The famous Magnetic Termites (Amitermis meridionalis) have wedge-shaped towers which are placed that the long side faces the shade and only the narrow side is exposed to the sun to reduce the temperature in the mound—aligning in the north-south axis to balance the temperature. These termites are found nowhere else on earth. Scientists discovered that the blind worker termites really build the mounds based on the magnetic field by exposing them to artificial magnets that change the direction—the workers dutifully repaired the mound to align it again with the north-south axis. The mounds are often 5 metres high, in comparison the termites are only 5 mm long.
Then, we drove to the Florence Waterfalls and took a nice walk along the creek. The kids enjoyed swimming the the Rock Pool and I made it up the 170 stairs ahead of time and let the drone fly.
We then stopped quickly at Wangi Falls that spill over the Tabletop Plateau into a large pool. The pool is closed when the water levels are high as strong current and the increase risks of crocodiles make it too dangerous to swim.
We were able to see some Rainbow Bee-Eaters which fly way to fast and erratic to take nice pictures of these colourful birds.
We also saw some kits and many large spiders. In the evening, we drove back to Darwin.
More pictures here.
In July 2017, we traveled to Darwin and from there tour the Kakadu National Park, including visits to the Nitmiluk and Litchfield. From Sydney, a 5-hour flight brings you to Darwin where we stayed at the Darwin Central Hotel. Darwin is a small city with a huge history. Its glistening harbours were strong holds for allied troops during World War Two. Gold was found at nearby Pine Creek in the late 19th century. Paul Hogan shone a global spotlight Down Under when he traversed its surrounding regions for crocodiles depicted in the 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee. While Cyclone Tracy also made worldwide headlines, devastating lives and homes in the mid 1970s. As Australia’s gateway to Asia and the outback, Darwin is melting pot of people and traditions. Indigenous culture, natural treasures, tropical weather and a laid-back lifestyle attract thousands of visitors every year. We heard many German tourists on the streets who were looking to explore Australia’s vast and majestic Top End. Darwin has only a population of approximately 112,000 people. Our Swiss friends arrived from Singapore only hours after us and we explored a bit of Mindel market and then found hidden garden restaurant, nice dinner outside.
We also explored Darwin’s famous Fish Feeding spot. We took a walk from the hotel to the area enjoying the shoreline that features mangroves used as hunting ground for various water bird species.
We had the opportunity to observe several fish, such as the Diamond scale mullet, Sting ray, really big Milk fish and Catfish.
Next to the feeding station, we saw Crimson Finches in the mangroves.
Several warning signs reminded us that Darwin is not a place to swim.
More pictures here.
After exploring Kakadu National Park, we drove to the Nitmiluk National Park (Jawoyn Land) with the Leliyn (Edith Falls) being our first stop in the West of the park. After a picnic we were swimming in the lower pool going close up to the lower falls—the pool was open, but we were supposed to "be croc-wise”.
Next, we went to Katherine, an important cross road in the Australian Outback with about 7,500 people living there from tourism and cattle farming.
We continued to explore the Nitmiluk National Park taking a two-hour walk at Katherine Gorge to a beautiful lookout platform above the Katherine River. The Gorge is 30 km long and on average 100 m deep, housing 160 bird species. It was first explore by a Scotsman in 1862.
We took a boat tour in two steps with walking from one boat to another as they could not get with the boats over rapids in the dry season. But before boarding the boats we observed thousands of Red Flying Foxes hanging in the trees near the river. I attempted to photograph some when they changed positions to avoid direct sun exposure which seemed a futile exercise given that most trees were devoid of any leaves due to the impact of the fruit bats hanging there to the thousands— in fact signs warned of tree limbs breaking off due to the weight.
We saw crocodile indicators made of a plastic float that get damaged when crocs chew on it. If this happens then park rangers try to catch the crocodile and transported to Darwin adding it to a breeding program. Interestingly, Saltwater crocs defend their nest whose temperatures determines the gender of the offspring. The crocs crack the eggs and carry the young ones to the shore—however if it is a bad year with little food, they just eat them. The invading cane toads have reduced the crocs from thousands to hundreds as they have poorly adapted to the poisonous toads. Crows have figured out how to eat them by opening them and only eat the liver of cane toads.
The sandstone in the Gorge has three colours: white signifying the original sandstone, black showing the dormant stage of an algae that is active in the wet season and red where water is coming to surface in the dry season and oxidised the stone. We learned that during the wet season the water amount going through the Gorge could fill up Sydney Harbour in 9 hours.
We stayed overnight at Mount Bunny Station established in 1911 by Pioneer Buffalo hunter Fred Hardy. The original size of this cattle property was 1.1 million acres, or 4,000 sq km. Mt Bunny was one of the first pastoral leases in the Top End of the NT. We walk on the farm visiting water buffalos, wallabies, peacocks. At night, we enjoyed a dinner at home on the screened porch observing the geckos near the lamp eating the insects attracted by the light.
Later we discovered a tree frog in the toilet.
We were told that 30 meters from our porch the pond is full of "freshies" aka fresh water crocs and that 200 meters behind house is the Adelaide River (well, stream 20 m wide) where there are salties, aka salt water crocs.
Early next morning, Gisela and I walked around on Mount Bunny Station observing the farm animals, including the Water Buffalos and Peacocks.
The Peacock family actually slept in tree in front of house and woke us up in the morning.
Our first stop was a German-run breakfast place that served coffee and sandwiches. The place was full of kitsch and the owner was quite rude showing many hints of a special Teutonic level of sensitivity. However, we enjoyed the breakfast and marvelled at the Banyan tree: This Banyan is a remnant of coastal monsoon forest vegetation which once covered most of the peninsula. Birds feeding on the small fleshy fruit of the Banyan deposit the undigested seed on other trees. The seed may then germinate and eventually develop long aerial roots. In order to obtain nutrients from the soil, as well as support its heavy crown, the Banyan finally strangles its host.
More pictures here.