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Nature & wildlife

Observe a variety of rare species of flora and native wildlife unique to the surrounds around the many established walking trails, swimming holes and camping areas throughout the Northern Territory.

The NT is home to some of the most incredible habitats in Australia (and arguably the world), including World Heritage-listed sites, numerous national parks, conservation reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. There are boundless opportunities to observe and experience the unique plants and animals of the Territory in their natural environment.

Plan your trip around the iconic locations of Kakadu National Park and Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park. Both are respected internationally and UNESCO World Heritage-listed for their natural and cultural significance to the world.

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Nature & wildlife around Darwin

Darwin is a lush tropical city with abundant bushland, nature reserves and unspoilt coastal areas.

Within the city itself, the George Brown Botanic Gardens is a great place to experience nature. Just a few minutes away from the CBD is the Charles Darwin National Park, protecting significant wetlands, important woodlands and local indigenous and WWII histories. Also within a few minutes of the city is the coastal area of East Point Reserve.

The George Brown Botanic Gardens are a lush tropical forest brimming with an array of flora and fauna. Encompassing more than 42 hectares, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the surrounds. You can stroll through rainforest, sit on the sprawling lawns, relax by the lily pond or enjoy the shade garden. Orchids, boabs, frangipanis, cycads, desert roses all abound in this relaxing oasis in the city.

Charles Darwin National Park offers an extensive network of walking and mountain biking tracks, a shady barbecue and picnic area and a lookout platform with great views of Darwin Harbour and its wetlands.

An array of birdlife call East Point Reserve home, as do wallabies, who forage for food at sunrise and sunset and sleep through the heat of the day. A steel boardwalk and short monsoon forest walk are available for those looking to explore the mangroves and tropical foliage.

Turtle Tracks tour

A cruise during a stay in Darwin is essential and standard for most visitors, but the Turtle Tracks tour provides a truly unique experience. Board the fast boat ride from Darwin and into Bynoe Harbour to the remote Bare Sand Island – a nesting place for the endangered Olive Ridley and Flatback turtles. Tours are scheduled by the lunar cycle to observe the turtles lay their eggs. Participants late in the season may even witness hatchlings wriggle free from the sand to start their pilgrimage to the sea.

Crocodylus Park & Zoo

Crocodylus Park and Zoo is only 15 minutes from Darwin CBD and is home to dozens of crocodiles, as well as other wildlife including emu, cassowaries, jabiru, snakes, water buffalo, dingoes, kangaroos and lions – to name a few. If you want to meet some of the animals up close, indulge in a meerkat and monkey meeting experience, a dingo play date or watch the lion feeding exhibit.

Howard Springs Nature Park

Just 25 minutes outside of Darwin, the Howard Springs Nature Park has been a recreational venue for the people of Darwin since World War II. Its diverse habitats include monsoon forests and extensive woodlands, providing a valuable wildlife habitat. You can swim here, walk through the rainforest or view the fish from the wall of the weir. You can also observe the turtles, birds and a few shy wallabies who come out in the late afternoon.

Berry Springs Nature Park

A mere 40-minute drive from Darwin lies the Berry Springs Nature Park. This is a favourite place with locals to swim, enjoy a picnic and unwind in idyllic surrounds. There’s a looped walking track through monsoon forest and woodlands you can explore at your own pace. In the months of March and April the native plants are in bloom and the grasslands are green and lush following the monsoonal rains.

Territory Wildlife Park

Right next door to Berry Springs is the Territory Wildlife Park. A range of impressive attractions await, including a nocturnal house, a walk-through aviary, an amazing aquarium and a dingo enclosure to name a few. There are presentations and shows throughout the day, with the Flight Deck show a popular favourite (weather permitting). Shuttle trains operate at intervals throughout the day providing transport between attractions. You can hop on and off to enjoy the ride, or stroll through the park at your own pace to take in the surrounds.

Litchfield National Park

Venture down the Stuart Highway about an hour and 20 minutes from Darwin to visit Litchfield National Park. Check out the termite mounds that all point to magnetic north and measure up to 2 metres tall. There are walking trails, hiking tracks and 4WD tracks for you to take. Swimming holes and waterfalls exist in all corners of the park, with Buley Rockhole, Florence Falls and Wangi Falls being the most accessible. Litchfield is full of stunning bushland where you can relax and listen to the soothing sounds of your surroundings.

Daly River region

Approximately 220km south of Darwin is the Daly River, home of the famous Barra Nationals annual fishing competition. The region is also popular with lovers of the outdoors keen to experience its hot springs, gorges, walks, swimming holes as well as it’s barramundi fishing. Head east from the Daly River township to the Douglas River and Daly River Conservation Areas. Here the Douglas and Daly rivers meet and create amazing natural attractions to explore.

While you’re exploring the region, it’s important that anytime you’re going into, on, or even nearby the water, that you’re Crocwise and take notice of all warning signs.

 

Nature & wildlife in Kakadu

Within the 20,000km2 of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, a myriad of animals and plant species reside. Many of the more than 2,000 plant species (including red bush apple, Kakadu plum, pandanus, stringybark and Turkey bush to name but a few), are used for food, medicine, craft materials and as calendars to mark the season cycles.

The grassy scrub throughout the park is home to the bright orange Leichhardt’s grasshopper, agile wallabies and wallaroos, as well as a variety of lizards and snakes. Flying foxes sleep in the trees and at night you may even see a bandicoot or quoll. Within the waterways, as well as the numerous birds, it’s common to see turtles, river sharks and other species of fish, as well as crocodiles.

For a guided tour of the flora and fauna, the Yellow Water cruise is a must. Thousands of water lilies line the landlocked billabong and cruising slowly through provides chances to see saltwater crocodiles, turtles, fish, water birds and even the occasional buffalo on the bank. Cruises are available from sunrise to sunset, with any time of the day offering an unforgettable experience.

Kakadu offers a number of natural attractions to explore. Many are accessible by 4WD tracks or walking trails, often with campsites located close by open for seasonal camping. The Parks Australia Kakadu Access Report provides daily updates on the status of key visitor sites throughout the park, so be sure to check the relevant information beforehand for the location you’re traveling to.

As with anywhere in the Territory, when exploring Kakadu always be mindful to respect the cultural significance of the land and to protect and conserve the flora and fauna it contains. Dont disturb or feed the animals, and avoid any unnecessarily impact on the vegetation to help preserve this unique and remarkable habitat.

While you’re exploring Kakadu, it’s also important that anytime you’re going into, on, or even nearby the water that you’re Crocwise and take notice of all warning signs.

 

Nature & wildlife around Katherine

Just 20 minutes north-east of Katherine is Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park. With 13 sandstone gorges as well as permanent and semi-permanent waterholes that feed into the Katherine River, Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge is teeming with wildlife and plants and is as spectacular as any attraction in the Territory.

Whether you hike along the designated walking tracks, hire a canoe, or take a boat cruise, the majesty of the surroundings will have you marvelling at the wonder of nature. Wildlife abounds, with wallabies and wallaroos, various reptiles, flying foxes and a multitude of birds that migrate to the gorges. There are also plenty of resident freshwater crocodiles that are usually shy and non-aggressive. Occasionally though an errant saltwater crocodile may find their way into the area, so always be Crocwise and take notice of all warning signs.

If you’re a keen angler or just an avid nature lover, using Katherine as a base provides access to some amazing destinations at hand. There’s no shortage of options for quality barramundi fishing, or just an idyllic riverside recess.

The Gregory National Park (Judbarra) is 230km south-west of Katherine and the second largest park in the Territory. There are plenty of great walking trails including the escarpment walk, providing panoramic views of the Victoria River Valley. From this amazing vantage point you can break out the binoculars to observe wildlife living around the escarpment, or enjoy some local bird spotting. Just 60km to the west of the park is Timber Creek, located on the Territory’s biggest river, the Victoria River – or the ‘Mighty Vic’ as its known locally. Huge barramundi are caught each year in this little township, making it noteworthy with anglers.

Just 120km south-east from Katherine, near Mataranka is Elsey National Park. There you’ll find the Roper River – also famous for it’s barramundi fishing. Further south-east from Mataranka, around 480km from Katherine is the Limmen National Park. The park crosses four major rivers and follows a fifth (the Roper River) for a stretch and is very popular with anglers and birdwatchers.

Borroloola and the McArthur river offer some incredible remote fishing experiences in pristine surroundings. Approximately 660km south-east of Katherine, the area is easily accessed by car, or via scheduled commercial flights from Darwin. As well as offering excellent barramundi fishing, the McArthur River also provides boat access to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Sir Edward Pellew group of islands. Surrounded by reefs and rock outcrops, the islands attract an incredible range of reef and game fish (including billfish). The rivers and coastal waters of the gulf to the north and south of Borroloola also provide opportunities for amazing fishing experiences.

When exploring any coastal or river regions, as always it’s always important to be Crocwise and take notice of all warning signs.

Remember to research about the rules and regulations surrounding recreational fishing in the Northern Territory before you set out on your adventure. Or, download the free Northern Territory Fishing and Boating Mate app to learn more about bag limits and restricted zones.

 

Nature & wildlife around Tennant Creek

On the drive through desert country from Tennant Creek towards Alice Springs, Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles materialise from the surrounds to dominate the countryside. Throughout the months of June and July, park rangers regularly hold campfire talks. Listen as they discuss their role in rescue and conservation and share their knowledge of this harsh habitat, including where to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife.

Outside of the Tennant Creek township, the vast desert landscape is home to numerous desert species. The Iytwelepenty/Davenport Ranges contain a network of permanent waterholes that sustain a range of reptiles, amphibians, marsupials and waterbirds. Camp here to see the natural surrounds come alive at sunrise and sunset.

Originally established to conserve the grassland areas of the region, Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve on the Barkly Tableland is a haven for native wildlife. A number of plant species thrive in the reserve and are home to rare and endangered birds including finches, quails and bustards. Kangaroos, planigales and native rodents (including many rat and mouse species), also inhabit the area and are most commonly seen after the rains when the clay pans are swampy and grassy.

 

Nature & wildlife around Alice Springs

Undoubtedly, the best way to observe animals and plants is in their native habitat.

Just outside the town centre of Alice Springs and named after it’s founder, is the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Dedicated to the arid region flora of Central Australia, the garden offers a window into the incredible biodiversity of the desert. As well as various species of birds, rock wallabies and lizards to observe, there are grasses, millet, native palms, wattle, mulga, gums and desert roses. There are also plenty of examples of bush tucker and bush medicines in the garden, as well as the Arrernte sacred site Tharrarltneme (Annie Meyer Hill).

For an up close and personal experience with some of the local fauna, visit the Alice Springs Desert Park, the Alice Springs Reptile Centre and the Kangaroo Sanctuary Alice Springs. Through education programs, these 3 conservation-focused attractions showcase the remarkable animals of the region. Alice Springs Desert Park is also home to the Alice Springs branch of the NT Herbarium, housing more than 270,000 preserved plant specimens and showcasing an amazing range of native plants from across the distinct sand country, woodland and desert rivers zones.

Spanning more than 150km either side of Alice Springs are the Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park and East MacDonnell Ranges. Both are dotted with waterholes and sacred sites that you could spend days exploring and are home to a multitude of unique animal and plant species.

 

Embarking from Alice Springs and heading west 140km and 330km respectively are Finke Gorge National Park, and Kings Canyon & Watarrka National Park. Further afield, around 450km south-west of Alice Springs is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park. All 3 are majestic locations and natural wonders, offering a chance to connect with nature far from the interruption of crowds. A variety of great trails for hiking, walking and mountain biking offer unique aspects of the vast land of the desert country in all its scale and vibrancy.

As with anywhere in the Territory, when exploring your surroundings be mindful that we have a duty to respect the cultural significance of the land and to protect and conserve the flora and fauna it houses. Dont disturb or feed the animals, or unnecessarily impact on the vegetation of these unique and remarkable habitats.

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