The Yellow Water Billabong is famous for its wildlife in Kakadu National Park. It is home to crocodiles, water buffalo, wild horses, and all kinds of bird life. It’s a wonderful spot for immersing yourself in the history and natural beauty of one of the Northern Territory’s most loved places. And getting out on the water on the Yellow Water Cruise is the perfect way to do it.
The Yellow Water Cruise is one of the most popular experiences when visiting Kakadu, we’d had heaps of people recommend jumping on the tour before we arrived. The tour runs at several different times throughout the day, offering a completely different experience for every tour.
Yellow Water Billabong Cruise
We decided to jump on a sunrise cruise, to see the wildlife waking up as the park came to life for the day. We were picked up super early, at around 5:25am from the bus stop at Cooinda, and then it was just a short 10 or so minute drive down to the billabong where the cruise departs from. There were two boats departing on the morning of our trip, so we found a seat in the open air boat and got comfortable. Our tour guide for the day was Woody, who introduced himself and started sharing all kinds of interesting information about the park and the billabong.
Top tip: Although temperatures in Kakadu National Park regularly reach the high 30’s during the dry season, it is surprisingly cool in the morning. Make sure you bring a jumper or light jacket for your cruise, because it’s definitely not very warm in the morning.
The sun started rising just as we set off from the dock, which was absolutely beautiful. The cruise moves super slowly, so there’s plenty of time to take photos from all different angles. There were a couple of cows and buffalo grazing right along the bank as we left, with all kinds of bird life waking up for the day as well.
One of the most impressive birds to spot on the cruise are the Brolga, which a super large and rare to spot in flight. We actually had two fly over us just as the sun was rising, which was amazing. Woody was so great at spotting all different wildlife and pointing them out to us. He also had so much knowledge about the local Bininj people, and shared their stories about the wildlife in the area, as well as the ways in which they lived traditionally in and around Kakadu National Park.
We saw heaps of crocodiles along the cruise, we lost count of how many there were! There were some absolutely huge ones other there, big male salties that were protecting their territory. Our favourite was named Van Gogh and he was marching through the water at quite a pace. It definitely looked like he was on the hunt for a fight to be honest. At one point he disappeared underwater with another crocodile and it looked like there was quite a scuffle, but we couldn’t see what was happening from the boat unfortunately.
One of our other favourites was the Jesus bird. They were these teenie tiny birds that lived on the lily pads, and they were just so cute. You have to really focus to see them, they’re so tiny, but there was about four baby ones running after their Dad as they came out to find something to eat on the lily-pads. Because they’re so tiny and have confusingly large feet (compared to their body size) the Jesus bird got their name because it often looks like they are walking on water as they softly step along the lilies. They’re so cute and definitely an unexpected highlight of the cruise.
Kakadu Bird Week
Did you know that one third of Australia’s bird species can be found in Kakadu National Park, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands in this region!
If you’re a bird lover, consider planning your trip to coincide with Kakadu Bird Week, which is between September 26th and October 3rd this year. It’s a great time to visit Kakadu, with all kinds of free bird activities, guided tours, Aboriginal insights and cruises in the wetlands. Kakadu has been voted the number one bird watching destination in Australia by Australian Geographic, so they definitely know how to put on an amazing bird week.
The Yellow Water Cruises are offering special Bird Week cruises at 4:30pm (26-28 September and 1-3 September), which focus on the bird life around the billabong, as well as taking in the beautiful sunset. There are also guided bird watching tours through East Alligator River, South Alligator River, Nourlangie and Mary River. The Crocodile Hotel and Cooinda are both offering special discounts on accommodation during Bird Week, so it’s a great time to visit.
For more information about Bird Week check out Parks Australia’s Events.
The Yellow Water Cruise runs at a number of different times throughout the day, with the first at sunrise and the last at sunset. The cruise lasts for two hours, and moves at a peacefully slow pace around the billabong, giving you plenty of time to take all your photos.
Price: $90 per adult, $65 per child.
Many people like to jump on more than one cruise during their visit to Kakadu, to see the differences on the billabong at different times of the day. If you want to book a second cruise, make sure you hold onto your ticket, because you can get a half price discount on a second cruise.
Head to the Kakadu Tourism website to find out more and book your cruise.
We experienced the Yellow Water Cruise as guests of Kakadu Tourism. All opinions are, as always, our own.