Uluru is one of those places that exceeds our capacity to understand. Its appearance changes with the time of day and your distance from it. It is, though, an amazing and worthwhile visit at least once in your lifetime. The best way to fully appreciate its size is to go walking around the base.You can discover the countless details of the surface of the rock. It seems to be almost a living thing that is constantly changing. I remember made the 9km route almost in a trance, not really believing what I was looking at nor understanding it. You can do sections of the trail which give a good idea of what it's all about. It is said that this is the oldest human path on Earth and was walked by Australian Aborigines for thousands of years. For them it has a sacred meaning that is difficult to understand for non-aboriginal peoples and some parts of the trail are closed to the public since they're part of their sacred rituals. Do not miss out on the area of Mala.
The Olgas, also known by their original name of Kata Tjuta (meaning many heads), is a rock formation of the same origin as the nearby Uluru, and together form a single National Park. It is not a single monolith, but several formations of a similar height and rounded shapes. As in Uluru, its shape changes significantly as you approach them, and the trails are spectacular. It is about 25km from Uluru and the road connecting the two sites is the very best of the entire park. The largest one is known as the Valley of The Winds. It runs through the central canyon and provides spectacular views from its two balconies. The trail is named for the strong currents of wind that can traverse the valley at certain times.
Along the roads leading to Jaribu are the famous Kakadu termite mounds; some are even four meters high. A few miles past the north entrance of the park you will find them and are known by the name of cathedrals. Scientifically speaking, they are called epigean nests which protrude from the ground. They are also in Litchfield Park.
The only good reference I can think of to describe Kings Canyon is to compare it to the Grand Canyon. It is a rock formation in the desert of similar origin (a canyon carved by a river), and even though it can not quite compete with its American equivalent, it is a great place to visit and is totally isolated in the middle of the Australian Red Desert.
From the outset, to get there you must travel about 400km from the closest airport in Alice Springs. The drive from Alice is on the Stuart Highway, the road that connects Alice Springs to Darwin in the north. The road has all the aspects needed for a good "road movie"-style road trip. Wide horizons, miles of road and the scorching sun of the Australian desert. I recommend that you bring your own soundtrack, because there is not a single radio station along the way. And there were not many gas stations the whole way (I remember there was only one).
At the destination, Kings Canyon stands out for its greenness, especially when compared to the rest of the desert. I was also surprised by his height, as it is one of the few elevated zones in the area. But mostly, I was shocked at the loneliness that seems to exist. We toured this area outside the vacation time and almost had the whole park to ourselves.
Without a doubt, the Jumping Crocodile Cruise is one of the things you can't miss in Kakadu. We're talking about saltwater crocodiles (also called estuary crocodiles) and lovingly called "salties" in Australia. Normal crocodiles, like the ones in the Nile, only live in fresh water but these massive Australian beasts also live and swim in the ocean. They can often appear in coastal estuaries but their favorite habitat is the coastal rivers. The one catch is that humans are not off the menu for these enormous reptiles and attacks are more frequent than we'd like the think. Your best bet is to pay attention to the warnings you can see in the river areas. You can take these stupendous cruises all along the road from Darwin to Kakadu. It's a great chance to see these creatures up close in the wild. The plan is to find one of these things and bait it with a piece of meat from the edge of a boat. Depending on how hungry they are at the moment, their leaps out of the water are more or less amazing.
The Australian outback ... an endless desert, red fire and at its center, this great rock named Uluru by the Aborigines and the revered icon of the country. You will be awestruck by its size and everywhere you look you will be able to see it, it is huge, as the rough lands of Australia.
The tropical northern part of Darwin City is the capital of the Australian Northern Territory, a huge area from the Red Desert (Uluru, etc.), to the north coast of the continent. It's almost 2000 kilometers long from end to end, and the climate differences are incredible. So much so that the world's driest desert changes to a tropical coast. I was surprised at part of the country. The Australian cities are places that are carefree, but the pace of life here is closer to that of the Caribbean than to the pace of life in the city of Melbourne. There is intense tropical heat and a benign climate. Also one can have the feeling of isolation from the rest of the country and its status as the closest city to Asia. You also need to see their lovely sunsets, inviting you to relax more than anything else. While we admired the sky we could see some kids ve were juggling in a park. It was a moment that was really photogenic and we went home with some great memories of the sunset.
A mere 3 kilometres from the Stuart Highway, on the road linking Darwin to Alice Springs, is the charismatic town of Daly Waters. The detour is worth it to see the charming, old-fashioned surroundings: the old traffic lights, the telephone exchange booth, the bowling ... the star is the Daly Waters pub, famous for the decorations left by passersby, including notes, flags, hats, and even underwear.
Although it's not as famous as the nearby Kakadu, many travellers prefer Litchfield Park. Its waterfalls and trails make it an ideal spot to visit - a set of lush forests crossed by streams that flow into beautiful waterfalls. It is very nice, perfect for hiking and the chance to run into the odd wallaby or rainbow bird. Upon entering we were struck by the huge termite mounds, some up to two metres high. They all face the same direction, to minimise the impact of the sun. One of the most famous and popular sights in the park is the Wangi Falls, a waterfall flowing into a large lake where you can swim. There is a path along the lake where we spotted several flying foxes. The scenery is spectacular, with several possible routes for a walk, including the chance to visit an old abandoned tin mine. The more daring can complete the Tabletop Track, a distance of 39 kilometres around the park. Before entering the park, you can collect information and maps at the visitor center. There is a park area only accessible to 4x4s. You can find camping spots throughout the park. There is no admission charge to visit.
Kakadu is one of the world heritage sites of Australia. It's not just because of its its vast and wild ecosystem, but because of the importance of Aboriginal culture that can be found in the park. There is something elusive in the aborigines and their art is but one of their ways of understanding life. The problem is to understand this art is just as difficult to understand them asa culture. It's worth visiting the numerous paintings. The most famous is that of Nourlangie Rock, which allegedly has been inhabited for the past 20,000 years, but the most recent paintings date back to 1960. You can see paintings depicting 18th century English ships. The paintings are visited by a small circuit walk of just over a mile, with a wealth of information about the paintings and their meaning. Although to be honest, you read all that information and you still know as little about Aboriginal life as you did before...
Helicopter Flight over the Falls of Kakadu. I had spoken before of wildlife and Kakadu Aboriginal paintings, but the most amazing aspect of this PN are cataracts that are in the upper part of Arnhem Land. This is the Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls, an amazing 200m waterfall which is one of the biggest in the continent. The dry and wet periods determine the Top End of Australia. There are many zones of the country that remain cut off by land during rains and this part of Kakadu is one of them. We visited the zone during "the wet" time, and the only access was by helicopter. Flybys can be rented at Jabiru Airport, which serves the Kakadu park. Tt is an experience that left me without words, during the 45 minutes. The flight in a helicopter is much lower than we we did in Uluru, so maneuvers were much more impressive. And it had no doors, so the sense of speed was unsurpassed. In flight one could see the lovely Twin Falls and the mighty Jim Jim, you certainly are the star of the PN. The only downside is that the helicopter can not descend in cascades and take a dip in them ...
There are few roads in the world that can boast that they connect two ends of a continent without interruption, but surely one of the most secluded is this highway connecting the cities of Adelaide to Darwin in the Northern Territory. More than 2800 kilometers are lost in the horizon, and most of them run through the interior desert country. That being said, it is the main supply route of the few communities that exist in the desert, so often you'll encounter "road trains," heavy trucks (they can take up to four trailers) that carry nearly all goods circulating in the area. These trucks have priority movement over any other vehicle on these roads, and occupy more than their own driveway, so if you see one approaching it's better you pull over (they won't stop for you). As in most of Australia, it's best not to drive at night if you can avoid it. The animals are particularly active at sunset and the chances that you end up hitting a kangaroo are high. I loved the experience of being able to be part of this journey, between Alice Spings and Uluru, and so terribly empty to absorb what is this country / continent. This stretch is the busiest of the entire route and has stations at "reasonable" distances (one every 300kms or so). To travel the more isolated parts of the highway you need additional water tanks and fuel. And a lot of time!
Mindil Beach is a quintessential place in the city of Darwin. It's a must for two reasons: the Sunset Market, and for being one of the places with the best sunsets in the world. The market is open on Thursdays and Sundays and there you can find a variety of Aboriginal art, including the iconic Didgeridoo. There are also dozens of international food stands, handicrafts, clothes, and plenty of live music. Although at first we were a bit skeptical and thought it would be just another sunset, we were pleasantly surprised. The beach gradually fills up with people, I mean whole families that come while chairs prepared for the show. Hundreds of people facing the beach and staring at the horizon. The sun begins to set, as the sky is filled with colors and tones that I've never seen anywhere else. We were not disappointed at all and would recommend it to everyone.Without a doubt, there is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Darwin to going to Mindil Beach.
The ultimate experience in Uluru is probably seeing it from the air by helicopter. The flight lasts about an hour and usually includes several passes over the Olgas (Kata Tjuta). It´s best to do it first thing in the morning or in the evening when the colors of the red rock are more intense. It was the first time I rode in a helicopter and the experience was truly impressive. It´s a little expensive ($130 Australian dollars per person) but very highly recommended.
Once inside the Kakadu NP, one of the most interesting attractions is Yellow Water, a wetland area that is flooded in the rainy season and a real paradise for birds and reptiles. Obviously the best way to visit this area is by boat, on one of the tours that are organized early in the morning or afternoon. These tours are very informative and certainly worth the price. Perhaps you won't see the crocodiles leap from the water, but you can see them in their normal activity. And of course you can watch the spectacular sunsets of the Top End, which are wonderful when combined with the reflection of the calm waters of Yellow Water.
The Ghan is a legendary train that runs from the north of Australia (Darwin) to the south (Adelaide) in 48 hours, for the same price as a bus trip (at the same distance and the same travel time). I recommend this mode of transport for convenience and the historical sensation; this is a retro train with metal seats, in the spirit of the Orient Express, with showers, film screenings, and lovely staff.
Without doubt, the best of the walks in Kings Canyon is running along the top of the canyon. Firstly, because it allows, from its height, you to appreciate the true dimensions of the canyon walls. There are stunning views of the canyon wall, which appears to have been cut with a knife. The second reason is that, at the end of the tour, you reach the wonderful waterfall and, if you are adventurous enough, take a dip in its waters. The area around the waterfall is known as the Garden Of Eden and it is a real oasis in the Australian Red Desert. The circular route is 6 miles in total. As the terrain is quite rocky, bring appropriate footwear. The desert heat doesn't help the task. By the way, you can also see some lizards (quite impressive) and some other most strange birds. NOTE: Thanks to Gonzalo (arcadefire) we know that the birds in question are "feathered doves" (Geophaps plumifera): Http :/ / www.Gurujota.Com/RTW/campo/aves/aves3 . Html
Darwin is the most common entry point for Kakadu National Park and it is common to drive from there, since it is not far away . In about 2 hours we reach the entrance of the PN and there are a few worthwhile stops. The best is the amazing Crocodile Cruise (Jumping Crocodile Cruise) that can be done along the way, but this deserves and requires a separate part. Besides this, it is worth stopping to admire the huge termite mounds that can be seen. It is amazing what they can do if you give them a little time and raw materials. The termite mounds we saw were about 3 feet high, and this is supposed to be a modestly sized one compared to what you might see. By the way, watch the presence of crocodiles on the road, as warned one of the most curious signs across the country :-)