Nestled among the woodland in Kakadu National Park, near the more popular and busier ancient Aboriginal occupation site of Nourlangie, Nanguluwur is a smaller natural rock art gallery boasting some fantastic examples of art depicting the first contact with non-Aboriginal people. The beauty of visiting a rock art site like Nanguluwur, which is off the beaten tourist track, is that the odds of having the place all to yourself are extremely good. Read on to hear more about one of Kakadu’s best-kept secrets.
Aside from the incredible rock art, Nanguluwur is a fantastic art site to visit if you’re also a keen walker, as there’s an easy 3.4-kilometre walking trail that takes you through the woodlands of the Kakadu stone country. Along the two-hour trail, you’ll see a huge range of bird species, including butcher birds and finches. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot an Agile Wallaby – a typically timid marsupial who often seeks shelter from the sun among shadows cast by the layered stone.
Arriving at the Nanguluwur rock art gallery, you’ll see an early example of contact art in a painting of a two-masted sailing ship, telling the story of when the traditional Aboriginal people of this region first encountered European settlers. The painting of the sailing ship also pays homage to the enormous environmental changes that have been seen in the landscape surrounding Nanguluwur, which is 90km inland; supporting scientific findings that tell us Kakadu was once entirely underwater.
Nanguluwur was an important camping spot for the local Aboriginal clan, and the realisation that you’re walking the same ground as some of Australia’s first peoples is humbling. The realisation of your own insignificance really hits home when you come face to face with some of the hand stencils that adorn the walls of Nanguluwur -
some are thought to be around 20,000 years old!
The gallery also takes on a classroom feel, with x-ray-style paintings typical of the Kakadu region showing the anatomy of game and fish created by ancestors for generations to come. X-ray paintings are incredibly important in the process of passing down knowledge about important sources of food. You’ll also learn a bit about dreamtime stories of the female spirit, Algaihgo: also called ‘firewoman, according to Aboriginal culture, Algaihgo was one of the world’s first creators.
So whether you’re a lover of Aboriginal art or simply enjoy mixing a bit of outdoor adventure with an education in Aboriginal culture, Nanguluwur provides a refuge from the hordes of visitors. But shhhh – be sure not to spill the secret of this incredible spot to anyone.