Katherine’s crown jewel

I’d been warned about Katherine’s crown jewel. Its sheer beauty demands your attention at every curve, cut, and crease. It sparkles hues of red and orange as sun dances on its surface. Yet, the light reflecting brilliance of Mother Nature is the stuff dreams are made of – because out here, the only jeweller is the one in town.

We have just stepped onto a NitNik Dreaming two-gorge boat cruise, and even before we untie from the moorings, the camera shutters were already clicking.

All aboard NitNit Dreaming 2 Gorge cruise.

The impressive sandstone here is so ancient it’s void of any fossils – plant or animal. Its porous nature reveals stains from the rising and falling water levels over thousands of years. Yet the pink, red and orange tones shine in the soft morning sunlight, while jagged cliffs extend meters into the air as the Katherine River waters lap its edge.

Easy on the eye it is, easy to stop gawking it is not!

As we cruised, our guide explained the landscape formation, the significance of the land to the Jawoyn people, and pointed out the odd bird. On our return a fellow passenger’s eagle eyes spotted a freshwater crocodile sunning itself on a log. It seemed quite small and we all assumed it was a baby, but our guide assured us that freshies grow very slowly and this one would be about a teenager.

We were pleased to not see a saltie that’s for sure! They scare the heck out of us. In fact since arriving in Darwin 12 months ago I have had several nightmares involving these carnivorous beasts. I kid you not – my fear is real!

Apparently salties have been known to frequent these waters, but soon realise there is not suitable breeding spots – they like mangrove like areas to nest – and soon about-turn and head back to where they came from. Some also get caught in the various gorges if they have come in with high waters and when they recede, they are trapped by the rocks, which now protrude between the gorges. While they can walk, and they seem almost indestructible, these creatures are scared of something – tearing the underside of their soft belly. Rangers conduct surveys at the end of each wet season to make sure there are no crocodiles before they open areas up for swimming – thank goodness for that!

Teenage freshwater crocodile suns itself in gorge 1 at Katherine Gorge

We pull in to the jetty at the end of gorge one against a strong current, disembark and walk a short distance to another boat for our tour of gorge two. This was by far the most impressive of the two gorges. We saw the famous Jedda Rock – a sheer cliff face, lit-up by the sun. We pass a small sandy beach where much of the Australian horror movie Rogue starring John Jarratt. Next was the very area of the river system where the Aboriginal Dreaming rainbow serpent snake went to die after carving a path through the rocks to form the river. Then we entered the final section of gorge 2 where the sandstone cliffs narrow and we meander through marvelling at the small caves, waterfalls and plant life clinging to the rocks.

Jedda Rock in Gorge 2.

Soon we reached the start of the third gorge – still inaccessible by boat cruise – and we turn and return for the boat ramp.

A few helicopters fly overhead making us crave such a journey. But for now we are content with our incredible cruise and taste for this stunning landscape. We vow to return to take in more on offer here – walks, camping, swimming, and even that helicopter ride.

Best news on the joy ride front – kids five and under are free! So we best return before D-Man turns six!

Katherine Gorge is located in Nitmiluk National Park

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