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Gunlom Falls, Southern Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

Due visited : August 2018


Traditional owners of Country - Mungguy in the South of Kakadu.

The Kakadu region is culturally diverse. The Aboriginal people in the region are from a number of different clans, often speaking different languages and in some cases upholding different traditions. Clans consist of two or more family groups sharing ownership of an area of land. Kakadu has about 19 clan groups.


Nearest major city - Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

Closest towns with full facilities : Jabiru, Northern Territory (180km North), Katherine, Northern Territory (200km South)


Alternative accommodation - Gunlom campground is found in the isolated southern section of Kakadu National Park. Alternatives to Gunlom campground nearby are Maguk campground where you can also visit Maguk Falls or alternatively you could camp at Gungurul campground to visit both Maguk Falls and Gunlom Falls.


Our Camping Location : Gunlom Campground


Location


Animals sighted

NOTE: Only animals positively identified have been included.


Birds


Masked Lapwing, White-faced Heron, Black Kite, Brown Goshawk, Brown Falcon, Black Falcon, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-collared Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Red-backed Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Striated Pardalote, Banded Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Black-faced Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Great Bowerbird, Magpie-lark, Shining Flycatcher, Paperbark Flycatcher, Northern Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Grey Shrike-thrush, Mistletoebird and Crimson Finch.

The Trip


From Jabiru we made the four hour drive to the isolated southern part of Kakadu National Park where we were to camp at Gunlom campground adjacent to the world famous Gunlom Falls.


The road and landscape remained consistent much of the first 3 hours of the drive, a dead straight road with what seemed endless Savannah Woodland on either side, the occasional cluster of massive termite mounds were a common distraction.


At the 3 hour mark, surrounded by hills and ridge lines, a few twists and turns started to appear in the road as we descended down the escartment. We reached the turn-off to Gunlom - the last 40 or so kilometres was on a reasonably well maintained unsealed road - there were sections of corrugation but overall the road was fine. We encountered a large Water Buffalo on the side of the road. I slowed down to have a closer look but it appeared quite angry, and as it squared up at our vehicle we decided it would be a good idea to leave cranky pants alone and continue on.


We arrived at the campground, set up camp and relaxed - well my wife did, I went and attempted to collect firewood nearby and this turned into quite the mission - NOTE when you see signs on your drive in telling you to collect fire wood now - its probably a good idea to collect it then! I eventually found enough firewood to keep us warm for the following three nights. The campground was excellent, there were quite a few campers comparative to Mardigual 2, I would estimate approximately 50-70 people, fortunately it was a large campground and provided campers plenty of their own space and privacy.


Our cosy campsite at Gunlom Falls

The campground was very dry, but thats to be expected in the dry season or "Gurrung" season as the local Aboriginals called it. The traditional Aboriginal owners of Kakadu National Park actually have 6 environmental seasons - check them out here - fascinating detailed knowledge of the environment.


The amenities at Gunlom campground were once again great for camping. We knew that Gunlom was famous for both its plunge pool at the base of the falls and its stunning infinity pools at the top of the falls - the infinity pools is without a doubt one of the more famous and most photographed views in Kakadu National Park. A beautiful rock pool at the top of the waterfall which looks out over the floodplains of the South Alligator River - just spectacular!


Looking out over the floodplains of the South Alligator River

Did you know Gunlom is part of Waterfall Creek, one of the major tributaries of the upper South Alligator River. This is the only large tropical river system in the world to be entirely protected within a National Park and World Heritage Area - amazing!


We went for a refreshing swim in the plunge pool below the 100m high cliff face and trickling waterfall - it was such a relaxing way to beat the heat and so we decided it would be a good idea to remain on the small sandy beach for a couple more hours to really unwind.


Not a bad spot to spend an afternoon... bliss

In the afternoon I went for a walk along the creek line in hopes of locating a Buff-sided Robin with no luck but I was able to successfully obtain good images of Red Winged Parrots, Crimson Finches, Black Kites and a Brown Goshawk.


How stunning are the colours on this male Red-winged Parrot?

As the sun went down over Gunlom I captured the silhoutte of this Black Kite

The next morning I was as usual up at the crack of dawn and walked the Murrill Billabong walking trail that starts at the edge of Gunlom Campground and ends at the South Alligator River. Not the most spectacular walk as the Billabongs on the walking track were bone dry. The first wildlife I encountered were four wild brumbies which I must say startled me a little as I really wasn’t expecting to see Brumbies and I don’t think they were that happy to see me either - a nervous stand-off was initiated and after a few grunts from the wild horses, they moved on and we went our seperate ways. I then encountered some more favourable wildlife - some Red-collared Lorikeets who were discussing who had the rights to a popular nesting hollow.



Red-collared Lorikeets

After that raucous entertainment I walked the kilometre or so to the South Alligator River - after seeing first hand how many Salt Water Crocodiles there were in the East Alligator River, I was extremely cautious to ensure that I didn't get to close to the river bank - these banks of the river were extremely steep so I had to be careful with each step I took.


I located a pair of Shining Flycatchers in the large Melaleuca trees along the creek and obtained some OK images - from my experience in the Top End I found this species of bird difficult to photograph.


A male Shining Flycatcher - this species has amazing sexual dimorphism - the only similarity the female has with the male regarding its colour is that it has a glossy black cap on its head. The upper body is almost entirely rufous and the underparts of the body are primarily white. Striking birds especially when sighted together

I then started making my way back to camp as it was near breakfast time. On the walk back I encountered a Black Falcon - a bird which is relatively uncommon down south - I cautiously approached and was able to obtain some decent images.


A Black Falcon I encountered on the Murrill Billabong trail

After breakfast, my wife and I made our way up to the infinity pool around 11am - yes, it is rather hot at that time of day - and the hike up to the top is extremely steep and sweaty! However the end reward is a refreshing swim in crystal clear water in a spectacular infinity pool looking out over the endless Savannah Woodlands of Southern Kakadu National Park. A memory I will forever cherish. We stayed up there for a couple of hours swimming and relaxing in the shade.


Infinity Pools at the top of Gunlom Falls - spectacular!

We made our way back down to camp and I spent the next couple of hours walking around the campsite looking for wildlife. Plenty of Black Kites and Crimson Finches, and I was also able to get some great images up close and personal with a Brown Goshawk.


If looks could kill - Eye to eye with a Brown Goshawk

A Crimson Finch seeking shelter within the foliage of a Pandanus Palm during the heat of the day

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the Buff-sided Robin along the creek line monsoonal vegetation downstream from the actual falls. I also conducted numerous searches nearby for the White-throated Grasswren in adjacent areas where spinifex grew on steep rocky hills surrounding the campsite which were also unsuccessful!

Gunlom Campground and Falls is a fantastic location where my wife and I made life long memories. I would be ready and willing to go back at any instant.


Thank you Kakadu National Park - What a National Park, we experienced so much and gained numerous life long memories - yet there is still so much to see and experience. Hopefully our next visit isn't too far away where we can explore more of this beautiful, spiritual part of the country.


It's now time to make our way across the Western Australian border to another life long dream destination... The Kimberley region of Western Australia.

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