Yellow Waters – breathtaking Kakadu wetlands

Yellow Waters

Yellow Waters, Sandy Billabong and Nanguluwur

Yellow Waters is located in the centre of Kakadu National Park. It is a must go and see destination for anyone visiting the park. It is famous for its vast wetlands that provide a home to birds, fish and saltwater crocodiles.

We always compare Yellow Waters to Corroboree Billabong in terms they both are huge wetlands and they both offer morning, noon and evening cruises.

What we discovered soon is that Yellow Waters is a very commercial place. In the middle of the season, Cooinda Lodge is packed with tourists and it is difficult to find a spot if you did not pre-book it.

But, hey, let’s not diminish the beautiness of Yellow Waters as it is amazing. 

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Comb Crested Jacana
Comb Crested Jacana

Arriving to Yellow Waters

After leaving Jabiru it was only 57 km to Yellow Waters. We stayed in Cooinda Lodge which is a tourist centre of operation in Yellow Waters.

On the way, we stopped for a short walk at Mirrai Lookout. It was a steep climb, but in the end, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of northern Kakadu.

It was a long day and I had to get up early, well before sunrise. This time I only booked myself for a sunrise cruise at Yellow Waters billabong. Marius and Nell could enjoy a longer sleep.

Yellow Waters Morning Cruise

At 6.45 in the morning, the boat was already on the water and everybody could admire the quickly brightening sky and first shy rays of the sun. 

A team of geese began to fly around the boat as for them it was time for breakfast. All the birds were very active. Everything looked phenomenal in the pink and orange glow of the rising sun.

Yellow Waters Morning Cruise
Yellow Waters Morning Cruise

In front of us, a crocodile swam for a moment and positioned itself as if it was just swimming into the sun. We were moving slowly and majestically, firstly to the billabong, and then to the river.

Yellow Waters Morning Cruise
Yellow Waters Morning Cruise

Everyone was shooting photos like crazy. The guide told us the previous day they had witnessed a 5-meter long crocodile drag a wild pig under the water. 

We were lucky and didn’t have this kind of attraction. I spotted a jacana, a beautiful fluffy creature. We also saw a pair of Jabiru on the top of the tree building a nest and another one who caught a fish for dinner.

Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise

In the evening we booked for the sunset cruise and this time we all went. I was pumped after the morning cruise and was wondering what we could expect this time.

Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise
Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise

In the evening we encountered wild horses grazing near the water. It was interesting as they were ‘ridden’ by birds that cleaned their backs of insects.

Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise
Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise

The next thing we saw, was the sun hiding very quickly behind the treetops, everything turned grey all around and in a moment we almost heard a splash when the sun fell below the horizon. Then we had a quick run to the car, trying to avoid very ‘friendly’ mosquitoes and that was it. We were leaving Yellow Waters.

Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise
Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise

Cooinda Lodge – too busy for us

Yellow Waters is beautiful, however, the place is very busy and popular. We also noticed that the prices are also much higher than in Jabiru, both for accommodation and a cruise on the wetlands. Next time we will camp at Mardukal Campground that is very close to Yellow Waters.

Yellow Waters
Yellow Waters – when we went on a walk this is what we saw

Muirella Campground

We left Yellow Waters and set our camp at Muirella Campground (Djarradjin). We were planning to stay two nights at Muirella. Our camp was set in the eucalyptus forest, 150 meters from the crocodile-infested river and it was quiet and peaceful – this is what we needed. 

Another reason we stayed at Muirella was that Marius was booked for a ‘Kakadu at Night’ boat cruise that was departing from the Muirella boat ramp (you can read about it here).

Around Muirella Campground
Around Muirella Campground

Sandy Billabong

First, in the morning, we went on a 4WD trail to Sandy Billabong. What a beautiful place. We sat for over an hour and watched the calm billabong waters. We admired lovely microscopic white lilies, which looked like carpet from a distance, and of course many birds.

Egret on Sandy Billabong

Hawks flew very close to us, checking if we had anything to eat, then the sun was blocked by the huge shadow of the flying Jabiru. It was something! 

We drove until the end of the trail where we finally saw sand and a river. We assumed there were also some people there, although we didn’t see them – only their slippers stood sadly on the shore.

Around Sandy Billabong
Around Sandy Billabong

We felt uncomfortable, especially that there was a large sign next to it, with the crocodiles warning.

Sandy Billabong - us enjoying Kakadu
Sandy Billabong – us enjoying Kakadu

We collected wood on the way to the campsite, although we were not sure if the mosquitoes would attack us again like in Merl campground. 

We sat for an hour by the fire and sang a few songs. But as soon as the sun disappeared, the mosquitoes came and we escaped to the trailer. 

Nanguluwur Art Site Walk

The next morning we went on a 3.4 km trail to see some of the oldest Aboriginal paintings in Kakadu. The walk is called Nanguluwur and it is a 1.7 km trail through the bushland and this time of the year the grass was 2 meters long in some spots. On the way up we admired ‘nothing’ because the grass was too long.

Nanguluwur Art Site Walk
Nanguluwur Art Site Walk – pretty tall grass – isn’t it?

The heat was pouring from the sky, it was very hot. We discovered lemon ants on the tree and we snacked on their tails.

Green Ants
Green Ants
Travel Spiced Life

Green Ants can be eaten by humans. They have a lemony taste and are high in protein and fatty acids

We were delighted with a few colourful flowers that we found along the way, and we watched the tiny lizard running amongst the red stones.

Nanguluwur Art Walk - small lizard
Nanguluwur Art Walk – small lizard

Finally, we came to the bottom of the mountain, under which was an overhanging rock with many Aboriginal paintings. The last paintings were made about 200 years ago.

Nanguluwur Aboriginal Art
Nanguluwur Aboriginal Art

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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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