Kakadu National Park, NT, Australia: Culturally Rich and Biologically Diverse

DSC_0660A coin toss led us to the tropical north and we darted toward Kakadu National Park, the largest NP in Australia. Located in the Northern Territory, Kakadu’s beauty and diversity is beyond belief. Characterized by sandstone bluffs, lowlands, floodplains, huge estuaries and tidal flats. It is home to roughly 280 bird species, 60 mammals, 120 reptiles and over 2,000 species of plants! It is also unique because Aborigines have lived here for more than 50,000 years and some still live traditionally, gathering plants and hunting wildlife, such as file snakes, kangaroos and crocodiles.

Kakadu NP.
Kakadu NP.
Kakadu National Park vista.
Kakadu National Park vista.
Chestnut-Quilled Rock-Pigeon.
Chestnut-Quilled Rock-Pigeon.
Trail marker.
Trail marker.
Things are about to get very herpy (amphibians and reptiles abound)!
Things are about to get very herpy (amphibians and reptiles abound)!
Cute little bat!
Cute little bat!
Very important wetlands! Chalk-a-block full of biodiversity.
Very important wetlands! Chalk-a-block full of biodiversity.

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Croc country!
Croc country! There are over 10,000 crocodiles in the park. We were lucky enough to see freshwater croc and saltwater croc!

And what does one do if sleeping is next to impossible, given the hot humid nights and mozzies? Road cruise for herps (amphibians and reptiles), of coarse! And we had an awesome night!

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Black-headed Python! Beautiful!
Northern Death Adder (Acanthophis praelongus). Check out the way he flattened out his mid-section and veered to one side! Dangerously venomous!
Northern Death Adder (Acanthophis praelongus). Check out the way he flattened out his mid-section and veered to one side! Dangerously venomous!
YES!!! I wanted to find a Water Python (Liasis mackloti) so bad!
YES!!! I wanted to find a Water Python (Liasis mackloti) so bad!
Ryne equally excited and of course he had to catch it! (Python's are very docile and not venomous).
Ryne equally excited and of course he had to catch it! (Python’s are very docile and not venomous). Herping barefoot in his swim shorts!
That iridescent sheen is just beautiful!!
That iridescent sheen is just beautiful!!
Blue-faced Honeyeater (adult).
Blue-faced Honeyeater (adult).
Blue-faced Honeyeater (juvenile which have yellow faces).
Blue-faced Honeyeater (juvenile which have yellow faces).

There are over 5,000 important archaeological sites in the park!

Aboriginal rock art site, usually under an over-hang. I think we hiked 5-6 miles to get here.
Aboriginal rock art site, usually under an over-hang. I think we hiked 5-6 miles to get here.
Kangaroos were a very important food source!
Kangaroos were/are a very important food source!
The arrival of Europeans prompted boat drawings.
The arrival of Europeans prompted boat drawings.
Aboriginal rock art. These paintings represent one of the longest records of any group of people in the world. Some being 20,000 years old!
Aboriginal rock art. These paintings represent one of the longest records of any group of people in the world. Some being 20,000 years old!
Aboriginal rock art.
Aboriginal rock art.
The story
The story

And then, a quick side trip to Katherine Gorge National Park, which was almost totally devoid of people. In fact, the whole top half of the country was lacking tourists. It’s just avoided in summer because of the unrelenting heat and bugs! One benefit is that the campgrounds are free and the one we stayed at was plush with a pool and hot showers! We hiked the Butterfly Garden Trail, 12km through the canyon and then down into monsoon rainforest! There were picturesque waterfalls and fresh blooms. Part of the trail was impassable due to heavy rains the previous day, but we made it most of the way to the river mouth. We stopped to take a dip to cool off and I saw a Red Goshawk soaring through the canyon!! Really cool, rare bird that Ryne was after! Unfortunately, he was looking down at ants! Oh well, at least one of us saw this mysterious raptor! Sometimes your the pigeon and sometimes your the statue!

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The Butterfly Garden Trail at Katherine NP
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Katherine Gorge National Park, river mouth
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Much needed cool off!
Very refreshing swim hole.
Very refreshing swim hole.
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Amazing cryptic-ism! Can you spot the frog?

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Ay Karumba!

A page from my journal (we left the east coast near Daintree NP and headed west):  Day 28, It was a long drive to this sleepy off the tourist trail town of Karumba (say Ay Karumba!!) on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The drive was exceptional with a plethora of wildlife seen especially from Normantan. We saw Sarus Cranes, Yellow Spotted Monitor and the wetlands were chalk-a-block full of birds! At one time we saw hundreds of raucous Little Corellas (small white cockatoos)! The night was less spectacular. We were in a hurry to get to the gulf to watch the sunset and we hit a Wallaby!! They are filthy common along the roads, especially at dusk, and they make driving a complete hazard! They hop haphazardly in every direction! It’s like walking around a pond in summer when there are toadlets everywhere!

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On the road to Ay Karumba!, we spotted a yellow spotted monitor (Varanus panoptes).
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Sarus Cranes

The night was torture in a sweat box! It was beyond hot and humid, over 90 degrees F all night. I think it felt hotter than what it was because of the humidity. It never cooled off in the slightest! We were so dehydrated from loosing water as we sweated all night. Sweat dripped down my face all night! Ryne and I put on wet cloths to help cool and I put a wet wash cloth on Cypress (who slept like a baby). It was useless, the wet cloths became hot in seconds.There was no breeze so the air was stuffy and thick with moisture. Mosquitoes were plentiful so the doors and windows were kept closed. The canvas back had a screen but it also had cracks perfect for blood hungry mozzies! The morning couldn’t come fast enough! But with the dawn came teeny tiny sandflys that massacred my legs and Cypress, leaving us clad in red bites. The morning also brought the sun and intense, searing temperatures! After Ryne was done birding and being stalked by a crocodile in the marsh, we sought refuge at the library. We got lucky because there were free pancakes and tons of kids for Cypress to play with! We made a blog post and then made haste to Mt. Isa via Cloncurry.
Day 29, We drove through rugged red earth land. I was surprised the interior (outback) terrain was rocky, red hills with scattered trees and shrubs. The outback has a number of habitat types, not just barren sand and small shrubs, like I pictured. We camped at Clem Walton Park. The air was hot and dry and the “tickle flies” which I named, were out in hoards. At least they didn’t bite. They just tickled your exposed parts, loving your moist eyes the most! Worse were the ants which covered every bare area of the ground. They bit my feet fiercely until they were itchy and swollen.
I made jewel fish, sweet potatoes and green beans for dinner, then enjoyed an evening walk. The setting sun illuminated the brick red rock into a brilliant glow that only spoke of true tranquil beauty. This moment made it worth enduring pesky insects and uncomfortable temperatures. Why, life would be boring if one never let themselves get uncomfortable! Aborigines are a tough group of people!

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Wedge-tailed Eagle
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The red earth
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A cockatiel in the wild!!
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Dragons galore!
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wild bush fire
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Cypress was smitten and did not want to let her go!
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Zebra finches in the wild!
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In the heart of the Northern Territory. This is the furthest south we went in the NT. Another 500 km south is Alice Springs and Ayer’s Rock. We almost went…just couldn’t decide, so we flipped a coin. It told us to go north, to the top end instead!
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Around Mt. Isa

DSC_0501 DSC_0512 Let me know if you would like to hear more about our day to day experiences, or just pictures. I did a lot of writing on the trip and plan to compile it into a book.

The Sweltering Tropics of Northern Queensland, Australia

Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) defensive display! So fun to watch run on hindlimbs.
Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) defensive display! So fun to watch run on hindlimbs.
Morning boat ride to look for birds and Crocs.
Morning boat ride to look for birds and Crocs.
The hot and humid Daintree National Park
The hot and humid Daintree National Park
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Fan palm
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Sedge on steroids?

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Prop roots
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Verdant mountains mingle with the warm sea.
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Jungle vines.
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It was so hot at Daintree NP! All I wanted to do is swim! However, it was difficult finding a swim hole that wasn’t infested with crocs. The ocean was also off limits because of box jellyfish season. This scenic river was a nice find in the back of someone’s house. There was a box that suggested to leave a gold coin. A bonus was the foot cleaning by nibbling fish!
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Boyd’s Forest Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii). A stunningly beautiful lizard!
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Fern fetish.
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Common Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus).
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Sandy bar = good substrate for just-learning-to-walk-Cy to fall on!
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River adorned with Eucalypts.
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River at Mossman Gorge.
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Buttresses!
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Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus). Dangerously venomous!
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Boyd’s Dragon Beauty- A Sheila!
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Ryne’s best catch aside from me!

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Scaly-Breasted Lorikeet.
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Plumed Whistling Ducks.
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Jungle gym ficus tree
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One of the biggest figs in Australia!
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Golden Bower Bird’s bower! Built by the male to display for the female! Adorned with green flowers and lichen!
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Male Golden Bower Bird
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Grey-Headed Robin
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Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) with baby.

The Grandeur of Australia

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The start of our 24 hour travel day, Nov. 30, 2014!

I am going to start from the beginning, but try not to repeat anything I wrote in previous posts or replicate photos. I did post some good pics in previous posts, but I wont repeat them here. Thus, if you want to read more or see more pictures, refer to my previous blog entries. Cypress is just 14 months old and looks so little in his big orange backpack!

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Airport

The famous Botany Bay — our first view of Australia from the plane and first stop (besides the food market) after picking up the rental van. I was deliriously tired, dazed and confused from the 36 hour day we just endured with no sleep (Aus. is a half a day ahead of us). I was bursting with excitement and loved the hot air but sweating in my jeans and didn’t have the energy to find my shorts. Everything was buried in a mountainous heap in the van and my bag was on the bottom…I sweated in my hiking boots, thick socks, jeans and long sleeve shirt while Ryne gleefully skipped around in his flip flops and shorts! A memorable short stop.

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A few hours after we landed in Sydney…at Botany Bay Dec. 2, 2014.

We drove through the hustle and bustle of Sydney and in just 45 minutes we were at Royal National Park, where we booked a campsite for two nights. After the first night in our new house on wheels, we decided that we love our new bed and mobile home! It was very comfy and cozy! The next day we hiked a beautiful trail that paralleled the rocky coast line and swam in gorgeous waters!
Just some of the flora…
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We hiked and explored…Cy was always ready for adventures!
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High cliffs of Royal National Park (Cy is conked out)
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Red-Rumped Parrot

had some eggs and veggies with a squadron of cheeky Sulpher-Crested Cockatoos!
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Then headed inland for some spectacular eye candy of the Blue Mountains!
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Gorgeous waterfall
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Side-necked Turtle (Chelodia expansa)

Mailboxes were awesome in Australia! Some skillfully crafted from recycled junk like metal oil drums, milk jugs or even…microwaves?!
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Some flora and fauna of Girraween National Park…

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Red Wattlebird
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skink
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Cunningham Skink
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Granite boulders
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Junction of Ramsey and Rock Bald Creek.
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Eastern Grey Kangaroo in freshly burnt eucalypt woodland.

We drove to Main Range National Park (southeast Queensland, Aus), a World Heritage Site,  in pouring rain. The gravel road turned into a river! There were several creek crossings and no bridges! I forgot about how flooded most of the roads were on the east coast or even 100 km from the coast! It was a bit hairy at times, but luckily we never got stuck! The slow hazardous drive was soooo worth it though because the ancient rainforest we explored was stunning and part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world! This is a special place because according to the fossil record, some of the same species exist today as they did when Gondwanaland existed 200 million years ago! I think this is probably the coolest place we went, I LOVED traveling back in time to the Triassic Period! (Gondwanaland was a supercontinent that broke up into Australia, India, Africa, Madagascar, South America and Antarctica).

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Relic Rainforest
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Cycads, my favorite! And I think Cy is sleeping again.
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Dragon
Awesome catch with Cy on his back!
Awesome catch with Cy on his back!
...And Cy's love of lizards begins!
…And Cy’s love of lizards begins!
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Night walk for nocturnal critters–a gecko

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We also went to Lamington National Park, another awesome subtropical rainforest mountain range with impressive GIANT trees!

Red-necked Pandomelon
Red-necked Pandomelon

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King Parrot and female Regent Bowerbird.
King Parrot and female Regent Bowerbird.

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Male Regent Bowerbird!
Male Regent Bowerbird!
And this is why I love this man! Pure joy! Carpet Python!
And this is why I love this man! Pure joy! Carpet Python!

 

Bower made by a male Regent Bowerbird to attract a female, who apparently love the color blue, just like Cypress!! ;)
Bower made by a male Regent Bowerbird to attract a female, who apparently loves the color blue, just like Cypress!! 😉

After some rugged-mountain jungle fun, we headed back to the sweaty coast. To date, the worst night sleep of my life was in Townsville, Queensland! The tropical heat would continue to keep us awake sweating all night and swatting mosquitoes! I don’t know why we wasted our time trying to sleep! We should of went road cruising for snakes instead! Cypress slept, at least!
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Royal Spoonbills
Royal Spoonbills
Frilled Lizard, an impressive find by Ryne.
Frilled Lizard, an impressive find by Ryne.
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Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo
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In the sleepy, I-dream-of-living-here town, Mission Beach! The town motto: Be Cass-o-wary!! These dinosaurs are rare and hitting one would be devastating!
Cassowary, pretty much a living dinosaur. This is a male taking care of his 4 babies.
Cassowary, pretty much a living dinosaur. This is a male taking care of his 4 babies.

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Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef.
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A bird nesting meca!
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Sooty Terns and Common Noddy on eggs or chicks.
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Common Noddy with egg.

 

30 minutes of snorkelling by myself while Ryne and Cy went in the submarine!
DSC_1002 30 minutes of snorkeling by myself while Ryne and Cy went in the submarine!
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Cypress adored the reef from the submarine!

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Reef go-ers.
Reef go-ers.
Bliss!
Bliss!
Chinese friend.
Chinese friend.
Gorgeous Michaelmas Cay!
Gorgeous Michaelmas Cay!
Port of Cairns. This is jumping off point for the reef!
Port of Cairns. This is jumping off point for the reef!
Cairns
Cairns
Noooo! Take me back to the turquoise water!
Noooo! Take me back to the turquoise water!
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My little sailor on the esplanade in Cairns.
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Cairns playground.
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Mangroves use to line the shoreline in Cairns, in some places they still do, but not along the 3km esplanade in downtown Cairns. Instead, there are extensive mudflats where the shorebirds are numerous!
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Esplanade park in Cairns.

More pictures to come soon!

G’day Mates!

Hello All,

Sorry for the long hiatus from blog entries. While in Australia, I had some difficulty logging into my wordpress admin site.  After several unsuccessful attempts at blogging and posting pictures of our travels, I threw in the cards. Well, now I’m back and my site is working perfectly well.

I have been perusing and organizing our Aussie pictures, and since we have some great ones, I have to share them! We have over 5,000 pictures from our 3 month trip around Australia and 1 month journey in New Zealand!

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South Bruny Island, Tasmania
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Camp Kitchen
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Ryne, Cypress and Jen
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Wild Blackberry pancakes
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Tasmanian Rainforest

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