Cruises on Kakadu National Park’s Yellow Water Billabong are ridiculously popular, and for good reason – these wetlands boast at least 60 bird species, including majestic sea eagles, dancing Brolgas and graceful Jabirus. Yellow Water Cruises can get wild, with crocodiles asserting their position at the top of the food chain among sleepy water buffalo and galloping wild brumbies. There’s always so much to see on a cruise; the trouble is knowing which time of the day is best to experience this natural wonder. Read on for our insider tips.
When we say early, we mean early – the first cruise of the day sets sail at an eye-watering 6.45 am, but the chance to spot the Territory’s iconic wildlife will have you bounding out of bed. Kakadu’s wetland creatures are super active in the early hours as they begin their hunt for a tasty breakfast, so it’s well worth setting the alarm early to watch them as they go about their morning routines. But you won’t need to forage for your breakfast, as it’s included in the ticket price.
If you’re not motivated to get that proverbial worm, then a daytime cruise might be more your speed. Animals tend to behave a little like us at this time of the day; seeking shade and rest as the heat reaches its peak. This means you may not see as much wildlife as you would during cooler parts of the day, but you won’t be disappointed as there will still be plenty of action and the bright light of day brings out the colours of the wetlands.
If you’re on a tight schedule, it might be an idea to do physical activities like hiking in the cool of the morning and get off your feet on the cruise during the heat of the day. Plus, if you’re travelling with kids, a midday cruise may mean mum and dad aren’t as frantic getting the clan to the dock on time.
Daytime cruises depart at 9 am, 11.30 am, 1.15 pm and 2.45 pm each day.
The Northern Territory is renowned for its spectacular sunsets, and the animals enjoy them as much as we do, so you’ll be spoiled for wildlife spotting opportunities. A photographer’s dream, the golden light of the late afternoon reflected on the glassy water’s surface is how Yellow Water Billabong got its name. But you’ll have to tear your eyes away from the colours of dusk settling across the billabong to take some pics. This tour departs at 4.30 pm daily.
OUR VERDICT: The Sunrise & Sunset cruises are our favourites and in our opinion both equally as good. If they don't work out with your schedule then a day time cruise still won't disappoint.
OUR READERS VERDICT: We asked our Facebook audience (made up of previous guests and locals) and their favourite cruise was overwhelmingly the Dawn cruise.
Morning, midday or sunset – now you’ve made your mind up about which time of day to experience a Yellow Water Cruise, check out their website for ticket prices, departure times and to book. Yellow Water Cruises operate out of Cooinda all year ‘round.
If you'd like to embark on a tour from Darwin which includes a Yellow Water Cruise then Venture North Safaris offer private, tailor-made tours which includes this not-to-be-missed cruise.