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Stories from our backyard: Yellow Water Cruises

Sep 16, 2020 | Australia, Northern Territory

Yellow Water Cruises

Meet Big Maxi. He likes a fight. At 55 years of age, he’s a long-term resident of the Yellow Water Billabong and is an impressive fellow at 4.2 metres long. The operators of Yellow Water Cruises take a keen interest in their locals….and Big Maxi is a definite drawcard. He’s prepared to fight for his turf and is one of the many saltwater crocodiles that call the Billabong home. But the famous reptilian predator is not the only resident, in fact you will find a huge variety of wildlife including wild horses, buffalo and a vast range of birdlife….and sometimes even a stray shark who happens to make its way downstream. Yellow Water Cruises is the award-winning operator that has exclusive use of the Billabong and their boat cruise is an absolute must-do to get up close and personal with the rich variety of local wildlife in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.

Yellow Water Cruises

Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres of exceptional natural beauty and is one of the very few places World Heritage-listed for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu is a living cultural landscape. Generations of the Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for more than 65,000 years. Kakadu National Park is a timeless place – a landscape of exceptional beauty, great biodiversity and a wide variety of landforms, habitats and wildlife. Kakadu is home to 68 mammals, more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, more than 2,000 plants and over 10,000 species of insects. The opportunity to meet the wildlife and experience the spectacular journey through Kakadu’s wetlands is why the landlocked Yellow Water Billabong is one of Kakadu National Park’s best-known landmarks.

Azure Kingfisher
Yellow Water Cruises

The Indigenous-owned Yellow Water Cruises takes you on a discovery tour through the dramatic scenery and ever-changing landscape of this world-famous Billabong. The cruise operates from sunrise to sunset and runs up to five cruises daily. The indigenous guides provide fantastic commentary about the local habitat and of course, regale you in the local stories. The guides are skilled in searching for and identifying wildlife. The sunrise and sunset cruises are very popular, and many people take more than one cruise during their stay to see the changes in the wildlife at different times of the day. It really does deliver that WOW factor!

Positive Indigenous outcomes…

Yellow Water Cruises
Kakadu Yellow Water Billabong. Photo credit Paul Arnold

Yellow Water Cruises is more than a window view of Kakadu. The indigenous guides are educating the visitor about their land and country. Their interpretation adds to the visitor experience. And coincidentally, the visitor also contributes to the local indigenous culture as a portion of their cruise fee is put to good use with a direct funding contribution to local Traditional Owners and the community. The aim is about connection, to give back and enrich the world’s oldest living culture.

Guided cultural tours in Kakadu. Photo credit Tourism NT/James Fisher

Welcome and respect the country….

Yellow Water Billabong and Kakadu National Park is more than just a beautiful landscape. I know after our family holiday we left with a greater understanding of the Aboriginal connection to the land. And in the words of Jacob Nayinggul, from the Manilakarr clan: “Our land has a big story. Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time. Come and hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you come back.”

Yellow Water Billabong Kakadu. Jesus bird walks on water. Photo credit Paul Arnold


The winter season (May to September) is traditionally the most popular time to visit. The daytime temperatures range around 30 degrees Celsius and the nights are cool. Perfect weather for all activities. Shoulder seasons are a good option, with A Taste of Kakadu in May and Kakadu Bird Week in September/October. The wet season offers a totally different experience, but worth considering if you like thundering waterfalls and spectacular lightning shows. Getting around Kakadu during the dry season is relatively easy with roads to most of the major attractions (such as Ubirr, Nourlangie and Cooinda/Yellow Water Billabong) bitumen and sealed. Driving can be done in a conventional vehicle, though a 4WD is recommended, especially if you want to get to places like Maguk, Jim Jim & Twin Falls, which are 4WD access only.

Rock art at Nourlangie Rock. Image from Tourism Australia/Nicolas Kavo

Good to know:

The Top End of the Northern Territory delivers a fantastically special and unique Australian holiday. The highlight of this area is the joy of exploring World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, only a 3-hour drive east of Darwin. Connect with the oldest living culture on earth and admire the rugged and remote beauty of the greatest National Park in Australia.  Kakadu National Park has countless activities on offer, you could easily stay for 3+ nights. Apart from Yellow Water Cruises, other top highlights include the free daily Ranger guided-tours, the “must-see” Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, marvel at the Rock Art at Ubirr and Nourlangie, swim at the stunning Gunlom Falls or at the pristine Maguk Gorge, check-out the biggest waterfall, Jim Jim Falls, and there’s plenty more! Read more on Kakadu & the Top End.

And finally:

AET Travel (formerly Australia Expat Travel) specialises in exceptional holidays to Australia and New Zealand. We make it simple with our local knowledge, seamless logistics and trusted advice since 2004. Expect a bespoke itinerary curated with the big picture and the small details. Contact Us

Jim Jim Falls Kakadu

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