A 3 day Kakadu Camping Tour from Darwin
On my 3rd trip to Australia, a few years ago, I went on a Kakadu Camping Adventure. I had attempted to join a tour in March, but due to the prolonged wet season, all roads in the park were closed. So I rescheduled my travel plans and travelled to the Top End of Australia, two months later. When I arrived in Darwin end of May the situation had improved, but most roads were still closed. Usually, at that time of the year, all roads are accessible. In that year the amount of rain nearly doubled the average rainfall per year. All tours had to be cancelled, however, some local tour companies kept operating their tours within a restricted area of Kakadu in Northern Territory and Arnhem Land.
How to choose the right Kakadu Tour from Darwin
I am very fussy when it comes to booking a guided tour. For my Kakadu trip, I wanted something different from the average tours, and I was lucky to find one tour that matched my expectations. The most important thing for is the itinerary with the activities as well as the number of participants, which is probably one of the most key factors for choosing a tour. This 3-day Kakadu Tour from Darwin was focussed on natural attractions, a morning river cruise, rock art and aboriginal culture, hiking and swimming. Camping was the type of accommodation. So all in all, a very promising adventure.
Day 1.from the wetlands to the Kakadu waterfalls
These vast flood plains are a place for a sensorial experience. The magic of the colours from green to blue blending into a concert of harmonious nuances. A great place for seeing native Australian birds. From Fogg Damm, we drove further to reach the Cooroboore Billabong where we went on a river cruise. This is a true paradise for spotting a variety of native and unique birds, kangaroos and saltie crocodiles while sitting on the boat and floating on the calm waters.
The Corroboree Billabong Cruise was the highlight of the first day of our Kakadu Camping Tour.
I had heard a lot about about the Jim Jim Falls and the Twin Falls. Going there was a treat that added that wow effect. These massive falls are stunning places in the Top End of Australia. When we left Darwin we knew that many places were closed due to the heavy rainfall, fortunately, on Saturday morning a ranger informed us that the 4WD road access to Gumlon had been re-opened to the public access. That was a piece of fantastic news. A visit to the Gunlom Falls made our treat for the second day of our guided tour.
The green water of the Gunlom lake (the colour in the photos is genuine with no filters) has a magnetic and relaxing power that made it difficult for us to leave this place. I indeed could have stayed there a few days.
Two hikes are starting from the base of the falls, but the access was closed on that day. Nonetheless, we were thankful that we could reach the bottom of Gunlom Falls and enjoyed our swimming. Next to the Gunlom lake, there is also a vast green area for a picnic, parking, and staying overnight.
Motor Car Falls
As Gunlom Falls was not on our itinerary, the warm, sunny weather was ideal for a hike in the Kakadu woodlands. After a short walk, we reached the Motor Car Falls. This small and shady rock pool is surrounded by boulders, so you have to climb over the rocks to access the pool, but it’s an easy climb.
Marlenne Water Hole
To reach some hidden places like this Marlenne Water hole you need a 4WD. We drove for 15 minutes on a rocky and bumpy gravel road up to the summit.
Day 3. Admiring the Kakadu Rock Art
On our 3. day we visited a few rock art sites that are iconic of Kakadu. Nourlangie Rock is the most known and a truly massive rock which used to be the main home and shelter for aboriginal people living in the Kakadu. This is an excellent place to learn about aboriginal art and culture. We were lucky to spot a rock wallaroo hopping around the site.
Ubirr Rock is another great place for aboriginal art with a terrific lookout over the wetlands. Here below you can a photo of this awesome place with a 360° panoramic view all around the region.
Getting up close with the indigenous culture
Within the Kakadu National Park, there are a few cultural centres where you can learn about the cultural significance of this park to the indigenous people who lived there for millions of years. On our last day, on the way back to Darwin we spent a few hours at the Window in the Wetlands, an aboriginal cultural centre where we could meet up with aboriginal people and listened to their stories and their traditions.
A fun Kakadu Camping experience
Our guided Kakadu Tour from Darwin included two nights on campsites. Camping is probably the best way to soak in the atmosphere of this park, and no Kakadu trip is complete without camping experience. There are many campsites, and you can get a list of them of all Kakadu campsites from the official parks site.
Most Kakadu camping grounds are managed campsites, and you can stay overnight by paying a small fee, usually between 5 and 10 dollars, but many campgrounds are free to stay at. On our Kakadu Tour, we spent two nights camping in two different locations. The first place was a free campground, a nice place with a rock pool nearby to chill out and the other one was a managed campsite.
Spending a night at Kambolgie Campground
We got there on a Friday evening, and our tour guide warned us that it was going to be crowded. So we hurried up to make sure to get a space. A free campsite has no facilities, and only the very basic toilet is provided, this means that there are no flushing toilets, no showers and no drinking water. You must bring sure water, food and all the necessities with you.
We stayed overnight at two different campsites. Click on the link to learn more about the places we stayed in and the fun we had.
If you are interested in seeing what’s on offer among all Kakadu Camping Tours check out this page.
A Kakadu campsite with rock pool
The great thing about this national park is that everywhere there are small gorges and water pools to swim and chill out. Besides the major significant Kakadu waterfalls, there are hundreds of small rock pools and small gorges. Those are less-known places that you come across while hiking or from your tour guide.
This rock pool was like an oasis after a long drive on the first-day tour. A quick jump into the refreshing creek, just a few minutes walk away, before setting up our campsite was very rewarding. We headed off through the bush, walked over a suspended bridge and reached this beautiful natural rock pool.
Kakadu Camping: setting up a campfire
I had always dreamt of sitting at a campfire in the Australian bush. Looking for small wood and sticks is part and parcel of any camping adventure. We stopped along the road on our way to the Kambolgie Campground and packed the vehicle full with dry tree branches that we used to lit up our campfire at the campsite.
Cooking a campfire dinner
When we got back to the Kambolgie Campground, our appetite was big. Cooking at a campsite is good fun and something I enjoyed as a real Outback experience. That night we cooked basic food: vegetables, noodles, meat. Here is one of our pasta dishes.
After cooking our dinner at the campfire, the most relaxing part was watching the stars, enjoying the glowing flames soaring high and falling asleep in front of the fire.
Sleeping in the Australian Swag
If camping is a must when travelling in the Australian Outback, the Australian swag is another thing you must try out to enjoy a Kakadu camping experience fully. I had camped before in Australia, but it was my first time to sleep in an Aussie Swag. Here below you see how rolled up swags look like.
What is Australian Swag?
A swag is a sort of ready-made bedroll that includes a foam mattress and a built-in fabric tent to use as a shelter from wind, flies and mosquitoes. In the past, it used to be carried by travelling shearers and drovers on foot. Nowadays modern swag is still used by most Australians travelling and camping in the Outback. Here is how the rolled up swag turned into a lovely combination: a tent with a bed unit.
That night was a beautiful dry night with the full moon, and thousands of stars lit up the sky. The balmy wind woke me up at some point, and I was thankful because I could witness this amazing Kakadu night sky.
Spending the last night at Mardugal Campground
For the second day, we had planned to spend the night somewhere else on the way to our next destinations. The Mardugal is a managed campground with kitchen, toilets and shower facilities. The idea of having a warm shower cheered all up, but we did not know what to expect at the campsite. An army of aggressive mosquitoes which ruined our night there.
I had never seen such huge insects. We had to fight, and there was nothing that we could do scare them away. The only way to avoid the bites was to wrap yourself up in a towel as if you were in facing a dust storm in the desert, but they still got to bite me. Being the end of May, there still were thousands of them around, as waterfalls were filled with water.
One of the advantages of visiting Kakadu in winter is the absence of all those annoying insects. Here are some photos of our Kakadu camping experience with the tents facilities. The campsite had a well-kept recycling station too. You can also opt for a more extended Kakadu camping adventure and go on a four or five-day camping tour.
Best Kakadu Camping Tours
If you are in doubt what kind of camping tour to go, I’d choose at least a multi-day tour, in average 3-5 days. The longer the better to maximise your time and the overall experience. You can also choose a camping safari that takes you to all three national parks, with two nights at Kakadu, and two more nights in Litchfield or near Katherine. Here below you can browse through our selection of the best camping tour adventures in Kakadu Northern Territory.