The Two Sides of Nitmiluk National Park
This National Park is spit into two gorgeous areas, Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls. Its also the National Park that caught us out. It came onto our radar when we learnt of the superb Jatbula hiking trail. We desperately tried to book a slot on it without success. Only 15 people / day can hike it between June-September and bookings open the 1st Nov and sell out within days if not hours. We did manage to get a cancellation but it was too late notice. We decided to instead enjoy the park as day visitors for a couple of nights and on arriving found there were multi-day hikes and kayak trips we could have done, but we hadn’t left ourselves enough time….
Yes Nitmiluk you defeated us, but we will be back and the time we did spend in the park was fabulous.
We arrived and set up in the late afternoon and then hit the campsite pool, one of the nicest we have been in with a kiosk and bar. The next morning we set off just after sunrise to hike a small part of the trails in the Southern Section. As we walked past the visitor centre there were thousands of fruit bats, hanging in the trees. I have never seen so many bats! Their smell and noise was so strong and loud.
They are migratory animals and while we were there a research team was on location filming them. We hiked to the lookout as the sun was coming over the gorge and then continued along the rim and back down the valley.
We would have liked to have continued to the bottom of butterfly gorge as we had been told it was fabulous, but we had a half day canoe trip booked. This hike took in the Baruwei Loop, onto the Walkeka walk and back on the Yambi, before hitting the Baruwei again and provided dramatic views across the gorge. We cooled off in the visitor center, which has a stunning view from the deck and a great range of food.
The canoe trip was awesome, the most fun I have ever had in a canoe. You can no longer canoe the first gorge due to the croc risk, so you’re taken 6km in a boat to the start of the second. We had 4-hours to explore the gorge system. There are full day and over night trips too and we were kicking ourselves we didn’t do one of these options. We set off at a good pace as we wanted to get as far up the network as we could, your advised to only paddle gorge 2 and 3 and then walk across to gorge 4 for a swim. Gorge two is stunning with huge sides and beautiful caves and rock formations At the end you have a short easy portage into gorge 3, which is only another 900m.
Then the fun starts carrying, dragging and swimming your canoe into gorge 4. The water is fast following and the rocks hard to navigate so sorry no pictures! We got to the start of gorge 4 after about 30minutes and had a quick explore, but worried about the time if would take to get back into 3, we set off… longingly looking onwards to the adventures we were missing. It was an easier journey back as the current is with you, but I managed to loose and find a paddle. Once back into gorge 2 we moored up on a sandy beach and climbed the steps that lead to a deep swimming pool and waterfall.There are several sandy beaches, but you cannot access them all as the freshwater crocodiles lay their eggs in the sand. Interesting Esturine crocs create a floating nest.We took our time back down gorge 2 enjoying the scenery, exploring the end of butterfly gorge and paddling under rock roofs.
We we would recommend this trip to anyone with reasonable fitness. If you don’t fancy canoeing there are cruises and the Nabililn Dreaming Sunset Dinner Cruise which looked fabulous too. We met our friend Tofty’s brother in the park and they did the dinner and really enjoyed it!
That night exhausted we headed back to the pool and bar and slept well that night. There is a high end lodge on the campsite called Cicarda that I have already planned to stay at next time, when I come back to do the Jatbula trail and over night canoe!!!
I had read that you needed to be the early bird to get a spot at this campsite and they weren’t wrong! We arrived at 9.30am and there were trailers and caravans everywhere! Rich jumped out the car and took no prisoners to grab us one of the final spots on the site. At 10am the gate opens and everyone piles onto their site. But it was worth the effort,as the site is gorgeous with a cute cafe and decking area. We headed straight onto the Sweetwater Pool and Leliyn Trail hike’s from the site. This hike is the last day of the Jatbula trail and takes in so many beautiful waterholes and the famous Edith Falls. We had long hole to ourselves for a dip, before chatting to some overnight hikers at Sweetwater Pool. Edith Falls was amazing, probably one of the best waterfalls we have visited on our trip. It has two big swimming areas to explore. I swam up and under the waterfall which took a bit of effort, the noise and the power of the water was incredible. The lookout was also worth the small detour and then it was back down to the campsite’s cafe for coffee.
Ps we will be back!!!!!