Hidden away in Kakadu National Park, along a small walking track guarded by crocodiles, lies Jim Jim Falls . The 259 metre high waterfall is a part of Jim Jim Creek, and the single drop makes it a spectacular sight – particularly during the wet season. To get up close on foot to the falls you’ll need to visit during the dry season though, when the falls can potentially dry up. At this time there are usually less crocodiles around, and the waterfall is less vigorous, allowing you to potentially take a dip in the plunge pool beneath the waterfall.
Barrkmalam (the aboriginal term for Jim Jim Falls) rests in the Arnhem lands of the Northern Territory. The waterfall is just under 1km (900m actually) along a walking track, an unusual and entertaining walking track too.
Make sure you’re suitably dressed and equipped, because the track will require you to do a fair bit of hopping and jumping between rocks if you want to make it all the way to the falls. The boulders are huge, so it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for the average person.
Taking a dip in the water is awesome. But you need to be mindful of which parts you enter and your behaviour when you’re there. After all, pretty much any water-dwelling creature is more agile than a human, and there are some precautions in place to make the park a bit safer for us normal folk.
Kakadu National Park is green. Very green. At least it was when I saw it last. Even during the dry season the foliage remains. The issue with that is that crocodiles are also green. Ish. The point is, they can be difficult to spot. Couple this fact with the fact that quite a few people trek through the national park and it doesn’t take a genius to put together a risk. Don’t let that put you off the trip though. I’d always much rather see them in the wild than at the Reptile Centre or Crocosaurus Cove.
That’s what the random cages lying around the place are for: catching the crocodiles and reducing the risk of an attack. At the end of the day, it’s their habitat that we’re invading, but you’d be daft to not exercise caution. As far as I know in the past there have been reported attacks and even deaths in the national park around the water – not all of them related to the local wildlife, some people just happen to slip on rocks, a mistake that can provide a rather tragic ending.
Enough about the not-so-happy stuff though.
There are 3 really amazing parts of Jim Jim and the track leading up to it, at least in my opinion.
1. Jim Jim Falls has a unique atmosphere
Excusing the croc-traps, the rocks, trees, and the escarpment in general come together to make Kakadu and Jim Jim a really special, beautiful place to visit. It’s pretty unique, at least in my mind, because this combination give it a special feel. It’s almost as if you’re in the bottom of a ridiculously large valley, sort of like it’s own little world. It reminds me a bit of Kings Canyon in that respect, but Kings Canyon doesn’t have a huge waterfall and running water to swim in.
2. It also has crystal clear water
It’s crystal clear in parts, and disgustingly murky green in others. It’s all part of the same ecosystem but it’s completely different depending where about you are.
The water isn’t particularly warm, but nor is it cold. Any Northern European would probably feel right at home with the temperature. When you’ve been walking around in the humidity of the Northern Territory it’s a welcome refreshing break to be able to plunge yourself into the cool waters of Jim Jim Falls.
3. and an amazing secluded beach
The image speaks for itself. A scorching hot day, nice cool water but plenty of sun and sand and foliage. The flora almost makes the place, it helps to “encase” the final part of the walk up to the falls. If you’ve ever wanted to feel isolated, this is the place to go. It’s absolutely brilliant. No one around, a great place to swim, have a bevvy, eat some picnic food and then relax on the sand. who needs coastal holidays?
The beach itself is almost adjacent to the rocks you’ll need to climb to get to the waterfall. You have a short swim, and then a longer swim – about 250m, to get beneath the falls.
To put that into perspective, in the picture above, the large rock in the middle is about 260-270m from the waterfall I’d guess. So once you’ve made it that far it’s a further 250m swim. It’s doesn’t look all that much, but your opinion will soon change once you set off.
I’d advise that if you’re not a particularly strong swimmer, that you’re careful how far you go. 250m isn’t a particularly long distance, but you’re swimming against the might of a waterfall and the current can quite easily push you back to where you started, and before long you’re exhausted.
If you make it beneath the falls though, there are a couple of places you can climb out and get sprayed by the sharp water. It’s fine though, you’ve earned it. Take a few minutes to rest up and you’ll find the swim back to the beach a hell of a lot easier – this time the waterfall actually helps rather than hinders. It’s great stuff.
Just to clarify, the track gets closed off during parts of the season and as you’ll have seen the crocodile traps around, the purpose of this is to remove them from parts of the park they reached during the high flowing wet season. Crocodiles generally can’t get past the rocks you’ll need to hop over to get to the plunge pool and upstream, so it’s usually safe to swim there. That doesn’t guarantee there aren’t any crocs nearby so be vigilant.
After you’ve had your fill of swimming, playing around in the water, eating, drinking and soaking up the sun, you’ll most likely just want to sleep. It makes for quite an exhausting day, but it’s a lot of fun.
Might as well savour the walk from Jim Jim Falls back to camp.
Just keep in mind that during the wet season the only way to see Jim Jim Falls is by flying over, and that during the dry season you’re going to need a 4×4 to get close enough. Plan properly else you could end up disappointed that you didn’t get to see what I saw!
There are a few places where you can hire 4x4s to access the park, so don’t worry too much if you don’t have your own. KakaduNationalParkAustralia has some helpful directions if you’re making your own way, otherwise there are various tours available from Darwin to both Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks.
If Jim Jim Falls doesn’t offer what you’re after in Kakadu, then Parks Australia has a handy guide to help decide where to go hunting for epic waterfalls.