Kakadu swim adventures
This Easter I ventured to a part of Australia where chocolate eggs could NEVER survive. The very north of this massive country where ‘hot as a bastard’ is the standard room temperature setting, crocodile warning signs are more common place than street signs and locals are so tough they view freshwater crocodiles in the same category as ‘cattle dogs.’
N.T (Northern Territory) or ‘Not Today’ as it’s known to its friends, is literally another country compared to the coffee-swilling, kale and quinoa state of NSW.
Sure you can’t just judge England on London, or the US on New York City, but the Northern Territory is so enormously different to urban Australia, it’s like an extreme ‘Wife Swap’ episode.
For starters, you’ll actually see many indigenous Australians and how they live their lives. I can’t begin to understand the complexities of the culture and the challenges that they face. So I won’t even attempt it for this blog post. But I will say it’s both fascinating and sad.
Soap box to one side, if it’s wide open spaces, red dirt and green savannahs you are looking for, then a visit to Kakadu is your ticket. This World Heritage site is Australia’s largest national park, the actual size of a European country (Slovenia, if you’re interested to know, or half the size of Switzerland). It’s so big, you really need a few days to do it justice (note-to-self), but our whistle-stop tour did allow me some jaw-dropping swimming action.
Kakadu is home to dozens of waterholes, billabongs and waterfalls all utterly breathtaking. There’s just one major mood killer you need to be aware of at all times. That would be the 10,000 crocodiles (approx) that can be found in the park. For that reason it’s best to swim with a professional and even then take precautions (more on that later).
Watching Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’ a few years back the movie had one stand out for me. Forget the cute indigenous kid, and Hugh Jackman’s shirtless scenes, the amazing swimming hole where Hugh and Nicole take a dip was all I remember. But, like most of Baz’s films, I figured it was touched up and probably exaggerated.
So arriving at Yurmikmik track, a 45 minute walk in 35 degrees through dry vegetation and clamoring over rocks then… hello sailor. It turns out my outback swimming fantasy could actually come true in Kakadu.
Motorcar is a perfectly shaped deep pool, a dark emerald green surrounded by smooth rocks and a towering orange cliff face where a waterfall flows. As one of the few swimming holes that had been deemed ‘ crocodile proof’ so early in the season it was fairly busy, but there was still plenty of room to float on your back or starfish like a local.
Highpoints: Its sheer beauty. Your archetypical Australian waterhole and floating experience.
Lowpoints: There were some mighty large spiderwebs that one needed to avoid on entry.
Overall rating: 9.4 – my standout swim rating of the year. Corker mate
So this is supposedly a secret swim spot that is also largely crocodile proof year round. On closer inspection it turns out this is based on what is your definition of a crocodile. But let me come back to that.
Moline’s is another lovely swimming spot, slightly smaller than Motorcar with deep darker water that makes it perfect for jumping off the surrounding rocks. With a powerful waterfall it’s also the perfect location to remake your own personal timotei commercial.
After the swim it was amusing to watch the local kids dive off the rocks and land like pencils while tourists resembled scud missiles. After the hardy local kids got bored of diving they started snorkeling around the rocks, targeting one rock where they started poking at the crevasse with sticks.
Our bet was they’d discovered a water snake, creepy, but not harmful. Kerry, our guide leaned in. “Just a freshie under the rock.” We weren’t sure if he was joking, with more than 20 people swimming including a handful of floating toddlers (basically bobbing apples for crocs) he couldn’t be serious.
Turns out when NT locals refer to ‘no crocs’ they usually mean saltwater. The larger deadlier types. Smaller ‘freshies’ are less harmful and generally don’t attack unless provoked. So they don’t always rate a mention. Good to know, after you’ve survived.
Low point: Learning there was a croc in the pool
High points: Learning there was a croc in the pool after our swim
Overall rating: 9.0