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The Ancient Art of Kakadu

See rich Aboriginal rock art in our World Heritage-listed wonder.

In amongst the wetlands, wildlife and rugged gorges, World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park holds one of the highest concentrated areas of rock art in the world. As many as 5,000 Aboriginal sites have been found here, including rock art, shelters, stone tools, grindstones and ceremonial ochre. This detailed, dramatic record of life in Kakadu stretches back more than 50,000 years - from the first evidence of human occupation to the arrival of Europeans.

Aboriginal families camped in rock shelters around Ubirr in Kakadu's north-east, and today you can see paintings of the fish and animals they hunted. Barramundi, catfish, mullet, goannas, turtles, possums and wallabies line the back wall in the main gallery in a rich, ochre tapestry of life. You'll also see some of the world's finest examples of X-ray art - where animals' bones and organs are as visible as their exteriors - in this gallery. Other paintings record contact with the first ‘whitefellas' in the area, thought to be the early buffalo hunters of the 1880s. One has his hands in his pockets, while another has his hands on his hips and is ‘bossing Aboriginal people around'.

Nourlangie, Kakadu National Park, NT. © Tourism NT

Nourlangie,
Kakadu National Park, NT

Not far from this gallery you'll find paintings of the Namarrgarn Sisters - cunning spirits who live in the stars and can make people sick with a string. In another site in the area you'll see a painting of the Rainbow Serpent that is more than 23,000 years old. This quietly powerful 'boss lady' is known as Garranga'rrelito to the local Gagudju tribe.

At Nourlangie Rock, an outlying formation of the Arnhem Land Escarpment, you can see the crevices cut by Dreamtime ancestors in the form of short-eared rock wallabies. These crevices are still visible today, and rock wallabies are often seen there in the early morning and dusk. In the nearby Anbangang Gallery you'll see a painting of Lightning Man, the Dreamtime ancestor who still controls the violent lightning storms that happen every wet season. Nearby is Nanguluwu, where acclaimed artist Najombolmi painted a Mimi Dreamtime spirit figure throwing a spear during the 1960s. You'll also see paintings depicting the arrival of Europeans - including one of a two-masted sailing ship with anchor chain and dinghy trailing behind.

Mt Borradaile, Kakadu National Park, NT. © Tourism NT

Mt Borradaile,
Kakadu National Park, NT

According to Dreamtime myth, Mimi spirits were the first ancestors to paint on rock. They passed their knowledge on to some Aboriginal people, while others learned by copying Mimi art. Sometimes ancestral spirits entered rock walls as paintings, turning them into sacred dreaming places.

With the arrival of Europeans and the changing lifestyle of Aboriginal people, the tradition of rock art has been largely succeeded by painting on bark, paper and canvas. Kakadu's most recent rock art was painted in 1986 and the last flurry of activity before that was Najombolmi's work during the 1960s.

Today you can explore this vast cultural treasure trove with a local Aboriginal guide. In amongst Kakadu's lush rainforest lies an epic history of human occupation.

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Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Immerse yourself in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, a natural and cultural wonder around three hours from Darwin. Discover detailed Aboriginal art galleries, hike to the top of rugged escarpments and cruise the wetlands past waterlilies, waterfalls, crocodiles and migratory birds. Drive the Nature's Way route from Darwin, or add Katherine and Arnhem Land for a longer Top End adventure.

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Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land

Bordered by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land is a vast unspoiled wilderness, rich in Aboriginal culture. The Yolngu people are the owners of Arnhem Land and have occupied the region for at least 60,000 years. The Yolngu retain strong cultural and spiritual links to the land and you will find authentic indigenous experiences. This is the land where Australia's famous musical instrument, the didgeridoo, originated.

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Nature's Way

Nature's Way

Nature's Way

Wind through the Adelaide and Mary River wetlands to World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Here you can bushwalk through rugged escarpments and lush rainforest and discover a treasure trove of Aboriginal rock ark. Learn about the Territory's pioneering history in Pine Creek and swim in crystal-clear waterholes in the tarzan landscape of Litchfield National Park. You can do this dream drive on a fully sealed road in a two-wheel-drive vehicle.

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Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park, with its lush woodlands, spectacular waterfalls, sparkling plunge pools and tall termite mounds is an increasingly popular trip from Darwin. In Northern Territory terms it's just a short two-hour drive away. What's more all the main natural attractions - including Buley Rockhole and the dramatic Florence, Tolmer and Wangi falls - are easily accessible from Litchfield's main road. Check out the cleverly-constructed termite mounds, swim in pandanus-lined pools and take scenic walks on a day trip. Or stay, camp and hike or 4WD to the more remote reaches of the park.

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