Jatbula Trail Northern Territory 2015


I work a few times a year in the NT, so, like most of my adventures, this was tacked onto the end of a work trip. I do the adventure, work pays the airfares! I had read a little about this walk over the previous years, and on occasion I had travelled out to the trailhead (Katherine Gorge NP) and looked longingly across the estuarine Crocodile warning sign and Katherine River at the start of the Jatbula Trail.

Christine flew in to Darwin in July 2015 and we journeyed the 3 hours south to Katherine with one of my work managers. I had a couple of days work to do in Katherine and Christine filled her time with a local cultural course, learing more about local culture before embarking on a traditional “song line”. The trail is an ancient Song Line used by the Jawoyn people. Overlooking the Seventeen Mile Valley and beyond, the trail features magnificent waterfalls tumbling from the high sandstone Arnhem escarpment, these then feed into creeks surrounded by shady monsoon forests and the rock outcrops of the escarpment provide great opportunities to view stunning ancient rock art, and cool off with great swimming spots.

We booked our spot and paid our fee many months prior. The trail managers only allow 16 people to depart per day, many nights you are camped with these people, but some go fast, some slower so it’s not uncommon to share a camp site with just a handful.

We asked a local if we could get driven across the river in his ‘tinny’, and off we went on what was one of the most enjoyable hikes of my life! Yes it did get hot out there, but we started early and finished around lunch or just there after. We spent most afternoons relaxing, swimming, reading and sleeping.


Our first night did not disappoint. Stunning waterfalls, great refreshing swimming conditions (read; no crocs!) and a good meal, thanks Chris!



We explored the occasional side track and in particular the aboriginal rock art paintings, some were very clear and powerful.


One of the men walking around the same time as us was the most evangelical atheist I’d ever met, all he wanted to do was preach his atheistic beliefs at every opportunity. He just couldn’t get a fight out of us, we kind of agreed with him, the god he didn’t believe in…we didn’t either!

Evenings, other than the last cold night, were warm and balmy, we never needed the fly on the tent opting rather to just see the stars through the flywire.

At one stage we were swimming in a pool at the top of a massive waterfall and Chris lost her Croc (the only floating croc we saw the whole time!). In an attempt to rescue the lost shoe I dived across and grabbed it, but the force of the water being drawn over the falls almost took me with it!

One memorable afternoon we sat and watched a Kingfisher catching insects above a huge rock pool. He was endless, as was our patience, just sitting in my hammock relaxing with a book studying this bird catching his dinner. So relaxing!

Swimming around the lilies made it feel like a croc was about to jump out and getcha, but we got confident in that there are no crocs on this trail…so they say and swam all through the underwater undergrowth.


We were treated to a personal tour by one of the indigenous rangers, he showed us a croc trap and taught us the joy of sucking sweet nectar from Grevillea flowers.

The manager from Mission Australia pick us up at Edith falls on her way back to Darwin, we felt a deep sense of satisfaction as we devoured our Magnum ice creams and made ourselves comfortable for the drive back to our awaiting hotel in  Darwin.



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