5 eco-adventures in the Top End

By Ken Eastwood 25 May 2010
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How best to explore the dazzling Katherine region of Australia’s NT without interrupting the pristine landscape.

A THREE-HOUR DRIVE FROM Darwin, Katherine is an excellent base for Top End eco-tourists. With the mighty Katherine River flowing through town, the stunning Nitmiluk National Park on its doorstep and wildlife hopping around everywhere, Katherine is an essential stop for wilderness lovers.

VIEW GALLERY: The top 5 eco-adventures in Australia’s Top End

One long-term Katherine eco-tourism operator, Mick Jerram of Gecko Canoeing, not only has advanced eco-accreditation with Ecotourism Australia, but is also part of the respected Savannah Guides network. “Working with the community and protecting the environment – that’s what it’s all about,” he says. Like all high-quality eco-tourism operators, Mick ensures that on all his small group tours – whether in kayaks or on foot – visitors leave very little trace, even rubbing out the marks on the sand that the kayaks make. “It’s ideal if the next people think they are the first here,” he says.

The following activities represent how best to explore Australia’s dazzling Top End, without interrupting the pristine landscape.

1. Canoeing and kayaking

Green ants bush tucker (Photo: Nick Rains)

Bush tucker in Katherine, NT (Photo: Nick Rains) VIEW GALLERY

Paddling on a river is without doubt one of the best environmentally low-impact activities. No tracks have to be maintained, and it is so quiet and unobtrusive that you can often see wildlife that would otherwise flee. Katherine Gorge is well known as a superb kayaking/canoeing spot, with dramatic cliffs plunging down to the pandanus-lined Katherine River… See image and read more

2. Hiking
Within Nitmiluk National Park’s 3000 sq. km are a network of great walking tracks that will take you to stupendous lookouts and waterfalls, divine swimming spots, Aboriginal art sites and away from the river into tropical woodlands and spinifex country. The premier walk is the 58 km, 4–5 day Jatbula Trail. The track is well-marked and popular… See image and read more

3. Aboriginal experiences
Nitmiluk Tours is an eco-accredited indigenous company that offers a variety of tours, several of which are in Nitmiluk National Park. You can travel with your guide to the Aboriginal community of Manyalluk, 110 km away, and spend a day learning traditional Aboriginal skills including basket-weaving, spear-throwing, fire-lighting, painting… See image and read more

4. Swimming and soaking
Although, like many places in the Top End, you need to be vigilant in checking for saltwater crocodiles, particularly straight after the wet season when they could be almost anywhere, the Katherine region has some stunning and safe swimming areas, such as Edith Falls and Sweetwater Pool in Nitmiluk National Park. Closer to town, the Katherine Low… See image and read more

5.  Wildlife watching
The Katherine region is brimming with tropical birds – more than 200 species have been recorded in the area, many of which are difficult to see anywhere else, and you don’t have to go far. In the small wetland across the highway from the Katherine Visitor Centre you can see such beautiful species as yellow-rumped and chestnut-breasted mannikins, and… See image and read more

Ken Eastwood is a travel writer and regular Australian Geographic contributor. Ken authored the book Australia’s Best Eco-Friendly Holidays last year.