The next stop on our campervan holiday in the Top End was the southern Top End city of Katherine and it’s Nitmiluk National Park, better known as Katherine Gorge. Nitmiluk is the name given to the gorge by the local Jawoyn Aborigines who own the park. The park is located about a 3.5 hour drive south of Kakadu and worth checking out if you have the time.There is not much in the city of Katherine, but it does have basic services for all tourists. We arrived in Katherine late in the afternoon and stayed at a local caravan park for $20 which isn’t too bad. We got up early the next morning and arrived at the park at 8AM. We thought by getting there early we could get first in line to rent a kayak. Little did we know that the park starts renting out kayaks the day before and all the kayaks had been booked already. So word of advice to anyone wanting to kayak the gorge, book your kayak early, at least the day before.
So instead of kayaking we took one of the four hour boat cruises up the gorge. As you can see from this picture the gorge is not exactly the Royal Gorge or the Grand Canyon, but it is still quite beautiful:
The Katherine River that runs through the gorge has various water levels and our guide actually claimed that the river during a really bad wet season will actually rise to nearly the top of the gorge. One thing that Katherine Gorge has that the Grand Canyon doesn’t is crocodiles:
The gorge is home to fresh water crocodiles (freshies) that are not known for attacking people. Sightings of the aggressive and much larger salt water crocodiles (salties) are very rare in the gorge. Still it is best to be careful around sandy areas in the gorge where crocodiles like to hang out:
The boat cruise is actually a pleasant way to see the gorge, but we did have to do a little bit of hiking at some points because of the low water level during the dry season that causes some parts of the river to be non-navigable by boats:
The walls of Katherine Gorge can be quite impressive at some points:
Further up the gorge we went the more narrow and spectacular it became:
One thing to remember if kayaking up the gorge is that you have to exit the gorge by 5PM. Our boat guide saw some kayakers not returning to the boat ramp by the 5PM deadline and became quite agitated with them. Our boat tour also ended by 5PM and here you can see the sun starting to set on the gorge as we return to the boat ramp at the visitor center:
All in all, Katherine Gorge is worth checking out if you are up in the Top End. However, I wouldn’t consider it a must see location for anyone visiting Australia though. Honestly a gorge like this is a dime a dozen in the western United States so I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with let’s say Ayers Rock or Kakadu. So like I said if you have the time and your up in the Top End anyway definitely check it out, if not don’t lose sleep over missing it.
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