In May 2021 the Globus family of brands’ Head of Sales, Peter, embarked on an epic adventure on the inaugural Cosmos ‘Top End & Central Australia Explorer’ tour*. Proving to be one of our most popular tours in Australia, we thought it fitting for Peter to provide us a handy day-by-day travel guide!  

Katherine Gorge
Peter at Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge)

If you’re keen to explore the Northern Territory, you’ve come to the right place! Settle in with a cuppa of bush tea and let’s get stuck in to the first five days on tour. 

Day 1: Darwin. 

Off the plane and greeted by our friendly airport transfer driver, Phil – the first of many friendly Northern Territorians that we were destined to meet along the way! Tonight’s hotel is the Mantra Pandanas, a comfortable hotel in the heart of Darwin with easy access to nearby shops and restaurants. Our tour group had plans to go to the local Mindil markets for sunset and dinner, so our fantastic Tour Director – Mel – met everyone beforehand to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. The Mindil markets was a $16 Uber ride away and we were spoilt for choice with a range of freshly cooked food and arts and crafts over 200 stalls. Tasty chicken satay skewers on rice cakes with a spectacular sunset was an amazing way to begin our time here!  

Mindil Beach, Darwin
Sunset at Mindil Beach, the perfect setting for dinner from the local markets

Day 2: Darwin – Kakadu National Park. 

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we were ready to hit the road! First up – the obligatory safety protocols now that we all live in a changed world. The temperature check and luggage wipe down were done efficiently with no fuss. Our coach was very comfortable with handy USB charging ports for each seat, perfect for charging phones and cameras along the way. Mel has a great rapport with our driver, Chris, and both are accredited guides authorised to talk about Aboriginal culture.  

Our first excursion was a Guluyambi River boat hunt for crocodiles. Our guide, Gleeson, was a wealth of knowledge. We felt so honoured to be shown around by this young man from Arnhem land. He pointed out Aboriginal finger paintings along the riverbank and demonstrated how to throw a spear. Did you know that the hibiscus tree has a huge range of uses? It’s used for medicine, tools, weapons and as a drinking vessel! Sadly, no crocs were spotted this time around, but I did manage to pick up a painting from Gleeson’s younger brother for a very reasonable price. Take cash if you want to buy a painting to take home!  

Guluyambi River boat cruise
Guluyambi River boat cruise
Aboriginal artwork
Some of the Aboriginal artwork on offer after our Guluyambi River boat cruise

Fittingly, we’re staying at the Crocodile Hotel tonight with an included dinner. I would highly recommend the wild barrumundi – it was delicious!  

Day 3: Kakadu National Park. 

Continuing our cultural theme, we visited Burrungkuy which features an amazing collection of Aboriginal art on cave and rock walls. We were shown some special x-ray art here. This style of painting the bones of the animal (instead of the body) dates back 10,000 years and is found only in the Top End. Simply incredible!  

Aboriginal art
Some of the x-ray Aboriginal art in Burrungkuy

Next up – a yellow water cruise in Kakadu which took about 1.5 hours. Again, our local guide (MJ) was incredibly knowledgeable on all things flora, fauna and the Aboriginal people.  

Kakadu yellow water cruise
Croc spotting during our Kakadu yellow water cruise

With great timing on our part, we were in the NT at the same time as the annual Taste of Kakadu! A stop at the Bowali Cultural Centre included a cooking demonstration which was fascinating. Our chef served us up Kakadu bush plum and green ants on a meringue – yum! Did you know that the Kakadu bush plum has the highest Vitamin C content of any fruit? It has 50 times the amount that is found in an orange.  

Back to the hotel around 3pm with the rest of the day at our leisure. It was a great end to the day to relax poolside with a pizza from the hotel. 

Day 4: Kakadu National Park – Nitmiluk National Park – Katherine. 

Today we had a couple of interesting stops as we made our way to Katherine: Edith Falls as a lunch stop followed by the Leliyn Loop. Whilst it was a good walk at 2.6 kilometres, the end result is a swim in the refreshing water at the falls with stunning views of the surrounding escarpment.  

Edith Falls, Northern Territory
Edith Falls view from the Leliyn Loop

Our accommodation tonight is at the Ibis Styles which is found a little bit out of the town, however a well-priced, tasty buffet for dinner makes up for it. This is handy as we have an early start tomorrow. 

Day 5: Katherine – Mataranka – Tennant Creek. 

A big driving day ahead but with some amazing sights and stops along the way that I’m really looking forward to! Our dawn cruise through Katherine Gorge (or Nitmiluk) is first up. Temperatures were a little cool this morning with an early start, but we were treated to a spectacular sunrise. The cruise was an absolute highlight! Nitmiluk is named for the “nit nit nit” noise a cicada makes, and it is said that a rainbow serpent formed the gorge in a likeness of his body. Nitmiluk is so much more extensive than I thought – the formidable sandstone walls rising from the water are older than fossils and well-formed before animals walked the lands.  

Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory
Cruising through Katherine Gorge

Other highlights from today were a quick dip at the beautiful Mataranka thermal springs in Elsey National Park with incredibly clear and warm water and The Daly Waters Pub for lunch with its quirky memorabilia and people (plus a great local beer)!  

The Daly Waters Pub, Northern Territory
The Daly Waters Pub

Stay tuned for Part II of Peter’s travel guide to our 10-day Top End & Central Australia Explorer tour! 

*Please note that there may have been changes to the itinerary, accommodation or similar since this tour departed. 

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