With a rich crop of Aussie wildlife, the Northern Territory offers plenty off road, outback experience, which you can easily explore for yourself with a 4WD drive vehicle. Spot enormous crocs, uncover Aboriginal rock art or be awed by the sunrise over Uluru. Here are our top 5 reasons to fall in love with Australia's Northern Territory…
Situated in the ‘Top End’ of Australia within easy reach of Darwin and to the west of Arnhem Land, is a National Park packed full of textbook Aussie scenery, including wetlands, tropical rainforest, dramatic escarpments, rivers, waterfalls, billabongs and wild coastline.
Kakadu encompasses the traditional lands of the Gagudju people and is also home to a huge collection of Aboriginal rock art – at Nourlangie Rock you can see Namarrgon (the lightning man), whilst at Ubirr Rock you’ll find the finest examples of ‘X-ray’ art. This is where the artist not only painted the exterior of the animal (mostly fish like barramundi, as well as birds, reptiles and turtles), but also depicted the bone structures and internal organs; an amazing display of anatomical knowledge.
You’ll need to join a small group tour or rent a 4WD vehicle to explore independently, but you’ll be rewarded with encounters with up to 280 different bird species, including jabirus, white-bellied sea eagles and blue-winged kookaburras, reptiles of all shapes and sizes, including pig-nosed turtles, rare file snakes and Oenpeli pythons, as well as the most famous residents, salt water crocodiles. Why not make the most of the many bush campsites which are generally free or very inexpensive?
Less creepy mammals you could meet include kangaroos and bandicoots – or any of the 53 different species of freshwater fish. Take a nighttime cruise along Kakadu’s waterways and you’re likely to meet many of the local residents including snakes, turtles, crocodiles and barramundi fish.
Aussies abbreviate the names for just about everything, so the mighty Saltwater Crocodile is no exception. “Salties" as they’re known locally might not sound too threatening but don’t be fooled - in a country not short on deadly animals, Saltwater Crocs are the most dangerous. They are huge, territorial and extremely aggressive. Admittedly, this might not sound like a reason to fall in love with the Northern Territory, but seeing a Saltie is an unforgettable experience.
The Adelaide River is famous for ‘jumping crocodile cruises’, where you can see huge Salties jump out of the river for food from the safety of your boat.
Uluru (‘Ayers Rock’) is the most visited tourist site in Australia, around 365km southwest of Alice Springs. This huge sandstone monolith towers over the surrounding desert at 430m high and with a perimeter of around 9km. It’s particularly magical at dawn and dusk, when the sandstone takes on countless hues of red, orange and yellow. For any budding geologists, the distinctive red colour of Uluru is due to iron minerals in the surface rock which oxidise with the air. To make the most of your visit, it’s worth staying for a couple of days and there are some outstanding Ayers Rock hotels to choose from.
We recommend a tour to get acquainted with this part of the NT. In just 3 days, you can experience sunrise and sunset viewing of Uluru, visit the culture centre and join in several spectacular hikes, including Uluru base walk, Valley of the Winds walk and Kings Canyon walk.
Other rock formations nearby are the Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olgas - 36 rocky domes, the tallest of which soars to a height of 1,066m. To explore this landscape – take the ‘Valley of the Winds’ walk - a magnificent 7.4km circular walk with several spectacular lookout points. Far less crowded than Uluru, the scenery here is equally spectacular as you walk amidst towering red domes
The Northern Territory divides into two distinct halves, a land of extremes and contradictions from desert to wetland.
The Top End, (Darwin, Kakadu and Arnhem Land) has lush wetlands and a sultry, tropical climate with high humidity and wet and dry seasons. In contrast, the Red Centre is dry, rugged desert country. It can be extremely hot during the day, especially in summer from December to February, but the temperature drops rapidly when the sun goes down.
The Northern Territory is an astronomer’s dream. Dark sky sites can only exist where there is incredibly sparse population - and here the small population is mostly clustered in Darwin (100,000) and Alice Springs (27,000), so light pollution is virtually non-existent. Look to the heavens and you’ll be struck by the darkness of the night sky, and the sparkling stars – under ideal viewing conditions, it’s possible to see around 5,760 stars merely with the naked eye.
Make the most of the experience by enjoying a Night Sky Show at Ayers Rock Resort, an informative hour-long look at the sparkling outback night sky with an astronomer and telescope.
If you’d like to include any of Australia's Northern Territory highlights in your trip, I can recommend tailor-made holidays, trip ideas, tours, car hire or cool campervans – whatever suits your style and budget best, just contact Grainne.