How long do I need?
With some tailoring to meet your particular needs the following drive itineraries out of Darwin give an indication of the time required to cover the whole of the Kakadu - Katherine - Kununurra birding route or sections of it that best suit your needs. The times given generally reflect the activities of time constrained birders wanting to cover as much country and see as many species as possible in the shortest time possible.
A common trait with birdwatchers is to cover as much ground as possible in the shortest time but be aware that wildlife and stock animals are frequently encountered on roads throughout the area and that very large vehicles known as road trains (articulated trucks with three trailers) share the road with you. Great care should be taken if overtaking a road train and swerving to miss animals has resulted in many vehicle accidents.
Really Useful Tips
Book accommodation, transport and tours early, especially if visiting between May and August, the busiest time of the year.
An early morning boat tour on Yellow Water in Kakadu NP is a good wildlife and birding experience but popular so book it with your accommodation.
If you intend going to Gunlom in Kakadu NP check with the car rental company that you can take your vehicle on unsealed roads.
Dry Season (May - September) has some of the best birding, especially for finches. July-September is best as most water holes have dried and birds are dependant on the few residual waters. This continues into October but with the risk of storms, after which birds disperse and are harder to find.
Distances seem great but traffic is light and driving at about a comfortable and safe 100 kph averages out to about 100 kilometres travelled in an hour.
Trip 1. Kakadu - Katherine - Kununurra, 6 to 9 Days.
(Distance about 2200 kilometres)
Day 1: Early departure, Darwin to Kakadu, with stops at birding places including Fogg Dam, Adelaide River crossing, South Alligator River and late afternoon visit to Nourlangie Rock then to Cooinda (Yellow Water) overnight. This is a tight schedule and can be extended with an overnight stay at the South Alligator or Jabiru.
Day 2: Yellow Waters boat tour, if required return visit to Nourlangie Rock then south-west to Pine Creek, the Fergusson River, Edith Falls Road and Katherine. Possible afternoon one hour drive to Mataranka. Overnight Katherine. *
Day 3: Depart Katherine, birding along the Victoria Highway, a short diversion 12 kilometres down the Buntine Highway, return to the Victoria Highway, proceeding to the Victoria River crossing for Purple-crowned Fairy-wren. Continue west to overnight at Timber Creek.
Day 4: Timber Creek to Kununurra (at the border quarantine station entering Western Australia all fresh fruit, vegetables and honey will be confiscated so only take sufficient to get you that far). Afternoon birding and overnight in Kununurra. **
Day 5: Early morning birding in Kununurra and environs, depart for Katherine, if necessary call in to locations visited on outward journey for missed target species. Overnight Katherine.
Day 6: Depart Katherine via Stuart Highway for Darwin. Afternoon birding around Darwin.
Trip 2. Kakadu - Katherine - Timber Creek &/or Central Arnhem Road & Mataranka, 4 to 7 Days. (Distance about 1400 kilometres)
Day 1 and Day 2: As per Trip 1.
Day 3: Depart Katherine, birding along the Victoria Highway, a short diversion 12 kilometres down the Buntine Highway, return to the Victoria Highway, proceeding to the Victoria River crossing. Continue west, afternoon birding and overnight at Timber Creek.
Day 4: Depart Timber Creek for Darwin, if 600 kilometres is too far for one day break journey and overnight in Katherine.
Trip 3. Kakadu - Katherine - Victoria River and/or Central Arnhem Road and Mataranka, 4 to 7 Days. (Distance about 1300 kilometres)
Day 1 and Day 2: As per Trip 1 itinerary.
Day 3: Depart Katherine early for a two hour drive for birding around the Victoria River. Return to Katherine with 12 kilometre diversion down the Buntine Highway for Grass finches and mannikins. Overnight Katherine.
Day 4: Katherine to Darwin returning to Edith Falls Road and Pine Creek if required. Overnight Darwin. ***
* Gunlom in Kakadu National Park requires an additional day, the 39 kilometre access road is often very rough, only camping sites are available.
** If a boat cruise for Yellow Chat on Lake Argyle is intended a second overnight in Kununurra or Lake Argyle is required.
*** An extra day in Katherine enables a 50 kilometre drive along the Central Arnhem Road, returning to the Stuart Highway for the drive south to Mataranka, overnight Katherine