Kakadu National Park
Kakadu’s weather patterns are as dramatic as the landscape, and because of this, rather than observing the traditional European concept of four seasons, Kakadu's Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginal inhabitants have divided the year into six distinct seasons.
Gudjewg, from January to March, is the 'true' wet season. It is a time of thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding. It is also the most vibrant growing period, with the heat and humidity generating an explosion of plant and animal life. Spear grass grows to over 2 metres tall and creates a silvery-green hue throughout the woodlands. Magpie geese nest in the sedgelands. Flooding may cause goannas, snakes and marsupials to seek refuge in the trees. Eggs and stranded animals are a good food source for Bininj/Mungguy during this time. By the end of March, the rains are rapidly disappearing and it is a great time to enjoy the verdant green and burgeoning wildlife activity.
Clear Skies Arrive
Banggerreng usually arrives in April, roughly around Easter, and is the season when the rain clouds disperse and clear skies return. The vast expanses of floodwater recede and streams start to run clear. Most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young. This is a beautiful time to visit Kakadu, with the clear air, and warm winds only interspersed with an occasional wind storm early in the season that can flatten the spear grass (which has led to their description as 'knock 'em down' storms). Easter generally coincides with Banggereng and is a popular time for visitors in Kakadu, with the accessible waterfalls and swimming holes providing a refreshing escape from the heat.
Cooler and Ideal for Touring
Yegge, from May to mid-June, is one of the most attractive seasons as it is relatively cool with low humidity. Early morning mists hang low over the plains and waterholes. The shallow wetlands and billabongs are carpeted with water lilies. Drying winds and flowering Darwin woolly butt tell Bininj/Mungguy that it is time to start burning the woodlands in patches to 'clean the country' and encourage new growth for grazing animals. This is the time when Kakadu icons such as Jim Jim and Twin Falls are opened to tourists and the waterfalls provide picturesque photo opportunities.
“Cool” for Kakadu, Perfect for Visitors
Wurrgeng, from mid-June to mid-August, is the 'cool weather' season; humidity is low, daytime temperatures are around 30°C and night-time temperatures are around 17°C, making it Kakadu’s peak visiting season. Most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out. Burning continues, extinguished by the dew at night. By day, birds of prey patrol the fire lines as insects and small animals try to escape the flames. Magpie geese, fat and heavy after weeks of abundant food, and a myriad of other waterbirds crowd the shrinking billabongs. The explosion of activity on Yellow Water Billabong makes this a very popular period for bird watchers and photographers.
Hot & Dry
Gurrung, from mid-August to mid-October, is hot and dry. It is still 'goose time' but also time for Bininj/Mungguy to hunt file snakes and long-necked turtles. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of Field Island and West Alligator Head and goannas rob their nests sometimes. White-breasted wood swallows arrive as thunderclouds build, signalling the return of Gunumeleng. While the waterfalls have usually dried up by this time, the dry heat makes it comfortable for touring, trekking and cruises on Yellow Water Billabong.
Pre-Monsoon Season, Rains Bring Renewal
Gunumeleng, from mid-October to late December, can vary enormously from year to year. The season can last from a few weeks to several months and is usually associated with a build up of humidity as the monsoon arrives, though this can sometimes arrive as early as November or as late as Christmas. Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and scattered showers bring a tinge of green to the dry land. As the streams begin to run, the water washes out the floodplains in preparation for the new breeding season. Waterbirds spread out as surface water and new growth become more widespread. Barramundi move from the waterholes downstream to the estuaries to breed. This was when Bininj/Mungguy moved camp from the floodplains to the stone country, to shelter from the storms that usually came with the arrival of the wet season. It is a fascinating period to visit Kakadu because the region is experiencing such dramatic change.