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Published: September 8th 2014
On the Mary River
The water was so clear that there was a perfect reflection.
We packed up and left just before 10am, did the usual dump and then the fuel stop at the one and only BP while I went next door to the Jabiru Bakery and bought some more of the delicious pecan tarts and a couple of fruit scrolls.
We drove about 31km down the road to Mamukala, where there is a bird hide overlooking the flood plain wetlands. We were very surprised to see a very large, new building with large viewing areas, a couple of bench seat and a set of steps to allow children to see as well. They also had some good information boards showing the six seasons with comments by one of the elders about the foods available at each season and what they did to catch them.
We watched for about half an hour and saw lots of ducks (too far away to tell what ones), a few cormorants and Australian Darters and a pair of Pelicans who were upset with the Darter for fishing in their area and honked loudly at him. Best of all we saw two Comb-crested Jacanas with their bright red comb above their beaks and long thin legs and toes
This is the view from the large bird hide.
for walking on the Lotus Lily leaves and floating grass. They wandered around grazing quite near the hide and seemed completely oblivious of us. We also spotted some more Rainbow Bee Eaters zipping in and out of the trees around the edge of the wetland. Those little things get around up here! On the way back to the ute we could hear two different dove/pigeon calls, too, but we couldn’t identify them.
Resuming our journey we approached the South Alligator River and saw a few people on the bridge looking for crocodiles. You are not allowed to stop there but we could see a car park and rest area just over the other side so we pulled in to have a look. There was no sign of any crocs – probably too hot- or they don’t hang around as the tide comes in. It was doing so very fast and we could hear it gurgling along and see it swirling in a large eddy next to the jetty. At the water’s edge on the jetty we could just see some little Mud Skippers hopping around. Barry crossed the thick sodden mud near the river balancing on some small
These birds have really long toes on their feet which enable them to walk on the Lotus leaves and the floating grass.
stones to get a better look but I stayed on firm ground. Some small fish were swept past us as the tide flowed in and then they turned and skipped back just like a stone skipping on the water surface. It looked like really hard work!
On the way back to the ute we saw a lovely tree, covered in yellow flowers, that attracted masses of bees. We also met and chatted to a Ranger who had come with a boat trailer to retrieve the boat from a guided fishing tour that was due to arrive. We kept walking to see if there was another river access point as we still hadn’t seen any crocs, but couldn’t find one. By the time we got back the boat had been picked up and they were unloading it, watched by a hopeful Raven, who even sat on an open car door at one point.
Moving on, we passed two quad trailer road trains carrying sulphuric acid for the Ranger Uranium Mine nearby as well as a military vehicle. We also watched a military helicopter fly over. We found out why later.
As we crossed out of
An Original Toyota "Bull Catcher"
This vehicle, sitting under the awning where we ate our lunch, was used by Buffalo hunters to smash their way through the flat country while chasing the animals. The "Cage" at the front was where the hunter stood with a noose ready to put over the horns of one and then pull him to a stop. They can have THAT job!!
Kakadu National Park the scenery changed quite abruptly to dried out flood plain with no trees and then to low woodland with quite large termite mounds scattered around, a light brown sandy soil colour. Then soon after Barry started to flag so we stopped at the Bark Hut Roadhouse for a late lunch. Barry had buffalo pie and chips and I had a very cheap ($6) but quite tasty quiche with loads of really fresh salad, which we ate sitting under a large fan in the outdoor entertaining area. There was a very battered Jeep sitting under the cover, too, which had formerly been used for catching buffalo. It had steel barriers all around the outside and a cage on the front corner where the hunter would stand and try to loop a rope over the huge horns and then bring the animal down. Water buffalo are hefty animals and they have massive heavy horns so this would have been an extremely dangerous job! You couldn’t pay me enough to do it!
It was almost 3 pm by the time we’d had the meal and a look around so we decided to stop for the night in their
We were greeted at the entrance to the Mary River Caravan Park by these pretty little wallabies. I saw them again at dawn, feeding inside the campground.
caravan park, until we saw that their pool was closed and we really felt like a dip to cool off. Barry checked WikiCamps and found that there was another caravan park at Mary River, less than 3km away with a pool so we went there.
This park looked much nicer and only cost an extra $3. We passed a few Agile Wallabies grazing near the entrance who watched us suspiciously. We booked in and were offered a River Cruise for $30 each, which we accepted as we’d seen good comments about it on Wikicamps. We just had time to get settled into a large, well shaded site before it started at 5pm.
Our guide, Geoff, took us and three others out onto the river where we quickly started seeing both Freshwater and Saltwater Crocodiles. Many were quite small but one was a large, 4.5 metre male Saltie that swam past. He slid so smoothly through the water that you couldn’t see how he did it. We did see later when another smaller one slid off the bank into the water and used his broad, flat tail in a snakelike movement to propel him. The tail was
A 4.5 metre Male Crocodile
He moved so smoothly that you couldn't see what propelled him or hear him coming. It was actually his wide flat tail snaking through the water. No wonder he's such a successful hunter!
soon fully submerged and then he also appeared to glide effortlessly and soundlessly, too. It’s easy to see how they can sneak up on their prey so easily.
We were also looking out for birds and spotted a few White Egrets and Honey-eaters. Then I saw a White-bellied Sea Eagle flying high over the river and then swooping down into some trees. Soon after we saw a second one. Our guide then showed us their large nest, high up in a tree. He said they were a pair and came back every year to breed and kept adding to the nest so it gets larger each time. We continued up the river and then, on the way back, we saw a young eagle sitting right beside the nest. It was almost full sized but didn’t have the white breast which will come as it matures.
Geoff also pointed out a termite mound high up in a tree with trails down the trunk. He said that they nest up so high to avoid the floods, when the Mary River rises up to 9 metres! The trails are the covered walkways they make for themselves to allow them
A Juvenile White-Bellied Sea Eagle
He has left the nest but doesn't seem to want to fly yet, despite being almost full grown. He won't get his white belly and head until maturity.
to get down to the ground for food as they don’t eat their host tree.
The views all along the river were lovely, with lots of different trees and stands of native bamboo all along the banks, being reflected into the clear water. It was lovely getting the breeze as we motored along, too. A great relief from the heat of the afternoon at 360
C. The best view of all was the sun beginning to set over the water as we approached the jetty at the end.
We walked back towards the Bar/Bistro, where we had been told we could get a late “Happy Hour” drink for $3. I took a bit longer than Barry, though, as I stopped to watch the full sunset over the trees. Some Black Red-tailed Cockatoos flew across the golden sky at one point, which looked wonderful.
By the time we’d finished our drinks, neither of us felt up to going in the pool so we headed back to the van for a light meal and a refreshing shower.
We didn’t make it to Darwin but the diversion was wonderful. Maybe we’ll make it tomorrow.
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