South Alligator River panorama
On the road I posted quite a few photos and wrote quite a bit about Kakadu National Park, especially in the posts from Hawk Dreaming – but I also did a scenic flight over Kakadu that I never had time to write about before now. This week I went through some of the photos from the flight and was surprised to find some that I really liked, I remember initially being very disappointed because the shooting conditions were incredibly difficult – more about that later. Here’s the tale of Kakadu from above.
You can do scenic flights over Kakadu from either the township of Jabiru in the park – or from Darwin. I took off from Darwin airport in a small plane with four fellow passengers and one pilot on a very early Monday morning. From Darwin it’s about an hour of flying time to get to our pitstop in Cooinda in the park.
It is just after sunrise and the light is brilliant. It is a very hazy morning though making photography hard with very little light to work with. At least the air is still cool from the night so no turbulence – yet! We fly over the amazing South Alligator river where we spot crocodiles on the banks heating their bodies in the morning sun. We see the wetlands of Kakadu (the bit that’s still wet in the dry season) and the Yellow Waters Billabong and the little tour boats. It’s a beautiful flight and the only way to experience the scale of Kakadu national park – you really get a sense of the nearly 20,000 square kilometers of Kakadu from the air. The photo above and the following two are from the morning flight.
We touch down at Cooinda for an hour and a half, allowing people who wish to do so to join the Yellow Waters cruise. I’ve actually done that yesterday so I re-visit the amazing Warradjan Cultural Centre (the best cultural centre in Kakadu).
At about 11am we jump in our plane again and take off for the Escarpment and then back to Darwin. Now by this time it’s about 35c degrees, the sun has burned away all the haze and heated the air – a lot! Because of the hot air and the cyclone strength winds coming off the tall Escarpment plateau we have turbulence like I have never experienced before. The plane is jumping up and down like some huge hand of a weather god is shaking it and it quickly gets extremely hot and uncomfortable in our little cabin. Two of my fellow passengers use their complimentary plastic bags and say hello to their breakfast again! I try to shoot photos but looking through the viewfinder is impossible so I just point the camera and shoot blindly out the window and concentrate on keeping my own breakfast down (I succeeded fortunately!). Here’s the spectacular Escarpment that’s causing the spectacular turbulence!
Looks majestic, quiet and peaceful doesn’t it! Well in our plane it felt like the perfect storm! I love flying but when we touch down in Darwin again I am actually a bit happy to be on terra firma again. Even for me that turbulence was a bit too much and the rest of the day my balance is off. With the turbulence and the haze in the morning, photography was difficult and looking through the photos in the evening I was initially very disappointed with what I got. But revisiting the shots now with some work on the RAW files in Rawshooter there are actually a few that are fine and I’m pleased to have shots of Kakadu from above. Looking at them now is almost giving my stomach some not so pleasant flashbacks! See more Kakadu aerial shots in my Kakadu gallery.
I would definitely recommend a scenic flight over Kakadu – if you have the stomach for it! If you wish to experience the Kakadu turbulence please shake your head or your monitor violently as you browse my photos 😀
It has been an exciting and eventful and beautiful Kakadu flight certainly and thank you for flying Flemming Bo Airlines!