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The Jacana also known as the 'Jesus' Bird.
Photo: Chris Johnson

September 28, 2001
The Wonders of Kakadu: Part I
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

While the Odyssey continues to undergo maintenance in Darwin, some of the crew were able to spend three days exploring Kakadu National Park, one of Australia's most majestic and mystical natural wonderlands.

Kakadu is one of a handful of World Heritage Areas that have been listed for both outstanding cultural and natural universal values. It's an exceptional example of ongoing geological and biological processes, and of human interaction with the natural environment. The park protects one of the finest and most extensive collections of rock art in the world, a tangible reminder of Aboriginal people's long and continuing association with the area.

Lily pads stretch as far as the eye can see along the South Alligator River.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Kakadu also protects the entire catchment of a large tropical river, the South Alligator, and examples of most of Australia's Top End habitats. These include sandstone escarpments, spectacular wetlands, floodplains, forests, gorges and waterfalls. From this range of important habitats, stems a remarkable abundance and variety of plants and animals. With more than 60 species of mammals, 289 bird, 132 reptile, 25 frog, 55 freshwater fish and over 10,000 species of insects, nature lovers will have a difficult time getting bored here. Many species are rare, endangered outside the park or not found anywhere else in the world. Kakadu is one place where limited, if any, extinctions have occurred over the last 150 years.

We awoke before sunrise yesterday in order to cruise the waters of the Yellow River floodplain, a tributary of the South Alligator river. We were advised that early morning was the best time to observe the stunning variety of waterbirds, as this is when they are most active. We arrived at the dock at 6.30am, the sun was yet to show itself and a fine blanket of early morning mist smothered the river. A rather large saltwater crocodile cruised lazily back and forth across our stern, beyond it an expanse of waterlilies and wetlands as far as the eye could see.

As we began our journey downstream the mangrove covered tidal flats were alive with birds. Kingfishers, flycatchers and herons stalked insects and small fish, while several strikingly beautiful birds of prey, including kites, hawks and eagles were soaring in the sky or scanning for food from the treetops. Spoonbills, ibis, brolgas, geese and jabirus were striding the wetlands in there hundreds, but we could not take our eyes of a rather small bird with ridiculously large feet. The Jacana is from a small family of highly specialized waders whose extraordinary long toes enable them to walk on waterlily pads. This species is also affectionately known as the 'Jesus bird' because from a distance it appears to be walking on water.

South Alligator River at sunrise.
Photo: Chris Johnson

We had close encounters with several salt-water crocs. These masters of camouflage were often difficult to spot until we were chillingly close. We also spotted many large silver Barramundi, one of several species on the menu of the salties. Barramundi, or 'barra' as they are known, are a hardy fish can grow to well over a meter in length, with all fish making the change from male to female at the age of about six in order to reproduce.

To learn more about Kakadu National Park, visit the PBS Living Edens - Kakadu website.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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