Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
It is hard to believe that it was only in 1984 that the Top End's Kakadu National Park gained its World Heritage listing and the area achieved international recognition as a cultural and ecological treasure. Kakadu National Park is just 257km from Darwin along the sealed Arnhem Highway. In it 19,000 sq km, it is home to around 275 soecies of birds, 75 species of reptiles, 25 species of frogs, an estimated 10,000 species of insects and 1,600 plant species comprising more than a third of the Top End's plant life.
On the flood plains, the waterlily-covered billabongs such as Yellow Waters and Mamukala, left behind by the tropical summer rains, attract flocks of waterfowl year-round. The sandstone escarpment to the east, soaring 100 to 200 metres, is a celebration of waterfalls like Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Gunlom. The escarpment and outliers also shelter some of the world's oldest Aboriginal rock art galleries. Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock are two major public sites featuring rock art and living shelters.
The name Kakadu comes from Gagadju - the main Aboriginal language used in the northern part of the area at the start of the 20th century. Today, three major languages are spoken within the Park - Gundjehimi, Kunwinjku and Jawoyn. For at least 50,000 years, Aboriginal people have continuously lived in the area now defined by the National Park, leaving behind shelters, stone tools, grindstones and ochre for ceremonial painting. The parts of their legacy that most visitors come to see are the famous Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock, where Dreamtime legend, history and day-to-day living are presented side by side.