Posted by: Malpass Oz Adventure | August 11, 2011


Saratoga at 2 Mile Hole

They did it!  We finally had some fish for dinner… not the longed for Barramundi, but a couple of Saratoga.  According to Ben’s fishing bible Saratoga has a very poor eating quality, very poor maybe for those who catch a lot of fish, but for those of us who are fish starved there was nothing sweeter!

The boat has definitely been a worth while purchase, we have used it a lot, not just for fishing, but for getting to see parts of  Kakadu that are inaccessible without a croc-proof boat.

First boat trip - RockholeBen and Jake at RockholeIndi on the boat at Rockhole



And of course we have been able to see some wildlife which we may not have had a chance to see otherwise.

Esturine Croc, RockholeWhistling ducks, Yellow WaterLily pad hopping bird (not sure of real name!)Yellow WaterWater lilies, RockholeYellow Water, Sea Eagle

Our time in Kakadu had not even started and we were enjoying the beautiful scenery of the tropical north wetlands.  We started out in Mary River National Park, taking Hardies 4WD track into Couzins Lookout camp.  This is the first bit of rough 4WDing we’d done for a while and it was good to get off the beaten track again. We were definitely rewarded with some great sights on the early part of the journey with billabongs, water lilies and birdlife everywhere (although the kids saw little with their eyes glued to a movie screen!). The track did dry out after a while though and the going got pretty dusty towards the end.

Crossing dry riverbed, Hardies 4WD track

What scenery???Jabiru about to take flight, Hardies 4WD track




The mosquitos were out in full force at Couzins LookoutUnder the mozzie net and we were confined to the mozzie net during the dusk and dawn hours.  We had been warned about the mosquito problem, and were not looking forward to dealing with a week or more of the little blighters after this first night, but really, so long as you wore long sleeves and used repellent and a net they were not that much of a problem.  It was only later in the afternoon and first thing in the morning for most of the time anyway.  Certainly not bad enough to consider not coming to Kakadu as we have heard is the case with some people.

From Couzins we camped at Shady Camp for a couple of nights. Shady Camp is on Barrage at Shady Campthe Mary River with the camp right beside a barrage which helps to stem the flow of the salt water from the tidal part of the river into the fresh water area.  The man-made barrage has been built to replicate the natural barricades that Mother Nature once had in place, but which have now mostly eroded away due to water craft on the river.  The barrage allows you to fish either upstream in the fresh water or down stream in the salt water.  It’s amazing to see the change in tide heights too, they get 6 or 7 metre tide differences here, so when the tide is out you can barely see the the water on the sea side.Off to catch some fish Unfortunately the fish were not biting though – and not just for us, everyone was having a poor time of it.

So, four nights in and we eventually make it to Kakadu itself, staying at Two Mile Hole.  A great spot which we had all to ourselves on the night we were there and the spot where Ben and Tobey caught their Saratoga.

Enough of the fishing for now, it was time to move on and experience something different from Kakadu. We spent a couple of nights at Ubirr with the highlights definitely being the rock art and the amazing sunset view over the wetlands.  From Ubirr you can look across the East Alligator River into Arnhem Land. The causeway at Cahills Crossing is a great place to hang out and watch the sights for a while.  It’s a popular place to fish from the side of the banks, but there are plenty of crocodiles around here.  We were there at high tide one day and like the Mary River at Shady Camp the tidal flow is huge (even though we are about 80kms from the sea), we watched as two crocodiles ‘surfed’ up the river, over the causeway on the incoming tide.  It’s a sight I will long remember, jaws open and looking like they were waiting for anything to get near.

Cahill Crossing, tide lowishCahill Crossing, incoming tide in full swing






"Mother Nature" on the Bardedjilidji WalkThe Kakadu Rangers give a series of talks, slide shows and guided walks throughout the park which are just brilliant.  They provide so much more information than you could hope to take in off an information board and are ready to answer to any question you may have.  We went along to several of these and they helped our appreciation of this country and the way that the Aboriginal people have lived here for around 60,000 years.  Narbulwinjbulwinj - Dangerous SpiritIt’s an extraordinarily long time and to gain a better understanding of what the country means to the Traditional Owners and how they care for and work with their country left both Ben and I in owe of their culture.  The laws and culture are passed on to the next generation through the stories of the people, nothing is written down and there are strict rules (or laws) about which stories can be told to which people.  This makes for a culture which can so easily be lost within the space of a Barrginj - Wife of the Lightning Man Spiritgeneration or two if the stories are not retold. Kakadu is a very spiritual place and you cannot help but feel closer to the land here and look at the bush in a whole different way.  That is unless you are the English family whom we had the misfortune of sharing the sunset view from Ubirr rock with.  Imagine a teenage daughter videoing her father jumping around like an idiot – “oh look at Daddy, he’s an Aboriginal spirit and he’s coming to get me!”.  There really is no educating people like that, but surely there is something called respect!

Sunset from Ubirr







There are so many fantastic sights in Kakadu, from the escarpments throughout the park to the waterfalls and down to the wet lands, I won’t bore you with the details of them all, but here are some photos of our highlights.

Maguk, Top of FallsBoat ride to Twin FallsWalk to Twin FallsTwin FallsJim Jim FallsJim Jim FallsGunlom Pools at the top of the fallsGunlom LookputBrolgas flying over Yellow WaterView near NourlangieDSC_0101 (2)Maguk plunge poolEscarpment at NourlangieMardugai Billabong





The scenery has been stunning, but the most memorable time we spent in Kakadu and perhaps the most memorable time we have spent on our trip so far has been on a tour called “Kakadu Animal Tracks Safari”. For seven hours we were taught how to gather and prepare bush tucker by an Aboriginal woman called Patsy and  the tour operator, Sean.  Although this tour was fairly expensive it was well worth every cent, we all got so much out of it, especially an appreciation of how time consuming it is to gather food from the bush, but also how most plants and animals in the bush have a use if you know how to use them.  The kids, especially Indianna, follows Patsy peeling the water lily seed podPatsy around like a lost puppy dog, they were all fascinated with what she was doing. The first stop on our journey was to watch Patsy and her sister Jennifer search for lily seed pods while Sean pushed the boat along.  Before they ventured onto the billabong there was a lot of studying the water and water’s edge though – the water was still pretty high in the billabong and a large crocodile lives near-by.  They made it back safely and we got to try the lily seeds, an amazing amount of seeds came out of each pod.  They also use these seeds to grind into a flour to make damper.

In search of lily seed podsJake getting his share of lily seedsPatsy and Jennifer


Next we poked around for fresh water mussels, using a metal stake to dig into the softer mud on the dried river banks, we really had little luck unless Patsy showed us where one was!

Indi with her musselsDigging for ffresh water mussels






Then Patsy pulled some bark from a paperbark tree and made a basket to hold the mussels in.

Making the basketBasket all madePatsy pulling bark from a tree








Water buffalo is obviously not a native animal to Australia, but was farmed in this area in the early 1900’s.  After the demand for buffalo reduced DSC_0226many of the farmed animals became feral, causing a lot of damage on the fragile wetlands in the northern region.  In the 1970’s the government started culling the feral water buffalo, but conceded that the aboriginal people now made buffalo an important part of their diet and allowed a buffalo farm to be established.  The safari is conducted mostly on this buffalo farm and all profits from the tour go towards the running of the farm and therefore the provision of buffalo meat to the local Aboriginals.  We managed to see just a small herd of buffalo, they are spread over a fairly large area, so not easy to track down…. and not the focus of our tour at any rate.

Another stop in the bush had us collecting palm leaves to Crushed ants anyone?make string with, some firewood and then Patsy happened to find a green ants nest that she expertly scooped the ants out of and crushed in her hands for us all to have a mouthful of.  We have learned previously that green ant bums have a citric taste and can be used to flavour water or food, (a favourite of Tobey’s) but to chew down a handful of crushed ants is another thing – very bitter and a powerful after-taste, but apparently a great vitamin for your general well-being!

Collecting palm leaves for stringCollecting firewood, following Patsy along

Patsy digging for water chestnutsThe last collection for the day was to thump some water chestnuts from the dried mud!  These water chestnuts are only about as big as a finger nail Indianna digging for water chestnutsand we searched for them using a hammer to break away the dried mud from the ground.  Not easy pickings… lets just say that I’m pleased this is not all we had to eat!


More paperbark to collect, this time for cooking and then we were on our way to our dinner site.

Paperbark for oven top

Paperbark for oven top

Step 1 - Catch yourself a gooseAt the dinner site the first job was to get the Magpie Goose cooked, which meant plucking it, burning off the down, brushing off the down ash, cutting it up, laying it on the camp fire and then covering it with paperbark to create an oven.  It was all hands on deck!

Also on the fire was some buffalo and a couple of barramundi. Everything was so delicious, including the damper and billy tea to wash it all down with. Our collection of water mussels and chestnuts that we’d gathered through the day were all gobbled up too.

Step 2 - Pluck the gooseGoose Plucked



Step 3 - burn the down off the duckStep 4 - Brush the down soot off with the goose wingStep 5 - Cut it upStep 6 - Cook it






While we waited for dinner to cook we watched the sun go down over a part of Yellow Water that is not otherwise accessible and learnt how to make string from our palm leaves.

DSC_0356Making string from palm leaves






We had such a brilliant day and the icing on the cake was we got to take away a couple of barramundi.  The only ones we were able to keep from Kakadu and not the eating variety that Ben had so wanted, but the painted variety, courtesy of Patsy!Patsy's Barra!

As we move on from Kakadu the words of Bill Neidjie (a traditional owner) really stick in my head…

‘My people…
Not many.
We getting too old.
Young people…
I don’t know if they can hang onto this story.
But, now you know this story
You responsible now.
You got to go with us to Earth.
Might be you can hang onto this story
to this Earth.’


  1. Wow. That’s looks fantastic.
    On a recent trip to NT people at the places we stayed called Kakadu – Kakadon’t, but you’ve convinced us to go there. The bush tucker experience looks invaluable (love the hair).
    Did you think you’d visit a place and then leave with added responsibility? And what do you do with it now? Life changing perhaps – love it!!

  2. Wow just incredible

  3. Having been to Kakadu and the Mary River a few times, you’ve helped to remind me what a precious and sacred place it is. Thankyou! You all look great too by the way. And what camera are you using? Loving keeping up to date with you guys, and took our computer to Mum and Dad’s so they could see what’s been happening. Dad’s extremely envious. They’re looking after Milly full time now too – Dad loves her. Take care!

    • Hi Jocelyn, apologies or the delay in responding to you, Telstra service is really playingn havco with keeping on top of emails! Please pass on our enormous thanks to your parents for looking after Millie, I am certain that she’s found a lovely spot to hang out there and would never go pass Bruce without looking for a pat! Our camera is a Nikon D90, we bought it about 18 months ago specifically for the trip and it’s been brilliant. It’s really fully automatic, although you can select your own settings we rarely do that as the automatic settings are just so easy. We did opt for a farily versatile lens on it so we don’t have to change the lens at all – and therefore keep out any dust. Anyway, hope all is well with you. Take care Maria

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  4. Great photos Maria……..what an adventure!

  5. Thanks for taking us on tour just loved it – something to treasure for a very long time. The needs of the Aboriginals are so simple – I guess that’s what we should never forget – even though knowledge must move on. Bye the way those first photos showing the croc basking on the land – isn’t there one on the right in the water!! scary ah!! The boat looks great and strong. lol mary & roy

  6. Hello Maria

    Am still loving reading about your trip. Especially love the photo of you and kids in rockpool overlooking grassland. Look forward to the next installment!

  7. Oh wow! what fabulous photos once again. Looks to us that Tobey has got the fishing bug, keep it up Tobey, you maybe able to beat dad. And you are getting lots of hat pins Jake, they look good. We love the photo of you and the kids, Maria, looking out over Ubirr. Indy’s paperbark basket looks good, hope it was full of lots of goodies. Indy has always got a smile on her face, must be happy, and we love your new friends Indy, Patsy and Jennifer. They are just amaizing people as we also found in Derby when we where there. We look forward to your next entry. LOL Mum and Bob xx

  8. Is Patsy the one with the hair – I couldn’t stop staring at it in the photo’s??!!! Your trip sounds brilliant and its great to hear you are having a fantastic time (regardless of the mosquitoes)!! Nadine xoxox

    • She sure is the one with the hair, wish mine would do that!!!!

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