Does taking the family on a boat cruise down a croc infested river with a local Aboriginal guide, with some spear throwing demonstrations, seeing rock art, learning about bush food, hunting and a chance to step foot onto Arnhem Land sound like the adventure of a lifetime for your kids? There's so much to see and do with kids in Kakadu. One of our favourite family friendly cultural tours in Kakadu National Park is the Guluyambi Aboriginal Cruise on the East Alligator River. It's operated by the Aboriginal-owned Djabulukgu Association.
So, when my friend from Sydney called to say she's bringing her two city slicker teenage kids on a family holiday to Kakadu National Park so they can experience a part of Australia that's totally different - I knew straight away that this cultural cruise would tick all the boxes for their family.
And, as usual it didn't disappoint! Here's why!
By Libby Larsen x
Cruising, Culture & Crocs with Kids!
Kakadu National Park is one huge outdoor classroom for kids!
Aboriginal people have lived in Kakadu for at least 65,000 years and are known locally in the region as Bininj - which is a collective term for all the members of different language groups. Languages used by Aboriginal people in the national park today include Kunwinkku and Gundjeihmi in the north and Jawoyn from the south. Lots of people are multilingual. Kakadu is internationally renowned for its unique natural values and Aboriginal cultural values. So, without a doubt there's so much for kids in Kakadu and it's one of the truly special places for families in the world - and it's on Darwin's doorstep!
This Cultural Cruise in Kakadu is really family friendly
The Guluyambi Aboriginal Cultural Cruise in Kakadu operates on the East Alligator River in the northern part of Kakadu National Park, which is right on the border of Arnhem Land. So on one side of the boat you see the vistas of Kakadu and on the other side you look over to Arnhem Land, which is pretty cool hey? It's one of the best family friendly things to do in Kakadu according to my boys.
The boat leaves from the upstream boat ramp near Cahills Crossing in Kakadu, which is an easy 45 minute drive from Jabiru, the main town in Kakadu. The road is sealed, so no stress if you don't have a 4WD. With only 25 people at the most on the boat there is an intimate and friendly vibe on the cruise. The Aboriginal cultural tour takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes - which is very family friendly and perfect for our kids, not too long, not too short.
I've always been impressed with the Aboriginal tour guides and this time was no exception - Hilton was great! He was really engaging and knowledgable and he was a hit with all the families and especially the kids in our little gang.
Top notch croc spotting for kids
Guess what? Kakadu is home to over 10,000 crocs! And kids get lots of opportunities to spot crocs on the cruise. I can't remember how many of those feisty reptiles the kids claimed they spotted. I have no doubt their estimates were totally exaggerated, so lets just say they saw lots.
Your Kids Can Learn about Aboriginal culture
As we meandered along the East Alligator river Hilton shared with us some fascinating insights about his Aboriginal culture including the local names of places in his language - Kunwinjku. Our kids were fascinated. Hilton talked about hunting techniques, bush foods and medicines and the uses of different plants. He made sure to point out Aboriginal rock art and other places of interest to all of the families.
He even fashioned a drinking cup out of the bark from the paper bark tree, which much to the kids delight worked a treat. He also showed us how to make ochre as used in rock art and ceremonial body paint.
Stepping foot onto Arnhem Land with the kids
One of the highlights of the Aboriginal cultural tour is the opportunity to step foot on Arnhem Land. I think this is a really special thing for families visiting Kakadu. Because Guluyambi Aboriginal Cultural Cruises are owned by the Djabulukgu Association which represents the Traditional Owners from the north of Kakadu and parts of West Arnhem Land you get access to some really special places, and learn about them from someone like Hilton with a deep understanding of the landscape and local culture. Hilton wowed us all by showing how he could through spears with his spear thrower from the Arnhem Land side of the river over the East Alligator River and into Kakadu - pretty impressive stuff!
Thanks so much Hilton
See you next time!
If you want to learn more about the Aboriginal culture in Kakadu you can also visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre in Kakadu.
Kakadu Cultural Tours also run some other great tours and have some cool accommodation called Hawk Dreaming (which I really want to check out) and a great day tour into Arnhem Land which we did as well which was awesome!
Libby Larsen - Growing up Troppo
Growing up Troppo provides honest travel advice tips and inspiration from parents about special and unique places to stay, play and eat with kids that parents love too! Travel is and has always been, Libby's passion and she believes this shouldn't stop when you have kids. Libby writes a monthly column for Off The Leash - the Darwin Entertainment Guide and is the Northern Territory "Experience Expert" for Experience Oz + NZ.