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Home / Essays / 2014 / December / Australia 2014 - Day 21 - Morning Yellow Water Cruise and Maguk Waterfalls

Australia 2014 - Day 21 - Morning Yellow Water Cruise and Maguk Waterfalls

After the wonderful Yellow Water Cruise yesterday evening I decided to do the cruise once again, but in the morning. I could imagine that the same cruise will be different. And otherwise the recepionist told me yesterday afternoon, if i have booked the evening cruise i could get the morning cruise for only 25$. So it wasn't a long decision.

So the same procedure like last evening the tour started at the car park where the shuttle picked us up for the short drive to the landing stage of the cruising boats only with other passengers and in the morning of course. I had to get up very early for the cruise. Whether i am a long sleeper, it was it worth again.

The morning mood on the landing stage was wonderful. These silence was overwhelming.

Landing stage of the cruising boats on Yellow WaterYellow Water Billabong, Kakadu's most famous wetland, is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. The river system, which is the largest in Kakadu, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps.

The river was covered with thick waft of mist, which were disappearing very quickly through the power of the rising sun.

After all passengers of the tour has found their seat we were starting again. Afterwards we have let the landing stage behind us the morning sun was welcoming us with a warm glooming light over the horizon.

Glooming sunrise at the Yellow Water

And whilst we were going slowly over the peaceful river the birdlife showed itself on the riverside of the Yellow Water again.

There were a Australian Darter drying his wings again on one side. It seems to that it hasn't change its place very much.

Australian Darter drying his wingsThe Australasian darter or Australian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) is a species of bird in the darter family, Anhingidae. It is found in Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. Typical habitat is freshwater or brackish wetlands more than 0.5 m deep with fallen trees or logs and vegetated banks; less commonly, darters are found in sheltered saltwater or estuarine environments.

On the other side a sweet still life of a white heron and ducks which had their heads all in the water looking for booty.

White heron with geeseThe great egret is a large heron with all-white plumage. Standing up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, this species can measure 80 to 104 cm (31 to 41 in) in length and have a wingspan of 131 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in).

Colorful parrots like a green parrots was flying through the air,

Outbounding green parrot

whilst a really large saltwater crocodile was observing every movement of any other animal in its neighborhood with Argus-eyed.

Bushwhacking saltwater crocodileThe teeth are also long, with the largest teeth (the fourth tooth from the front on the lower jaw) having been measured to 9 cm (3.5 in) in length.I f detached from the body, the head of a very large male crocodile can reportedly weigh over 200 kg (440 lb) alone.

The tourguide was explaining to us that this crocodile was the largest one in this area and it was the alpha leader of the population in this river.

Saltwater crocodile bathing in the morning sun In northern Australia (which includes the northernmost parts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland), the saltwater crocodile is thriving, particularly in the multiple river systems near Darwin (such as the Adelaide, Mary, and Daly Rivers, along with their adjacent billabongs and estuaries), where large individuals of more than 5 m (16 ft) in length are not uncommon.

No other male crocodile was allowed to copulate with the female crocodiles in this river. The criteria for the alpha leader by crocodiles is only the size or light of them. So the only chance for the other male crocodiles to become an alpha leader here is to eat more fish.

Bushwhacking saltwater crocodileYoung saltwater crocodiles are pale yellow in colour with black stripes and spots on their bodies and tails. This colouration lasts for several years until the crocodiles mature into adults.

After we had passed the crocodiles we touched in a side arm of the South Alligator River which was bordered with beautiful carpets of water lilies. The tourguide explained the every part of this plant can be eaten.

Carpet of water lilly on the Yellow WaterWater-lilies are aquatic rhizomatous perennial herbs, sometimes with stolons, as well. The leaves grow from the rhizome on long petioles.

And the aboriginal people who has lived here, did it over thousand of years.

Water lilly on the riversideWater-lilies are not only decorative, but provide useful shade which helps reduce the growth of algae in ponds and lakes. Many of the water-lilies familiar in water gardening are hybrids and cultivars.

After another river curve

River system in the Yellow Water

we could watch a not so common bird in the Kakadu National Park. The The black-necked stork in Australia called Jabiru, although that name refers to a stork species found in the Americas, is the tallest flying bird, often standing nearly the same height as the flightless and thus much heavier American rhea. The black-necked stork is a large bird, 129–150 cm (51–60 inches) tall having a 230-cm (91-inch) wingspan. The average weight is around 4,100 grams. The plumage patterns are conspicuous with younger birds differing from adults.

Jaburi standing in the wetlandsOne of the most famous Australian birds, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus is the largest Australian wetland bird. It is the only species of Australian storks and it is also called black-necked stork. It is 1.4m tall, mainly thanks to its long legs, and has a wing-span longer than two metres. It has got a heavy, 30cm-long black bill, a black-and-white body, and its head and neck are greeny-blue.

And on the other side a pelican was standing a little bit bored.

Reaxing PelicanPelicans frequent inland and coastal waters where they feed principally on fish, catching them at or near the water surface.

But maybe it was only watching on the other riverside where a sea-eagle was engulfing a big fish.

Sea-eagle feeding its bootyResident from India and Sri Lanka through Southeast Asia to Australia on coasts and major waterways, the white-bellied sea eagle breeds and hunts near water, and fish form around half of its diet.

An Australian Darter were making strange noises o the other side while we were approaching to it, and it seems that it wanted to say to us this is my reich here.

Australian DarterThe Australian pied cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius, also known as the pied cormorant or pied shag, is a medium-sized member of the cormorant family. It is found around the coasts of Australasia.

But it sounds very harmless to me. But not what should happen as the next.

Whilst all the other passenger were watching at the Australian Darter, which were very lose to the boat and making photos with their small pocket cameras, I was directing my Canon 70-200mm objective at a water buffalo which was swimming in the distance.

Water buffalo swimming in the riverThe water buffalo or domestic Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a large bovid found on the Indian subcontinent to Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, in Sri Lanka, in the Philippines, and in Borneo.

At the time it was recognizing our boat the buffalo wasn't pleased anymore.

Observing water buffaloThe wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) native to Southeast Asia is considered a different species but most likely represents the ancestor of the domestic water buffalo.

You could really see and feel how it was getting angry very much and fast, while we were approaching it. It seems to me that the buffalo didn't like it very much that we were disturbing its morning bath in its river at this time.

Water buffalo getting angryThe origins of the domestic water buffalo types are debated, although results of a phylogenetic study indicate that the swamp type may have originated in China and domesticated about 4,000 years ago, while the river type may have originated from India and was domesticated about 5,000 years ago.

After another angry eye to our boat, while it was stumbling out of the water,

Mistrustful looking water buffaloRiver buffaloes prefer deep water. Swamp buffaloes prefer to wallow in mudholes which they make with their horns.

the buffalo was running its head with its horns in the morass at a full power.

Angry water buffaloBetween 1824 and 1849, water buffalos were introduced into the Northern Territory from Timor, Kisar and probably other islands in the Indonesian archipelago. In 1886, a few milking types were brought from India to Darwin.

Afterwards it was hurling the whole mass of morass with more enormous velocity in the air, I think to show us, where the king is here.

Very angry water buffaloDuring the 1950s, buffalo were hunted for their skins and meat, which was exported and used in the local trade. In the late 1970s, live exports were made to Cuba and continued later into other countries.

It was a really spectacle to watch this in the free wilderness and showed us the strength of this wild living creature.

Really angry water buffaloBuffalo are now crossed with riverine buffalo in artificial breeding (AI) programs, and may be found in many areas of Australia. Some of these crossbreds are used for milk production.

After this performance of the nature our boat turned around and went back to the landing stage.

Pasture landscape in the Yewllo Water

Because of that day was very young, the sunrise tour on the Yellow Water started before sunrise and took only 2 hours, I decided to make another trip until the afternoon when the temperature should reach 38 degrees again. I wanted tu sue the late afternoon when it should become very hot for a rest at the pool.

So the next goal for this day should become the Maguk Gorge which was only around 50 km from the lodge far away.

After a half hour drive over sealed and 18 km unsealed road along terms hills beside the road,

Termite hill on the dirty roadTermites mostly feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung, and about 10% of the estimated 4,000 species (about 3,106 taxonomically known) are economically significant as pests that can cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops or plantation forests.

I reached the visitor information site of the Maguk Gorge in the late morning. Because I had recognized that it was really hot at 11 o'clock I took 1,5 liter water with me wheter the gorge should be only a 2 km walk far away. But after this walk I had to learn that I can't extrapolate the amount of water which i need for walk only with the distance and the temperature I will expect. And i learned what dehydration can mean.

The first part of the walk directed me through a beautiful monsoon forrest with butterflies in the air.

Monsoon on the way to MagukMaguk is one of the only waterfalls in Kakadu that flows while there is no rain. Towards the end of the dry season however, the flow is much weaker than in the peak of the wet season.

The high trees, which were surrounding small billabongs, were spending still enough shadows so that the increasing heat was tolerable to me.

Trail to the Maguk WaterfallThe first part of the walk leads through monsoonal forest. Still damp air, and lush thick vegetation. The cool shade is welcome on a hot day, there are interesting plants to investigate, and birds and lizards to watch.

After maybe 20 minutes the forrest cleared and I had to walk through a greek over stocks and stones than cross the river.

Crossing the greek on the way to MagukThe track crosses back and forth across the creek, no bridges here, just pick your rocks or get wet feet. In a few places the creek widens to a small pool. (Great for a quick dip on a hot day!)

The heat was increasing in the more tighten getting gorge because there wasn't protecting trees and the stones were reflecting the warmth from the ground. But I continued walking than i wanted to see the Maguk Gorge with the hopefully beautiful waterfall.

But the stressful walk was it worth. At first I could take a bath in the cool water of the waterhole. And at the second I took a beautiful capture of this beautiful surrounded waterfall at noon.

Maguk waterfall with a waterholeWalk through monsoon forest and along a sandy and rocky creek to a small waterfall and clear plunge pool.

But so nice it was here so hot was it too.

While I was making my captures on different places here, I was sweating like when you are poring your plants with a watering can. When i was recognizing that i couldn't drink as much I was sweating I decided to go back to the car park.

And I noticed too that i didn't have much water in my bottle. But I thought there are only 2 km to walk. what should happen.

So I started to go back, but couldn't find the right way in the middle of the walk because i didn't see the last walk sign. Luckily I noticed my mistake and went back and could the sigh for the right way. Because it was so hot, I decided to drink my last water in the hope that the carpark isn't so far away and because I had reached the monsoon forest already. But the last part of the way extended so much that I was getting in panic a little bit. And I didn't know if it was a beginning dehydration or was it only the panic itself. I think it was a little bit both of it. Because i noticed a little bit headache and small changes of my consciousness. And I was feeling only the heat which was surrounding me.

But then I could see the car park in a distance and my car of course.And I knew there is a lot of water in it and an air-condition. At first i was taking a bottle of water which I was pouring out on my head. You can't imagine how relieved I was. I drunk at least a half of a bottle of a 1,5 liter at once.

After this small exercise of dehydration I took on my next walks sooner one bottle more in my bag whether the bag became a little bit more heavier. But it can happen so fast. And I understood the warning sign more clearly

After a deserved rest on the pool in the lodge in the afternoon I went to the landing stage of the Yellow Water again at first to make this beautiful moody photo and for the second to say good bye to this wonderful place on earth.

Evening mood on the Yellow Water BillabongThe Yellow Water Billabong is part of the South Alligator River system, but there are no alligators in Australia (an early explorer misidentified crocs for alligators and the name has stuck ever since). This is a salt-water croc, much bigger and more aggressive than the fresh-water crocs found in other parts of Kakadu National Park.

I hope you will enjoy it too.