Friday, October 28, 2011

Kakadu - Yellow Water Wetlands

The Gagudju Lodge at Cooinda, on Yellow Water in Kakadu, is only about three and a half hours drive from Darwin, allowing some time to buy a case of mangoes from a farmer's truck on the way down.

Kakadu has World Heritage listing for both its cultural and its natural value. Generations of Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for tens of thousands of years and it's a land of exceptional beauty and unique biodiversity.

However, it's hard to get around the fact that there are lots of estuarine (saltwater) (person eating) crocodiles living in the wetlands of Kakadu.

On our first afternoon at Cooinda we walked to the Yellow Water billabong and straight away saw our first crocodile, cruising slowly beside us on the smooth waters reflecting the late afternoon light. We later found out it's nick name was Pluto Pup, but I won't tell you the story about how it got its name.

The sunset Yellow Water cruise boat was just returning........

....and we were extra careful to stay on the specially constructed metal walkways at the edge of the billabong.

We joined the sunrise cruise ourselves on Saturday morning. At this time of the year, the pre monsoon storm season, a lot of the Kakadu wetlands on the floodplains have dried up so large billabongs like Yellow Water become a haven for all sorts of animals and birdlife waiting out the end of the "dry".

Including many, many crocodiles... and I have not used the zoom on my camera to get these shots! There is an average of about 26 crocodiles for every square kilometre of wetlands.

The so called "Jesus birds" (they walk on water!) are a frivolous presence in amongst the menacing crocs.

If you look closely enough you might see that the croc below is devouring a rather large hunk of a magpie geese. We saw the whole process of the kill!

This pair of jabiru(s) kept a safe distance.

The bird life was extraordinary. I was lucky to get this shot of an azure kingfisher...

This croc was so close to the boat I had to zoom out to get him all in the frame.

People do go fishing in Yellow Water (in very strong large boats) but they don't use live bait. I think barramundi is the most desired catch, but only if they are at least 55cm.

Over thousands of years Aboriginal people have developed all sorts of ways of hunting and collecting food from these waterways safely. But they did not have to contend with the explosion in the numbers of crocodiles since the seventies when they became a protected species in Australia.

It was an amazing two hours we spent on Yellow Water.

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