In early August, Julie and I joined up with other intrepid travellers on a 5 day guided camping tour of the world famous National Parks close to Darwin. During a couple of post Dry July days before the tour started, we decided to educate ourselves about the bombing of Darwin during WWII and discovered how little we actually knew.

Darwin is not large and there are reminders everywhere of the impact the war had on the city and how close we came to being invaded. One of the highlights of Darwin is the terrific exhibitions at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory including the Defence of Darwin, a Cyclone Tracey Experience and a very large crocodile in residence called Sweetheart.

Wayoutback

The real reason for our visit to the Top End was the Wayoutback Tour of Kakadu, Litchfield and Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Parks. We immersed ourselves (literally) in the natural beauty of these remote iconic destinations while we got up close and personal with crocodiles in the wild and an array of birdlife on the popular boat cruises.

Indigenous artwork

As we did on a similar tour in Central Australia, we were privileged to be able to access rock art created by the Indigenous custodians of this ancient land while also learning more about the aboriginal culture and history. Since returning from this holiday, I have been reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe which challenges the idea that the first Australians were merely hunter gatherers who lived on an empty uncultivated land.

There was a lot of landscape between the major tourist destinations on the tour and much of it had been control burned in accordance with traditional ways. The roads were filled with caravans and campers being towed by expensive 4WD vehicles which in turn were being driven by greying tourists who fill up the camping grounds and enjoy happy hour. Enormous road trains of cattle and fuel weave about the roads at the legal limit of 130kph while everyone complains “how hot it is and it’s still only winter…”

The National Parks of the Northern Territory are amazing and worth the time and effort required to get there. So what are you waiting for?