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Top End of the NT - Kakadu, Matarinka & Tennant Cr

Author: Carl from pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2006

katherine gorge australiaIn 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, flew to Tasmania and back, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin -- 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.

This Trip Report covers the 13-days we spent bird watching in the Top End of the Northern Territory -- Kakadu NP, Matarinka Hot Springs, and Tennant Creek. We saw 156 bird species at 6 nature areas:

Nature Area City Lat & Long Kakadu NP Jabiru 12.664S 132.837E Katherine Gorge NP Katherine 14.312S 132.423E Low Level Park Katherine 14.491S 132.250E Elsey NP Mataranka 14.922S 133.134E Mary Ann Lake Tennant Creek 19.610S 134.210E 41 Mile Bore Tennant Creek 19.321S 134.850E

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

The parks where we saw the most bird species were:

Park Bird Species Kakadu NP 90 Elsey NP 60 Three Ways Roadhouse 47 Mataranka Cabins 44 Mary Ann Lake 30 41 Mile Bore 24 Low Level Park 20 Katherine Gorge NP 17 Total 155

The destinations where we saw the most birds:

City # Birds # Days Mataranka 95 7 Jabiru 90 3 Tennant Creek 80 3

Some people use the Unlimited speed limit in the NT to drive the 666 miles from Mataranka to Alice Springs in 12 hours without spending a night at Tennant Creek. If we had done this, we would have only seen 124 bird species in the Top End. Birding along the Stuart Highway, Barkly Highway, and around the Three Ways Roadhouse let us see an additional 22 bird species in the Top End.


Jabiru - Hotel accommodations in Kakadu NP are very expensive. We almost didn't come, but then we found the Kakadu Lodge & Caravan Park (www.caravan-parkfinder.com.au/pages/directory/parks/view/9534-kakadu-lodge-caravan-park 12.664S 132.837E). The Kakadu Lodge has the dual distinction of being the most expensive lodging of our trip and the most basic accommodation.

We had a small Lodge room with no bathroom or sink. There was a small refrig. The air conditioning only operated when you were in the room. We could fix our own Br and Lu in the room. There is a shared kitchen where we wash dishes that has a TV. The shared bathhouse is very big and clean, with plenty of hot water.

Matarinka - We stayed at the Matarinka Cabins & Caravan Park (www.matarankacabins.com.au 14.912S 133.083E). We stayed here because we read the rare Red Goshawk sometimes nests near the cabins. Sure enough, there it was! We could see Mom feeding two little snow-white headed chicks from our porch.

The cabin is what is normally called a “Park Unit” at an RV park. It was basic, but had a kitchen and air conditioning. We really enjoyed birding around the grounds and meeting other birders.

Tennant Creek - We stayed at the Three Ways Roadhouse -- a combination gas station, restaurant and campground -- about 15 miles north of Tennant Creek (www.threewaysroadhouse.com.au 19.437S 134.208E). This location gave us good access to all the birding spots in the area. We had a deluxe Glendales room, which was pretty small but had a refrig and air conditioning. There was a private bath but no washcloths.

I don't know where people eat in Tennant Creek. The Three Ways Roadhouse was the only place we ever found open for meals. No Problems! The meals there were wonderful!!!

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Try to get to Matarinka a little earlier in the year - before the Flying Foxes arrive.

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