By Jade Johnston
Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk national park is famous for being one of the regions most stunning natural features.
Katherine Gorge is found inside Nitmiluk National park, which is near the town of Katherine and about 244 kilometers south of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The gorge was formed by the wearing down of the Katherine river, and is made up of 13 gorge systems. The area is a very important place for the local Aboriginal inhabitants, the Jawoyn people.
One of the best ways to experience the gorge is by cruising the gorge itself. Nitmiluk tours, which organizes all tours in the region run several gorge trips daily. However, for those with the time, the best cruise in my opinion in the Sunset Katherine Gorge dinner cruise. (If you are unable to work the dinner cruise into your schedule, then consider the breakfast or lunch cruise instead.)
The dinner cruise commences at 4:30 with our orders being taken before we board the boat. This boat is the first of three that we will be on, and consists of rows of chairs with wide open views of the surrounding countryside.
As we made our way up river, our guide explained the make up of the gorge, and some of the plants and animals that inhabited the area. It wasn’t long until we spotted a freshwater crocodile hanging out at the side of the gorge.
Freshwater crocs are completely harmless to humans, and their diet consists mainly of insects, fish, and sometimes birds. Their jaws are not large or powerful enough to consider anything larger, and therefore it is completely safe to swim in waters which contain freshwater crocodiles.
Our guide also pointed out some saltwater crocodile traps and detection methods. Saltwater crocs, on the other hand, can be extremely dangerous to people, and they do sometimes find their way up the Katherine river. However the park takes great care in monitoring and removing any saltwater crocs who come up this far. Most of the time, it is safe to swim in the gorge, but it’s a good idea to obey any signs or warnings that may be present. (Personally, I would never swim anywhere if even the faintest possibility of being eaten existed – but then I am a big suck when it comes to these things soo….)
When we reached the natural barrier between the first and second gorge, we had to walk a short distance to get to our second boat of the evening. The scenery along the walk was breathtaking, as the light was just entering into that wonderful golden hour which makes any photograph appear more enchanting.
Along the short walk, we also passed some Aboriginal paintings which our guide pointed out to us. He also showed us some beaches with freshwater croc tracks on them. This is where the crocs some to lay their eggs. Did you know that the sex of the baby croc is not determined by genetics, but instead by the temperature of the sand in which they are buried?
The second gorge is famous for being the most attractive one, and it is hear where you can really get a good visual idea of the forces that shaped the gorge. As we passed by smaller gorges, our guide pointed out that the landscape was broken into an array of right angle breaks in the rocks – making the whole area appear like a giant block of rough chocolate from above.
It is hard to believe such strong geological process are at work in a land so peaceful.
As we passed into one of the most beautiful areas of the gorge, and the same place where the Butterfly Gorge hike terminates, our guide regaled us with some of the traditional Aboriginal stories of the region. The deep pool where we now sat is apparently the residing place of the rainbow serpent like figure who the Jawoyn believed created the country.
Eventually we had to head back to the first gorge, but we were all eager to, as this was where our dinner boat would be waiting for us.
As we were directed to our seats, the wait staff handed us a glass of champagne to wet our palettes. By this point I was actually quite hungry, and definitely looking forward to the meal. The menu card on the table promised an exciting three course meal.
Appetizer – Antipasti Plate and Crocodile Bisque – I can never say no to hummus and olives, so of course the Antipasti Plate was a big hit with me. However, I was most excited for the Crocodile Bisque. The Crocodile was served in espresso style cups, and was deliciously creamy with small chunks of delicately cooked crocodile. It was a great introduction to Crocodile, and wasn’t as fishy as I had heard it could be.
Main course – Grain Fed Steak or Fresh Local Barramundi. I chose the Baramundi, as it is a speciality in this region of the world. Tourists come from all over the world to engage in Barra fishing. The taste can be a little strong, so those who don’t normally order fish might find it a little overwhelming.
Desert – Coconut Creme Brulee – Now this was just amazing. I am a big fan of Creme Brulee full stop, but the coconut flavours really complimented the rest of the dinner.
The sun set as we enjoyed our main course – which is why I have no photos of the amazing main and desert. However, that desert was so amazing that I don’t think anything could have come between me and it for long enough to get a photo.
The boat cruises leisurely back and forth as we enjoyed our meal. When the light from the sunset had gone down, the boat turned on its spotlights which shone onto the banks of the gorge as well as into the trees.
This was to allow us a chance at spotting some of the gorges nocturnal animals.
It seems the animals must have been off foraging somewhere else, as I only managed to spot one single little wallaby by the rivers edge, but then again, as I said, that amazing desert had me pretty distracted.