Against many travelers’ opinions, we unanimously (gosh, I love this bunch!) decided to discover the Top End of the Northern Territory in January. Say whaaaat?! Some people had thought that we had gone insane (or “insaner”, depending on how you see it) or that we weren’t aware of the wet season around Darwin. Please…
Don’t get me wrong, we were not sure about our own decision and we really did not know what to expect but it sounded too adventurous not to give it a try. We pictured ourselves in a jeep driving through huge puddles, girls in the back screaming with excitement (as girls do *eyes rolling*) while the guys would brave the elements.
We only knew that this would be a risky gamble; this could have meant a lot of rain (way too much rain), roads closed and not so much to do, which would have of course been our less preferred scenario. But since Google (oh don’t we love him?!) strongly insisted that the Northern Territory’s wet season was unpredictable and there was a possibility not to have any rain falls for days, we took our chances.
Our non-plan was simple. We were counting on the “wet season” label to:
- have less tourists / travelers
- easily find affordable places (to allow us to be more spontaneous, yeah!)
- have an adventurous time
So we went for it and our time in the Top End was (drily) incredible even though:
- It was hot and humid (at some point I did wonder if it made sense to keep showering).
- We were eaten alive by very keen mosquitoes
- Kakadu National Park was off limit
- Crocodiles seemed to hide from us (they sounded anyway terrifying – almost as bad as sharks! So it was probably a good thing we didn’t bump into one by accident)
On the (very) bright side, we barely saw any other travelers (have less tourists? check), we didn’t have to book any accommodation in advance (affordable and spontaneous? check) and the sky kept his tears away while we were touring the Top End.
After our adventurous bunch picked up our rental 4 wheel drive in Darwin (it was even equipped with a pop up tent on the roof!), we went over our options, given the road conditions. Kakadu NP being mostly closed, we decided to focus on hiking / driving and discovering Litchfield, Mary River and Djukbinj (which somehow with my accent ended up sounding like Djouboudou) National Parks.
We stopped whenever we felt like stopping, overnighted wherever it felt right, hiked wherever it looked pretty and worth the hassle. The hikes / strolls were easy but made so tough by the heat that we were very grateful to find some creeks that were (fairly) crocodile safe * along the way.
* I was told afterwards that the creeks over there are never 100% safe as some freshwater crocodiles could be around but come on, no worries mate, they are much smaller than the salt water ones, not even two-meter long… Why on Earth would I even begin to worry, right?
The park rangers did a great job letting us know what was opened (or not) and we really enjoyed the following places / activities while feeling happily safe:
- Swim at the upper Cascades – the lower ones were closed due to the high crocodile risk (you definitely don’t need to ask me twice to be #crocwise!)
- Soak in Buley Rockhole
- Hike from Wicked Buley rockhole to Florence falls and its plunge pool where you can cool off – paradise!
- Check out the Magnetic termite mounds: very impressive fauna architecture!
- Look at the Wangi falls: We couldn’t get too close (and certainly not in the water) because a 1.3 MT freshwater croco decided to move in during the wet season but the falls were peacefully powerful. We found a beautiful python, curled up in the sun, safely far enough. Majestic!
- Take pictures of the Tolmer fall and maybe spot some ghost bats.
Mary River NP
- Drive through the Park with its many billabongs
- Daydream in the monsoon forests and try to spot birds, wallabies and of course crocodiles (safely sitting in our car)
Djukbinj national park
- Drive on unsealed roads. So much fun when trees and potholes are on your way!
- Drive around the park, checking its billabongs (we couldn’t tell the difference with swamps)
Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve
- Pandanus Lookout: the reserve is an important feeding and roosting site for a wide variety of both water birds and other animals
- Drive on the dam. You can see beautiful water lilies on the side
Even though, we were unable to spot any crocodile, our time in the Top End was unforgettable. It was a fabulous experience to be able to sleep outside (well protected by a tent – I am not THAT brave), to meet some friendly locals, to take incredible shots of waterfalls, landscapes or animals and to dip in those cute creeks far away from crowds.
Thanks Darwin (great party time!) & Top End for your hospitality. Now it is time to fly home with one more stop on the way: Singapore.
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!