Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
June 2013

Corroboree Billabong Wetland Cruise
location map
Cruises by flat-bottomed boats on billabongs is a popular tourist activity in Darwin's outer region. The intention is for visitors to safely get fairly close to salt-water crocodiles, to see some of the exotic birdlife living on the river systems, and to experience the vegetation of the wetlands. After carefully examining the brochures available from the boat operators we chose Corroboree Billabong Wetland Cruises and booked two seats on the two and a half hour lunch cruise.

Corroboree Billabong is 104 kilometres from Darwin and day tours from Darwin are available. Alternatively, passengers can drive themselves to the boat. The last 10 kilometres is on a gravel road so a ferry service is available from Corroboree Park Tavern on the Arnhem Highway. This ferry service appeals to visitors who do not wish to drive their vehicles on gravel or are driving rented vehicles with a restriction on leaving bitumen roads. We decided to drive to the boat.

The boat landing was easy to find. We drove along the Arnhem Highway until Corroboree Park Tavern about 49 kilometres from the Stuart Highway. One kilometre east of Corroboree Park we turned on to the clearly signed bitumen road to the left (north). This excellent, one and a half lane wide, bitumen road ran in a nearly straight line to a couple of gates where the bitumen ended. The gate straight ahead was closed and signed as "Private Property", the gate to the right was wide open leading onto a gravel road which appeared to have been graded fairly recently; a plume of red dust followed us but the ride was good.

We arrived at the boat landing after ten kilometres. There is a good size boat ramp into the water from the car park as well as houseboats for hire. After the mini-bus arrived with the group from the Corroboree Tavern 21 passengers boarded the flat-bottomed boat for the wetland cruise. The boat can seat 32 so we were not crowded.

We spent most of the next two and a half hours wandering around the wetlands. Fifteen or twenty minutes of that time was spent against the bank while we ate the packaged salad loaded on the boat before we left. Drinking water was also available as required.

crocodile Saltwater crocodile drowsing on the bank.
The main target of the cruise was saltwater crocodiles and whenever one was seen on the bank the boat stopped for passengers to get a good look and as many photographs as they wanted. Birds were almost as important as crocodiles and the tour guide made sure we had a good look at birds on the water or in the nearby wetlands. Some birds, such as the Jabiru, were not particularly concerned at a boatload of people only a few metres away while other species (the Pelican come to mind here) would fly away before the boat got close. The White-Breasted Sea-Eagle was high enough not to mind as we drifted below taking photographs. As well as crocodiles and birds, we saw features of the river channels flowing through the wetlands with paperbarks and pandanus common as well as numerous lotus plants, with some still in flower, along the waterways.

Corroboree Billabong Cruise - page 2
pelican and wetlands The wetlands. The stalks in the foreground and around the pelican are remnants of lotus plants.
sea eagle White breasted Sea-Eagle.
female jabiru Jabiru. The yellow eye indicates the bird is female; males have black eyes.
Corroboree Billabong Cruise - page 3
night heron Nankeen Night Heron. According to the books this is a nocturnal bird but it is often seen around water during daylight.
lotus flower Lotus flower.
lotus leaves Lotus leaves facing the sun. The stems grew long so the leaves could lie on the surface of the water indicating how deep the water was when the leaves grew.
Corroboree Billabong Cruise - page 4
Pied Cormorant Eating Fish
Pied Cormorants capture fish then swallow them whole but to swallow a fish it must first be turned so it would go down the bird's throat head first. These photographs show a Pied Cormorant coming to the surface with a captured fish in its beak; the bird than had to juggle the fish so it could be swallowed. At all times the cormorant had to be careful not to drop the fish since it would then swim away and the cormorant also had to be wary of the prowling kites which would dive down and take the fish for themselves if they saw it.

fish one Pied Cormorant surfaced with newly caught fish in its beak.
fish two With some difficulty the Pied Cormorant has begun turning the fish to the required position - this photograph is 58 seconds after the photograph above.
fish two The catfish is partly swallowed and the Pied Cormorant will have its meal - this photograph is 18 seconds after the photograph above.

GPS Positions
Turnoff on the Arnhem Highway to Corroboree Billabong - 12° 46' 01"S, 131° 30' 39"S.

Gate onto gravel road - 12° 42' 10"S, 131° 32' 18"S.

Corroboree Billabong car park - 12° 42' 20"S, 131° 38' 08"S.