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NT borders open in time for dry season wonders

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So much to see in Kakadu at its most accessible time of the year.

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With Northern Territory borders officially reopening from 17 July, and with bargain airfares announced to Darwin, there's never been a better time to visit the gateway to Kakadu

But unlike most winter dry seasons - April-October - this year Australians will have Kakadu National Park - Crocodile Dundee country - to themselves.

Kakadu is best seen over three or four days, or preferably a week to experience the dramatic landscape, rich Indigenous culture, surging waterfalls and abundant wildlife.

The dry actually comprises three seasons, according to Kakadu's Indigenous calendar, which has been developed over 65,000 years of habitation of the region.

Yekke lasts from mid-May to June, Wurrkeng is classified as the "cold weather season" (mid-June to mid-August) but while overnight temperatures might dip to the mid-teens, daytime temperatures usually reach 30C.

The dry finishes with Kurrung from mid-August through October, when millions of magpie geese cover the receding wetlands, along with over 200 other bird species and a vast range of other animals, making it one of the "greatest (natural) shows on earth".

Kakadu is less than three hours' drive from Darwin, with fully sealed roads making travel to and within Kakadu National Park easy, though 4WD vehicles are recommended to ensure visitors can enjoy the full outback experience.

KAKADU MUST-DOS

Sunset at Ubirr

Ubirr is the rock formation in Kakadu National Park where in Crocodile Dundee , Mick famously climbs to the top, points toward the horizon, and says "This is my backyard, and over there is the Never Never" while the movie camera pans across the floodplain.

Ubirr's rock art galleries contain a remarkable panoramic sweep of history with drawings ranging from the thylacine to the arrival of Europeans.

Best time to visit is sunset, when the setting sun creates a rich palette of colours on the rock outcrops and the vast Nadab floodplain below, where buffalos in their thousands roamed decades ago.

Sunrise on Yellow Water Billabong

A visit to Kakadu must include a Yellow Water Cruise. While crocodiles are always the most prized sighting - and you're bound to see lots of them on your cruise - the birdlife is equally awe-inspiring.

There are about 260 varieties to spot, from majestic eagles through to the remarkable comb-crested jacana, also known as the "Jesus bird" because of the illusion creates as it seemingly walks on water.

The cruise guides provide expert commentary, with an Indigenous narrative of the heritage, culture, flora and fauna of the wetlands. Cruises operate throughout the year, with sunrise and sunset cruises the most popular.

Legendary rock art

Nourlangie houses some of Kakadu's most historic rock art. Paintings such as Namarrgon (Lightning Man) explore the relationship of the people to their country and belief.

The paintings illustrate the important stories, food sources, wars and mythological figures and can be viewed as part of a 1.5 km circular walk.

Free guided walks are offered by park rangers during much of the year; discover how Indigenous people developed grinding stones for crushing seeds and later used the stones to crush ochre for painting.

Climb to the top of the rock for sweeping views of the escarpment, while you can also explore the paperbark forest on the Anbangbang Billabong Walk.

Nourlangie Rock and art with Angbangbang Billabong in the foreground

Australia's most spectacular natural infinity pool

Located on Waterfall Creek, Gunlom - where Mick and Paul Hogan and Sue have a dip in Crocodile Dundee - is a magical combination of waterfall and serene plunge pool, with shady gums cooling the picnic areas.

The climb to the top of the waterfall is worth the effort as it offers a series of plunge pools, including an infinity rock pool providing superb views across the southern parts of the national park. Gunlom Billabong at the base of the waterfall provides a cool, quiet resting place.

A walking route to the top of the falls and lookouts takes about an hour over a steep terrain and provides views of the southernmost parts of Kakadu.

Fly like an eagle

During the tropical summer, Kakadu sees torrents of water collect on the escarpment and pour down the rock faces, creating awesome waterfalls, best viewed from the air.

A fixed wing or helicopter aerial tour of Kakadu is an unforgettable experience, with the experienced pilots able to show you the many locations that starred in the Crocodile Dundee films, including a landing strip which featured in the sequel, where the "drug plane' landed. Unfortunately, in real life, the airstrip proved too short for the plane to take off again!

The only place to end up in a croc

Crocodiles are, naturally, at the heart of the Crocodile Dundee story, but also the heritage and culture of Kakadu. Known in the local language as ginga, the crocodile inspired the now world-famous Crocodile Hotel in the township of Jabiru.

Fearsome looking from the air, The Croc - as everyone knows it - is far more welcoming once you enter through its jaws, with comfortable rooms, an excellent restaurant serving the best in bush foods, a large cooling swimming pool and native gardens, and Ochre Art Gallery, where local Indigenous artists share their creative talents with guests as they paint intricate works of art.

IF YOU GO...

Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is located in Jabiru, the main township of Kakadu. Rooms are available from $159 per night. Bookings are via all.accor.com.

Cooinda Lodge is in the southern part of the national park and offers fully upgraded lodge rooms (available from $216 per night), Outback Retreat glamping tents (from $170 per night) and extensive grounds for camping and caravans (from $40 a night).

Located next to Yellow Water Billabong and a short drive to the Warradjan Cultural Centre, the lodge has two swimming pools, restaurants, a general store and petrol station. To book, go to kakadutourism.com/accommodation

READ MORE:Free national park entry until end of year

READ MORE: Barra can travel 80km to return home after the wet

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