Lodge Review: Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Northern Territory

Conveniently located on the road from Darwin to Kakadu, the Mary River Wilderness Retreat is a worthy addition to any Northern Territory birding itinerary.  It’s also close enough for people visiting Darwin on business to make a weekend trip.

The property is huge and has some amazing birding habitat which is best discovered by hiring a buggy (golf cart).  Of course we did this so look for my report on birding by buggy!

The main building overlooks the swimming pool and houses the reception, shop and restaurant.  This is also the only place to get the wifi connection.

Nice display to show off the local birds!

This was our bungalow.  As you can see, they aren’t large but are set up well for budget accommodation.  They do have larger but more expensive bungalows and safari tents as well.

No cooking facilities but they do have a small fridge so suitable for sandwiches, salads and other non-cooking meals.

Just relaxing on the deck, birds can be seen flying from tree to tree.

My husband cooled off in the pool while I used the wifi.

A few garden birds.

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (I think, can’t see all of him)

Spangled Drongo

Mistletoebird

Red-collared Lorikeet

I need some help with these.

Not pictured but positively ID’d by a guide staying in the next bungalow from Experience the Wild was a Dollarbird.  He said it was the first one of the season and I reckon he would know!  I ran for my camera but the uncooperative bird had left the scene.

I really liked Mary River Wilderness Retreat and would love to come back for a longer stay sometime.  You can book on their site or try the usual booking agents like Pointshound or Rocketmiles to earn miles for your booking.

Oh Joy, Another Devaluation, This Time It’s Avianca Lifemiles

Got this email which has some unwelcome news for Aussies who buy Avianca Lifemiles for cheap Star Alliance awards.  It’s not all bad, some awards to South America went down.  Thankfully I burned my balance last year in Ecuador and Colombia!

This is why I always say don’t buy miles unless you are redeeming them straight away.

We want to inform you that starting May 15th, 2017, the amount of miles required for redemption of air tickets of routes from Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, in Economic, Business and First class from Star Alliance table will have some changes. The changes for some routes will be reductions, and for others they will be increments, while some other regions will remain the same.

Remember you can use your miles to redeem Round-trip, One-way, Multi-City tickets, and use flexible payments combining LifeMiles + Money. General terms and conditions for ticket redemptions apply.

Review the table here

Bowali Visitor’s Centre, Kakadu

Bowali Visitor’s Centre is the main “go-to” for all things Kakadu.  They have well-informed staff here who know the park extremely well and can advise you on places that suit your interests.  They recommended some places to see birds including Crimson Finches at Mamukala Wetlands.

Videos, displays and a library are also available to assist you in planning your visit. Visitor Centre is open 8.00am to 5.00pm.  The Marrawuddi Gallery stocks Aboriginal arts and crafts, books and gifts.  Refreshments are available from the Anmak An-me Cafe.

 

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus)

The Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus) is a small and very colourful bird, with a stunning deep blue to azure back, a large white to buff spot on side of neck and throat, rufous-buff with some blue-violet streaks on breast and flanks.  The colour of these two birds is different but that could be the lighting, I took both photos in Kakadu on the Yellow Waters Cruise.

They have a huge range throughout much of Australia and the island of New Guinea.  I saw several in Kakadu and have also seen them on local Brisbane area birding walks.

LEARN MORE ABOUT AZURE KINGFISHERS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Birds in Backyards

ABC

VIDEOS

Now you can appreciate the amazing colours of this bird!

Looking for food in the billabong.

 

Visiting Nourlangie Rock Art Site, Kakadu

Nourlangie Rock Art site is about a 20 minute drive from either Cooinda or Jabiru but it gets so hot out there you should get here as early as possible in the morning.  Not only can you see some fascinating Aboriginal art, you also see some birds while walking around the marked 1.5 km trail.

We made our visit the morning after our stay at Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru and got to the turn off at dawn.  Lots of birds were about, especially kingfishers, kookaburras and corellas.  We drove down some side roads to small lakes looking for birds before entering the main Nourlangie area.

The road to Nourlangie is fine for normal cars but if you want to go to Gubara, you need a 4×4.

There are picnic tables outside the entrance to Nourlangie Rock and we had breakfast there before heading inside.  You must have your visitor’s pass with you, there are staff there checking.

The information provided is excellent!  Everywhere you look, there are explanations for the art and history of the area so you don’t need a tour or a guide.  Just follow the trail and read the signs!  In addition to the Yellow Waters Cruise, a visit to Nourlangie Rock is a “Must do” in Kakadu and truly has something to interest everyone-birders and non-birders!

Are Daily Getaways Worth It Anymore?

Old-timer travel hackers will remember the golden days when buying Wyndham points could mean ultra-cheap airline miles when Daily Getaways used to be interesting.  Those days are long gone and no further proof is needed than seeing 1143 Wyndham packages still for sale at 5pm EST.  I remember back in 2012 (before I started this blog) setting an alarm for 2am my time to get ready with browsers loaded to compete to buy Wyndham points and they would sell out in seconds.  Nowadays these point packages have such limited use and you can often find these hotels cheaper on online booking sites that it’s no longer worth it.  Sad!

 

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa)

The Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa), also known as the Nutmeg Pigeon, White Nutmeg Pigeon, Australian Pied Imperial Pigeon or Torres Strait Pigeon, is a relatively large, pied species of pigeon.

I spotted a pair hanging around the Gagadju Lodge in Cooinda.

The have a fairly large range in northern Australia and the island of New Guinea.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TORRESIAN IMPERIAL PIGEONS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Birds in Backyards

VIDEOS

Stretching and looking pretty!

 

Lodge Review: Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru

Not to be confused with the similarly named property at Cooinda, Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru is managed by Aurora Resorts and is located in Kakadu National Park’s main town, Jabiru.

Welcoming comittee!

The lodge is the best budget option in what is usually an expensive tourist destination and caters for campers and people who want a room or bungalow.  We went for the cheapest budget room.

Budget means no ensuite, you use the shared bathrooms and a camp kitchen.

You still get a fridge and tea service in the room. 

It is pretty small but in a place like Kakadu, we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room.

They have an attractive shaded swimming pool with a non-heated jacuzzi.  Cockatoos will watch the swimmers below and towards evening you also get flying foxes.

In the town of Jabiru there are a few shops but I recommend stocking up before entering the park for better selection and prices.

The famous crocodile shaped hotel which is now an Accor property is also in Jabiru but was twice the price of Kakadu Lodge.

Maybe not everyone would be ok without an ensuite but since we come from a backpacker background,m we were fine with it for the savings.  The grounds are nice and plenty of birds to keep you entertained while you have a refreshing swim!  Book on their website or try Pointshound or Rocketmiles to gain some airline miles!