Can you swim in Kakadu National Park?
The idea of swimming in a place that’s not the ocean or a pool can be a bit daunting, especially in a national park that runs wild with native flora and fauna, but the answer is simple; yes, you can swim in Kakadu (and enjoy it). With its plethora of beautiful waterfalls and twisting creeks between rock formations forged over centuries and gum trees hanging across the water, this national park isn’t one to shy away from a serene swimming spot. And we mean that.
The turquoise-coloured water of each natural watering hole is enough to have everyone kicking off their shoes and stripping down to their swimwear. In fact, it simply isn’t possible to visit Kakadu without going for a swim. But with wallabies, crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and one-third of Australia’s bird species – is it actually safe to swim in Kakadu National Park?
Is it safe to swim in Kakadu?
While the answer’s a big, fat YES, you still need to remember a few things before racing to the water’s edge. Swimming in Kakadu National Park can be dangerous if you don’t know what to look out for and these danger levels can differ depending on the weather (wet or dry season). Don’t let that put you off though; swimming is a must-du (get it?) in the national park, just as long as you follow these water-safety tips:
- Never go swimming by yourself, always have someone with you
- Observe all safety warning signs in the park
- Always be aware of your surroundings (and others)
- Be on the lookout for changes to the weather (flash flooding and dangerous rapid currents can occur quickly)
- Be careful when walking on rocks around the water as they can be slippery
- The water can induce shock due it’s cold temperature, especially on really hot days
For more detailed information, consult the Parks Australia Kakadu water safety guide.
When is the best time to swim in Kakadu?
You might already be familiar with the Northern Territory’s two seasons - the dry winter season (April to October) and the wet tropical summer (November to March) - but figuring out the best time to swim in Kakadu is more complicated than that. The traditional owners of the region recognize six different seasons (based on thousands of years of local knowledge) and this is often the best way of determining exactly when you should visit the iconic national park.
Kudjewk (monsoon season)
From December to March each year, parts of the Northern Territory become pretty much inaccessible due to excessive rain, flooding and thunderstorms. While temperatures aren’t too extreme, this time of year is known to bring the wettest weather and many attractions in Kakadu National Park, like popular waterfalls and watering holes, are closed for safety reasons.
Bangkerreng (storm season)
The month of April is known as bankerreng or ‘storm season’, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this month’s weather isn’t agreeable to swimming in Kakadu National Park either. Although the skies clear and the rain lessens as the month goes on, the early days are still volatile weather-wise with windy storms that flatten the speargrass and flood waterways.
Yekke (cool season)
One of the best times to visit Kakadu National Park is between May and mid-June, as temperatures are nice and mild (think 21°C – 33°C) and humidity levels are low.
Wurrkeng (cold weather season)
While wurrkeng might mean the ‘cold season’, the temperatures experienced in the Northern Territory during the period of May to August are anything but. Days can still reach a high of 32°C but nighttime is when the temperatures fall - you might want to put on an extra layer of clothing.
This is also one of the best times to visit the National Park as temperatures encourage swimming and avid nature lovers can watch the pattern of native birds as they migrate.
Kurrung (hot, dry season)
From mid-August to mid-October, the Northern Territory (including Kakadu National Park) becomes a little uncomfortable to visit as temperatures climb towards 37°C. These warm weather conditions make spending long periods of time outside challenging and some popular swimming spots also dry up.
Kunumeleng (pre-monsoon season)
While the months of October to December aren’t the worst months to travel to Kakadu National Park, temperatures are still at a sweat-inducing 30°C+ and humidity levels are on the rise. This period is known as the pre-monsoon season and can encourage uncomfortable weather conditions that last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
How to be croc-smart
We know what you’re probably thinking (and what you’ve been wondering about since you started reading this page) – swimming in naturally made pools that sparkle when the sun hits the water’s surface is all well and good, but will I see a crocodile?
Kakadu National Park houses around 10,000 crocodiles, both saltwater and freshwater (around 10% of the Northern Territory’s entire crocodile population), and while rangers regularly visit each pool to determine the level of crocodile threat, there’s still a chance you might see one or two during your travels through the park.
But, remember this, freshwater crocodiles are generally harmless to humans and as long as you stay away from them, you shouldn’t get into any trouble. However, you should always be careful around rivers and billabongs and pay close attention to crocodile warning signs, especially after periods of constant rainfall and flooding.
Our Kakadu National Park tours