the town we were currently staying at.
Aboriginal Paintings – Dreamtime Stories
The Ubirr walk took us to several breathtaking Aboriginal art sites and we finally ended up at a stunning lookout over the Nadab floodplains.
Ubirr has a collection of Aboriginal paintings dating back to 50,000 years ago. Mimi’s spirits – tall mythical creatures, were among the first to paint on these rocks. Some of the ancestors painted themselves there as well and these paintings are called ‘Dreamtime stories’.
Paintings on some rocks indicate that it’s a sacred or dangerous place and should be viewed only by the elders.
I noticed that tourists are doomed to only watch Aboriginal cookbooks. Why? Because out of 10 pictures I have seen, 9 were about animals that can be eaten. Usually, it is a Barramundi, sometimes an iguana or a long-necked turtle.
This is officially called ‘the first level of initiation’. Access to higher levels depends on ‘individual progress through ceremonial life’. Animal paintings should also increase the chances of hunting them by connecting with their souls. Ok, I guess I have bored you to death now.
Let me only add one more thing. The best time to visit the Ubirr lookout is at sunset. View over the floodplains, dark forest in the distance and beautiful orange sun, it’s a breathtaking experience.
Merl Campground – the mosquitoes invasion
We decided we would spend the next two days in the Merl campground. Merl is a bush camping with toilet and shower facilities located 100 meters from East Alligator River and close to Cahills Crossing. When we arrived, we were immediately warned there are more than 70 types of mosquitoes in the area. We thought, well, mosquitoes could be found everywhere…
The campground was beautifully located among eucalyptus trees, and the birds were singing loud. Nell and Marius started a fire, although in such heat it was probably not the smartest idea. But the fire had its charm and I understand it.
We are going on another track tomorrow, and for a ranger, sunset talk in the evening. By the way – that’s already the end of civilization. The only shop in the area sells long-term milk and frozen bread. There is no phone reception, electricity or the Internet.
What can we do then? We can relax and watch ‘Dreamtime stories’.
Recommended equipment for Kakadu
Today we went on the most recommended trial – Bardedjilidji. Over the distance of 2.5 km, we experienced a thrilling adventure.
It started with a walk going right next to the river. On the left, a few meters from us, a riverbank and on the right – wetlands with cloudy water. A narrow path in the middle, and plenty of signs around to watch out for saltwater crocodiles.
Well, whoever designed this walk had a good sense of humour… But I have to admit the views were fantastic. Lush, green bush and emerald water flowing in the river.
After some time, unexpectedly, the trail changed and we walked in the tall grasses of gold spinifex. Around us were very old mountains made of sandstone, which was once a cliff coast! Currently, after millions of years of erosion, the rocks turn to have an amazing shape.
The branches of ficus hung everywhere to complete the picture. For a moment I had the impression that we are in Cambodia and not Aussie bush.
We also noticed signs of the presence of Aboriginal people in this area – we noticed rock paintings and a stone that was used as a mortar probably for hundreds of years because it was very deeply carved.
After returning to our camp, we started charging our portable battery using solar power. It took only 2 hours to charge the battery to 100%, but it was noon and the sun was high in the sky.
After lunch, we set off on another trail, this time leading to the monsoon forest with viewpoints on the East Alligator River. Here I have an interesting fact. In Australia, there are no alligators, only crocodiles. But the British did not know about it when they named the river. And now we have a rather confusing naming convention.
We were also lucky enough to spot a crocodile basking in the sand on the other side of the river.
Ubirr Sunset and more Aboriginal Art
The sun was already setting, so we quickly climbed on top of the Ubirr rocks to see the red ball fall behind the forest in the wetlands – what a great spectacle!
Another interesting fact – don’t drink beer or two while you watch the sunset if you plan to drive right after. The police like to set a booze bus on the way back. We were sober, so we heard ‘good night’ and after a short drive was in our bush camp.
After we returned, we sat down by the fire for a while, but the mosquitoes did not let us enjoy it. It was an ‘unforgettable’ night because countless mosquitoes attacked us all night long. We fought bravely, but they bit us mercilessly. Despite our efforts, they kept finding small holes to get to our trailer.
In the morning we packed everything in a great hurry and returned to Jabiru. It turns out that they are spraying mosquitoes from above in the town and the problem is not as serious as outside of the town. Due to the fact that I am allergic to all kinds of venom, we decided that from now on Jabiru will be our base, and we will drive to other attractions from there.
Kakadu is a region of contrasts. Vast plains are separated by unexpectedly high and picturesque ocher-coloured mountains.
Today we went to Nourlangie for more walks. We started from the Nourlangie Rock art site walk which was similarly good as in Ubirr, or maybe even better. We admired more Aboriginal paintings in the dramatic scenery of huge boulders scattered everywhere.
This time we could see scenes from day to day life. How to hunt a kangaroo, dancing and games, a few scary-looking gods or maybe they were warriors. Despite the fact that there were many people around us and it was very hot, we enjoyed every moment of this constantly changing landscape.
Nourlangie Rock is open all year round and is wheelchair accessible.
Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock are the two most famous places in Kakadu National Park to see aboriginal art. There is one more interesting site called Nanguluwurr and we were planning to see it after visiting Yellow Waters.
Later on, we drove to Anbangbang Billabong. From there we could go to see the billabong or go up for a Nawurlandja lookout walk. First, I spent some time taking photos at the billabong that was beautiful with lilies and surrounded by colourful groups of noisy birds – simply magical. Thousands of white lilies covering billabong were really stunning!
In addition, the birds seemed to pose for photos. A couple of times I was tempted to move a little bit closer to the water edge because the scenery was so idyllic, but I guess that’s what the green reptiles were waiting for…
Nawurlandja lookout walk
The last part of the day was scheduled for another amazing walk – Nawurlandja. It was close to sunset so we had to rush a bit but the walk was pretty easy. The last part was going on a flat rock plateau to the end at the lookout where many people gathered already. There evening was beautiful, warm and very calm. It was another good day in Kakadu National Park.
Jim Jim Falls
The next day we got up early, and before 9 am we were ready for Jim Jim Falls adventure – that’s a new record!
Jim Jim Falls is located 100 km from Jabiru. The drive was 40 km on Arnhem Highway and then we turned left for another 60 km on a dirt road. The final part was a narrow, sandy track with some water plunders. It was July so most of the water has dried already.
The car ran smoothly, but we let some air pressure down just in case. The track itself was brilliant, it was meandering through the woodland. In the distance, we could see massive red mountains and we had several streams to cross and one small river along the way. Water crossings are a lot of fun and our family favourite.
Jim Jim Falls Walk
Jim Jim Falls walking track is ‘only’ 900 meters long. We decided to do the trail and then go to the viewpoint because the walk looked so short and we estimated that it wouldn’t take us long to conquer it. We couldn’t be more wrong.
Initially, the trail ran in the shade, along a dry river bed, among beautiful gum trees and this part of the walk was very pleasant. After around 200 meters, the stones began to grow larger and larger as we approached the stream.
At some point, Nell told us that’s it and she has enough. Marius had to carry her further. The walking trail became challenging, but the views were stunning. We had to climb large boulders or slide down on our backs. We were completely wet and even my glasses fogged up.
We sat down in the cool breeze blowing from the gigantic waterfall. There was not much water running, but the high sandstone rock walls look very impressive. We were so happy to be there. What a view, I have never seen such a waterfall in my life!
We were wondering what Jim Jim Falls must look like in the wet season, where hectolitres of water are buzzing with incredible force. The wet season is out of reach due to flooding and the area is only accessible by helicopters. There are organised tours so maybe, one day we fly over to see it.
Nell’s third birthday
The next day we celebrated Nell’s third birthday. Half of the camping crowd already knew it’s her birthday, so every now and then we heard someone singing happy birthday.
Nell got a camera and she loved her present. She walked around and took pictures of everyone. Daddy has a very flattering photo of his neck because Nell couldn’t reach any higher.
I look forward to seeing the Yellow Waters. There is reportedly the largest bird gathering in Kakadu. We’re leaving tomorrow morning, I’m so excited!
Get ready for another talk about birds and crocodiles.
Hey, it’s Kakadu – what else can we talk about?
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
We did not drive to Twin Falls as the track was closed. To get to Twin Falls you have to cross Jim Jim Creek and due to it was early July and the water level was too high rangers decided to keep the track close for a few more weeks.
Twin Falls are amazing and we were really disappointed. However, we will always have a reason to come back.
There is a Barrk Marlam Walk that goes right from the main track. It goes to the top of the falls and it takes 4 to 6 hours to get there. Make sure to take at least 3 litres of water per person to tackle this walk.
Yes, the walk is called Gungkurdal (Twin Falls). It starts from the Twin Falls Car Park and takes approximately 2 hours to complete (including a cruise).
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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