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From the vast areas of bushland, swimming holes, amazing waterfalls and Aboriginal history in the National parks to the beaches and tropical city of Darwin, NT’s capital city, it’s safe to say that travelling to Australia’s Northern Territory will give you an insight into the ‘real’ Australia!

ULTIMATE travel legend, Max flew up to Darwin last week with Topdeck to discover the Northern Territory. We caught up with him to see what he thought of the trip!

Tell me about your trip up to Australia’s Northern Territory…

I flew into Darwin then started a 5 day tour around Katherine, Litchfield and Kakadu National park. I got to see some incredible sights and it was overall an awesome trip! Our first stop was Katherine Gorge and later that day, Edith falls. We canoed through Katherine gorge which was amazing! There are high cliffs either side of you and the scenery is beautiful. The weather was amazing too – about 36 degrees most days! We also did a bit of cliff jumping into the gorge – crazy fun! It was a great start to my trip at Australia’s Northern Territory and a great way to get to know everyone on the tour too!

Katherine Gorge is a beautiful part of the NT
Litchfield National Park

What do you recommend about Darwin? Would you recommend it to other backpackers?

Before I got to Darwin I didn’t think it would be as good as it was!  I’d heard it was quite small so I just assumed there wasn’t much to do and that it would just be ‘the gateway’ to the National Parks in the NT. It was small but what was there was really cool and I loved it! Darwin is a proper little backpacker town! There’s a long strip with a load of bars and backpacker hostels where we spent most of our time. I liked that everything was in one location so it was so easy to get to everything and get out to the bars in the evening! I stayed at Melaleuca backpackers which was right in the centre of Mitchell Street (the strip.) It’s such a cool hostel with a rooftop pool and bar – the perfect place to chill in the heat!

Luckily, I was in Darwin on a Thursday evening so I got to check out Mindil beach sunset markets. There are hundreds of stalls selling clothes, jewellery and other bits set up right on the beach but the best part for me was all the food! Paella, Chinese, Thai, Pizza, Seafood..you name it, the markets have got it! We sat on the beach eating our food and watching the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen! If you haven’t been to Darwin, just go!

Mindil beach sunset markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset
Mindil markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset

You mentioned seeing crocodiles in the wild…What was that like?

I was lucky enough to take part of a tour at Crocosaurus cove in Darwin where we got to feed crocs and hold pythons, both of which were pretty scary but a cool experience! Seeing the crocs in the wild was something different all together though! We did a crocodile cruise where I saw a croc feeding on a barramundi. It was insane to watch! The crocs jumped up so quickly, the barramundi had no chance! It was pretty scary seeing them in their own environment. It’s coming to the end of the dry season so all the crocs live in the East Alligator river (named by a confused Englishman who thought they were alligators!) in Kakadu waiting for the wet season to arrive where they will migrate to other watering holes. Definitely an experience I won’t forget!

Croc at Australia's Northern Territory

Do you think it’s a good time of year to travel to the Northern Territory?

100%. The weather was warm and humid but it never felt uncomfortable and with all the swimming we were doing, it was perfect! Also, because it’s coming to the end of the dry season, we got to see the crocodiles! During the wet season some water holes are closed off so the tour itineraries change but with so much to see in the area, I’d say it’s actually good to go any time of the year! Experiencing the Northern territory mid wet season would actually be quite an experience I think!

Wet-season at Australia's Northern Territory

What kind of tour would you recommend to backpackers planning a trip?

I’d definitely recommend Topdeck to other backpackers. If you want to travel with like-minded people of the same age with an awesome tour guide thats really experienced at what he does, it’s the perfect tour. Also, the perks of staying in amazing accommodation whilst still getting to see all of the unique sights was a big plus for me.

I think the tour guide really made the experience too. He encouraged us to go to different and more secluded places so we really got the feel for the area, off the beaten track! Some of the places were harder to get to but were well worth it. I really noticed our guide went the extra mile to make it a unique and special experience for everyone there.
Learning about Aboriginal culture in Kakadu
Termite mounds and waterfalls in Kakadu National park

Australia is famous for its glorious beaches, amazing people and incredibly deadly animals.

Whether it is a snake, spider shark or croc, pretty much every animal in Australia wants you dead. Except for Quokka’s – they’re cool.

On a recent trip to Darwin, one lucky tourist was able to take some incredibly rare photos of a 5.5m crocodile munching on a bull shark.

Just let that sink in. 5.5 metres of dinosaur WITH A SHARK IN ITS MOUTH!

Have a look at some of the pictures for yourself – they are truly stunning!

The crocodile, known locally as Brutus, is an absolute beast! According to those on the boat, they had seen him earlier on in the cruise lounging around and as the boat trip returned through the Adelaide River they saw him with something in his mouth.

The captain slowly took the boat closer and it soon became apparent that the crocodile was grappling with a bull shark!

The more details the better the story – Brutus only has three legs after losing one of his front pair in a fight…apparently with a shark! Brutus may have lost that round but he got his own back last week!

Darwin is an amazing place to visit during your time in Australia. You can take river cruises similar to the one with Brutus or you can jump in the water with a giant crocodile at Crocosauras Cove!

One of our travel gurus Holly was able to visit Darwin recently and absolutely loved her time there and was brave enough to take to the water in the ‘Cage of Death’ and absolutely loved it!!

If you’d rather see the losing half of the battle you have to head to South Australia for the chance to cage dive with great white sharks!

Both experiences are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see the biggest, scariest animals in Australia.

If you get the chance to head to Darwin, it is highly unlikely that you’ll spot a crocodile and a shark having a fight but it is possible. As long as neither of them decide to start eating you…it’s a bonus!

When you come to Australia, you don’t just want to take the standard photos.

“Here I am with the Opera House.”

“That’s me next to a kangaroo/holding a koala.”

“I don’t remember taking that photo, I think goon was involved.”

The bog-standard snaps of your amazing Australian adventure just will not cut it, you’ve got to go the extra mile and these seven natural wonders of Australia are the perfect places to pack an album, and learn something about yourself in the process.

Australia is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. When many think of the country, they see red dirt, desert and not much else but Australia offers so much more, so much in fact that keeping this list to seven places is nearly impossible!

There are several, incredible parts of the Australian landscape that couldn’t make the list. From the Pinnacles desert of Western Australia, as the rock formations rise out of the sand, to the pink lake of Lake Hillier.

Kangaroo Island in South Australia is another amazing place. Packed with native species such as fur seals, koalas, platypus and (obviously) kangaroos, the island is a haven for nature off the southern Australian coast.

The Bungle Bungles of the Northern Territory are as cool as they sound. A crazy rock formation in that makes the ground look like it is a moving wave – it is another site not to be missed.

So, what did make our list of the seven natural wonders of Australia? Without further ado….

1) The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

It had to be number one. It is the largest living thing on Earth and stretches nearly the entire coast of Queensland. The Reef is home to thousands of species of fish, mammals and coral and is one of the best diving sites in the world.

The Great Barrier Reef is accessible from several stops on the Queensland coast with Cairns being the easiest spot to take a dive or snorkel trip. A full day on the reef is a must-do, and if you get the chance to scuba dive – even if you have never done it before – you have to give it a go!

2) Uluru, Northern Territory

Another must on any list of natural wonders in Australia, Uluru is one of the most sacred sites in Australia for many Aboriginal groups and really is a sight to behold.

The biggest monolith in the world is one of the lasting images of Australia and a trip to Uluru offers an outback experience that is totally unique to Australia.

A trip to Uluru has to be taken for a minimum of three days and the longer you can spend there the better as The Rock is only one of the amazing natural sights in this area of the Northern Territory. You need to see Uluru at either sunrise or sunset (preferably both) so bear that in mind on any trip you are thinking of booking and be prepared for your jaw to hit the floor!

One of our travel legends Max recently visited Uluru and you can read all about his trip here.

3) Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

About a fifth of Tasmania is World Heritage listed by the United Nations and over 40% of the island state is National Park or Wilderness. Tasmania is pretty much the epitome of natural beauty.

It is tough to pick just one place in Tasmania to make this list – the Bay of Fires is an awe-inspiring coastline, Wineglass Bay is  world-class and the Franklin River is an adventure in itself – but Cradle Mountain makes the list.

Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park looks like it has come straight from Middle Earth by way of Westeros and it is the start or end point of one of the monster hikes of Australia – the Overland Track. While it may not be everyone’s idea of fun, a 65km hike over a mountain sounds a little too strenuous to me, the Overland Track attracts 8000 hikers a year from the world over. If you don’t fancy a five day slog, there are much smaller walks, with awe-inspiring lookouts to take your fancy.

The pictures of Tasmania speak a thousand words and if natural beauty, great food and wine and a whole heap of animals are your thing – speak to one of our travel experts and book yourself a trip!

4) Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

The most ancient rainforest in the world, the Daintree of Far North Queensland is another spot of beauty around Cairns. A rainforest is a strange thing if you’ve never been to one and definately something worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef.

Giant trees and lush rainforest skirt the coast with crazy animals like the very rare Southern Cassowary calling the Daintree home – it feels like something out of Avatar!

Port Douglas, an hour north of Cairns, is the perfect starting place to explore the Daintree and many tour companies offer day or overnight trips to the rainforest where you can see some of the rarest creatures in Australia!

5) Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

One of the most exquisite and untouched areas of Australia, Kakadu National Park, is like another world!

The size of a country in itself, Kakadu is a maze of waterfalls, crocodiles and awesome views and has to be seen to be believed!

Trips leave from Darwin and we recently sent one of our finest travel experts to explore the area and she confirmed what we have long though – Kakadu is not to be missed.

6) Twelve Apostles, Victoria

One of the finest road trips in the world can be found on the Victorian coast along the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles are the highlight of the trip.

Just off the craggy Victorian coast there are actually only eight apostles left so get to Victoria quick before anymore fall! Erosion made the 45m rocky stacks and it is also felling them with no-one knowing how long the other stacks will last.

Several tour companies operate in the Area or you can speak with one of our experts about hiring a campervan and touring the Great Ocean Road with your mates!

7) Fraser Island, Queensland

Ah, Fraser Island. Every backpackers favourite adventure on the East Coast.

The biggest sand island in the world is an incredible place to visit, a big slice of wilderness just off the Queensland coast and a rite of passage for any backpacker.

Whether you stay overnight or just for the day, Fraser Island cannot be missed. The beautiful freshwater lakes of the island, and the crystal clear Eli Creek are highlights and four wheel driving around the island is an adrenalin rush like no other.

If you are camper-vanning down the coast, you can securely park your van before exploring the island as only four wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the island, you’ll find out why as soon as you arrive!

Keep your eyes peeled for dingoes as they roam the island and make sure your camera has a full-battery – you’ll take a lot of photos!

If you want to book any trips to anywhere on the list (and you should want to book all of them!), get in touch with one of our Ultimate Travel gurus and we help you with all your travel needs!

Where is your favourite natural spot in Australia? Crazy for the Blue Mountains or Phillip Island? Let us know in the comments below!

One of our awesome Ultimate Travel gurus Holly Walker recently had the trip of a lifetime to the Northern Territory. Flying to Darwin from Sydney, Holly took part in a 4 wheel drive Dragonfly dreaming tour with Wayoutback Australian Safaris.

In Darwin, Holly stayed in the Youthshack hostel before heading into the national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield. Here is a rundown of what she did….

You flew up from Sydney to Darwin, which must be great this time of year as we are just heading into winter but they are just going into dry season?

It was brilliant timing! I left Sydney on a Wednesday and flew the 4 and a quarter hours to Darwin. The weather was absolutely amazing during the day (30-35 degrees) but it did rain for a couple of hours overnight. It’s just coming into dry season so it should stay dry for the next 5-6 months so now is the perfect time to head north.

After you arrived in Darwin and got checked in to your hostel, I hear you did something awesome before the tour even started?

You heard right, this isn’t normally included on the tour but if you were to spend a day either side of the tour in Darwin you could easily fit it in and it was incredible!

We visited Crocosaurus Cove for a ‘Cage of Death’ crocodile experience. This is pretty much as terrifying as it sounds but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with saltwater crocodiles!

We got into our swimming gear and tried to keep down the butterflies that were careening around our stomachs and headed into the cage! This  involved being lowered into the water in a tank to get up close and personal to the ‘Kate and Will’ two of the resident crocs at Crocosaurus Cove.

That sounds amazing and terrifying all at the same time! What did you do on that first evening, did you meet up with your group?

Yes, we all got together in the evening and we visited Mindil markets in Darwin to have a look around the numerous food, jewelry, trinket and aboriginal art stalls. We chilled on the beach with a few drinks, eating food from the markets whilst watching the amazing Darwin sunset.

Honestly, I’ll never forget that sunset it was truly spectacular. The way the sun dipped into the ocean was like something out of a bad romantic comedy. I took about 400 photos of it so it looks like a flick-book when you go through my Facebook album!

The next day, your big trip began. Can you give us an itinerary of what you did?

We started off the tour in Litchfield National Park exploring waterfalls such as Florence and Wangi falls. We also went to see some termite mounds between swims which was pretty cool.

We stopped off for lunch at a permanent campsite before heading to an indigenous cultural centre (a wooden construction with a cloth over the top for shade), here our aboriginal guide Graham talked us through the aboriginal history and culture.

He told us stories of ‘dreamtime,’ which is the name for the Aboriginal belief system and he discussed the way of life in aboriginal communities. We were also shown basket weaving and spear throwing.

We arrived at our campsite in the Mary River region early evening for dinner, a good old fashioned BBQ, and spent the evening searching for local wildlife, having a few drinks and counting shooting stars which was absolutely beautiful.

The next morning we went on cruise of the a Mary River wetlands. The wetlands are made up of lagoons, canals and billabongs. We saw crocodiles in their natural habitat, as the Northern Territory has the highest concentration of saltwater crocs in the world, a vast variety of birdlife (trying to not be eaten by the crocs!) and lots of beautiful scenery and flora including the beautiful water lilies and lily pads.

We then did some 4 wheel driving along the dirt tracks in Kakadu National Park which was immense! We reached Gunlom falls and hiked up to the top of the waterfall before spending the next few hours relaxing in the infinity pool and other plunge pools overlooking Kakadu. We then headed towards a different campsite to spend the night. Both campsites are permanent with access to hot showers and toilets. All tents were permanent and equipped with beds.

We started off the last day by taking a short hike up to Nawurlandja lookout overlooking Nourlangie and Anbangbang Billabong. We were then given the option of taking a scenic flight (at own expense) over Kakadu National Park to check out Jim Jim and Twin falls before heading to Ubirr for lunch.

At Ubirr we viewed a wide range of ancient aboriginal art and rock paintings which were interpreted by our guide. This was quite a unique experience, having someone who was able to tell us what these paintings mean after thousands of years was a really powerful moment.

We hiked up to the Nadab lookout for panoramic views over the floodplains and into Arnhemland. En route back to Darwin we stopped off at the famous ‘Humpty Doo Hotel’ for a drink to end our top end tour.

Wow. That sounds absolutely awesome! It’s crazy how much you can fit in one trip! I know it’ll be difficult but does anything stand out as your favourite bit?

Gunlom falls infinity pool is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is a natural rock formation that has to be seen to be believed. Sitting in the cool waters looking out over a the breathtaking view is something I’ll never forget. The photos look awesome on Instagram too!

The Mary River wetlands cruise was great as well, seeing those crocodiles and imagining what was going on beneath the surface! The stargazing at the campsites (I’ve never seen so many stars!) was incredible too. Kakadu and Litchfield are some of the least populated areas of Australia and you really get a feeling for how vast the country is when you are alone with your group in the middle of nowhere!

Nadab lookout overlooking Arnhemland was awesome too and the sunset at the Mindil markets in Darwin was also amazing. As you can tell, it was a trip with a lot of highlights!

It sounds like it! Did anything surprise you? Did you enjoy anything more than you thought or was it all as you expected?

I was surprised how big Kakadu National Park actually is, it is as big as country (Slovenia, to be precise). You can drive along the dirt roads for hours without seeing anyone else!

I also realised how little I knew about aboriginal culture and learnt lots of interesting facts from the aboriginal cultural centre we visited. I was shocked driving past bush fires at the side of the road and to learn that parts of the national park are burnt by local aboriginal communities to maintain the land as well as being caused by the dry heat within the national parks.

I know you mentioned the crocodiles but you must have seen some other cool wildlife while you were in the outback?

I saw lots of crocs in their natural habitat which was awesome. I came across loads of frogs and toads, a huntsman spider, some wild donkeys and a random albino buffalo!

We also spotted two owls at the first campsite we stayed at and I accidentally ate a mosquito (its family nearly bit me to death after that). All in all there was lots of interaction with wild animals and insects!

If you like the sound of the trip that Holly was lucky enough to go on, get in touch with us on bookings@ultimate.travel

Do you want to visit one of the world’s best tourist destinations? Head to the Northern Territory! National Geographic has just listed the NT as one of the 20 Best of the World for 2014. Ultimate Oz could not agree more and there’s too many reasons why to mention, so we’ve picked just a few for you:

Darwin

Darwin is a great place to start your Northern Territory adventure. The combination of the night markets, museums, incredible history and breath-taking sunsets all adds up to a blend of culture that will intrigue and excite you.

Why not checkout the Pearling Exhibition or the Military Museum, or many of the other cultural delights on offer, before heading to the Wave-Pool and Lagoon on Darwin’s waterfront. When you’ve dried off from the pool, grab a deckchair and head to the outdoor cinema to catch one of the many diverse range of films on offer.

If you’re sampling the night life on offer in Darwin, there’s a bar to suit any mood:

If you want a bar with a great beer garden, head to Wisdom Bar on Mitchell Street. Head across to Shennanigans Irish Bar, also on Mitchell Street , for a good sing song on the karaoke. The Hippy Club is great for a game of pool and you can grab some good cheap grub at The Blue Heeler. For a nice chilled out glass of wine, head to the stylish and relaxed Monsoons Bar, found in Darwin’s original cinema building.

Beyond Darwin, the culture continues as you head in to World Heritage-listed national parks and rich indigenous lands.

If you get the chance to head to Kakadu, Australia’s biggest national park 3 hours east of Darwin, you’re in for a treat! Take a few days to explore the sights on offer. You can learn the cultural and historical significance of the local Aboriginal rock art before you four wheel drive to Koolpin Gorge or Jim Jim Falls and Barramundi Gorge for a swim. From Kakadu, you can take the Nature’s Way touring route to Litchfield National Park where you will be greeted with rock pools along the Katherine River. Then finish your experience off with a hike up to the top of Gunlom Falls, which you may recognise from the film Crocodile Dundee. After, head to the base of the Arnhem Land cliff to cook a well-deserved meal by campfire before you settle for the evening.

If you want to experience a bit of the outback during your time in the Northern Territory, Alice Springs is possibly the most famous outback town in Australia, boasting a vibrant history, rich Aboriginal traditions and incredible landscapes for you to explore.

Ride a camel through Ilparpa Valley to see the Macdonell Ranges, visit the Sounds of Starlight Theatre and Araluen Cultural Precint or take an Outback Quad Adventure to Undoolya Cattle Station. If you’re in Alice Springs for the last Sunday of August, check out the Henley-on-Todd Regatta … an annual sailing and rowing regatta held on a, erm, dry river bed – it needs to be seen to be believed! You wouldn’t experience this anywhere else in Australia!

For a night out, you cannot go wrong with Bojangles! The seats are saddles, the toilet doors open from the opposite side (confusing when you’ve had a few!) and they have webcams on the bar that link to their website … your friends from all around the world can log on and join in the party with you so make sure you give them a wave!

Uluru

You cannot come to Australia and skip out seeing Uluru … we won’t allow it! Words will never do Uluru justice, seeing is definitely believing! Often described as the spiritual and physical heart of Australia, see the sun rise and set on the magical Aboriginal sacred site and marvel at the colours changing right before your eyes. Home to the Anangu people, you can take a guided tour around the base and view some stunning Aboriginal art. Learn about the captivating history surrounding the tribes of Uluru and why the famous rock is significant in dreamtime legend. You can also visit Kata Tjuta, Uluru’s sister formation, meaning ‘many heads’, which also has a spectacular light display on offer as the sun sets.

There’s all this and so much more in the Northern Territory just waiting for you to see. Why not contact us for help with arranging your trip to all these wonderful places. We can help you build your trip, arrange your travel and accommodation and, because our Ultimate Oz staff have all travelled Australia themselves, you’ll get some great inside tips from people in the know!